Some observations from the film room at Valley Ranch:
Unlikely Heroes Answer The Bell
In football, sometimes the biggest plays come from those players that you least expect them from. Kyle Wilber, Drake Nevis and George Selvie had battled the entire game against the Redskins and had given Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff everything that they had. Wilber was in the lineup for DeMarcus Ware, who left early in the game with a quad strain. Nevis was part of a defensive tackle rotation, along with Jason Hatcher, Nick Hayden and David Carter, that was doing an outstanding job against the inside three of the Redskins offensive line.
With the Redskins facing a 2nd and 19 from their own 11 yard line, Wilber and Nevis made the defensive play of the game for the Cowboys. Kyle Shanahan sent his "11" personnel onto the field, as Kiffin matched with his nickel package. At the snap, Robert Griffin III took the ball and dropped straight back. Both Wilber and Nevis were first off the snap and started up the field.
Wilber managed to get to the outside shoulder of Trent Williams and broke him down to get around the corner. Nevis attacked the right shoulder of Chris Chester, who was really struggling with the defensive tackle's power. Griffin III had to move to his left to avoid Nevis, but that took him right into the on-rushing Wilber.
George Selvie from the left end saw what was happening inside with Nevis and Chester, using it as a pick to rub Tyler Polumbus off his block. Polumbus fell to the ground, trying to get a hold of Selvie, who by then had a clear shot to Griffin. The man coverage down the field was outstanding and there was nowhere for Griffin to go with the ball. Selvie then broke in front of Griffin, with Wilber coming from the backside. Wilber hit Griffin, taking the ball right out of his hand and in the same motion, recovered a fumble.
Two plays later, Joseph Randle punched the ball off left tackle, turning what was an 8-point lead into 15 and putting this Cowboys defense in a much better position to close out the game.
The last person in the Cowboys secondary that I thought would grab an interception would have been Orlando Scandrick. I do not mean this as a slight to Scandrick, but there have been so many times in practices where I had seen him struggle to secure the ball when he had the opportunity. But on Sunday night, when his team needed it the most, he was able to track the ball in flight, adjust his body and make the play. [embedded_ad]
The situation for the Cowboys defense was a dire one. Griffin had managed to drive the ball to the Cowboys 24 yard line with 5:39 still left on the clock, down by 15. Monte Kiffin once again matched the Redskins' "11" personnel with his nickel package, which put Scandrick in the slot against the dangerous Santana Moss on the right-hand side. At the snap, it was again man coverage across the board, as Scandrick turned his rear to the sideline with Barry Church sitting in the middle of the field.
Moss raced up the field with Scandrick on his right side. Moss tried to take Scandrick inside toward Church, then broke hard to the outside. But as he planted his left foot, he stumbled and begins to lose his balance around the 7-yard line. Scandrick was still in great position but was getting no help from Church, who stepped forward instead of working toward Moss, so the coverage was all on Scandrick.
In the pocket, Griffin had the rush closing in around him with Nevis once again right in his face. He threw the ball despite Moss falling to the ground. Scandrick saw the ball in the air and began to track it to the corner of the end zone. As the ball began to come down, Scandrick planted off his right leg, turning his body toward it, then launched himself backward, extending both hands, to grab the ball. He secured the ball with his rear hitting first, but he managed to keep his right shoulder off the back line, which would have overturned the interception.
For Orlando Scandrick and this defense, the interception could not have come at a better time when the game was still in the balance, but he managed to step up and make a play much like he has through these first six games.