The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman give their initial thoughts on the season-ending loss to Washington.
Rowan: With a defense as tattered as it was, most figured the Redskins' rushing attack would have some success on the ground. Maybe not to the tune of 200 rushing yards by Alfred Morris, but at least to some degree against Washington's top-ranked rushing attack. What was more shocking was the offense's performance in the biggest game of the year. In recent weeks, the turnovers had cut down, the big plays had skyrocketed, and the team always seemed like it only needed one or two late drives to come back and win. Everything was flipped Sunday in Washington, and with three interceptions in another win-or-go home game, the criticism of Tony Romo, the only player who could have gotten the team in position to make the playoffs, will continue all the way until the first regular season snap of 2013 after another late letdown.
Bryan: My gut feeling was that the Cowboys were going to do a much better job of limited the big plays for this Redskins offense and this Cowboys offense was going to be able to move the ball, I was only right on one front. Alfred Morris was way too physical for this Cowboys defense. I really believed at half time if the Cowboys could have made Griffin III throw the ball that this game could turn different for the Cowboys but the offense missed some chances to build a lead and force this Redskins offense to have to make plays through the air. It was clear that the Cowboys really didn't have an answer for Morris and his running style. Kyle Shanahan did a really nice job of protecting Robert Griffin III in this game. Griffin III wasn't as mobile as we had seen before but that didn't matter, Morris and this defense was the difference. I came into to this game believing that Romo would have played a clean game but he was far from it. He will receive the majority of the blame for what happened tonight but football is a team game and always will be. Rob Ryan and this defense was better not allowing the big plays and handling the mental side of the game but in the end my gut was wrong, mistakes ended the dream of a divisional title.
Nick: Well, I was blunt about my prediction so I better be just as blunt with the crow-passing. I was just flat-out wrong. And I have been for a while with this team. I just wrapped up my 15th season covering this team and it has probably been the toughest one ever to gauge. I thought they would simply find a way to win and while they had some chances late, it just wasn't meant to be. Injuries were the story all year and once again, they bit them in the butt or the back or the ankle or any other spot that sidelined the receivers. Tony Romo proved once again that he's not good enough to overcome this team's shortcomings. He's pretty dang good and maybe the toughest guy on the team, but he can't do it all and when he tries, it often fails. The Cowboys were close again but just far away enough to be going home for good this year.
Gut Feelings, posted Saturday, Dec. 28:
Rowan: My eyes during the last matchup would tell me not to pick against the Redskins. My gut's telling me otherwise. Something about the adversity the Cowboys have overcome this year makes it seem like they're at least destined for the playoffs. When the Ravens dismantled the Giants, it furthered those thoughts. The string of injuries to the Dallas defense would be unbearable to most teams, but the additions have contributed well enough to keep the team in contention. The presence of DeMarco Murray changes everything from the last matchup, and the Cowboys' offense is in full swing with Tony Romo finding Dez Bryant every week. Both teams will put up their fair share of points, but the Cowboys will tack on a few more.
Bryan: Despite all these injuries on the defensive side of the ball for the Cowboys, my gut feeling tells me that Rob Ryan and this defense do a much better job of not allowing the Redskins to make big plays in this game and that is what their offense is based on. A lot of the problems for this Cowboys defense wasn't really on the physical side, yes Alfred Morris whammed the ball at them well but the mental mistakes is really what hurt this defense. Blown coverage are mental problems and those are things that can be corrected. In the folks I have a chance to visit with here at Valley Ranch, I am being told that no stone has been left unturned to try and figure out ways to get off the field on defense. I believe that the Redskins defense will struggle with this Cowboys offense but this Cowboys defense will hold up their share of the deal by limiting the big plays of the Redskins getting them into the playoffs.
Nick: Let's just get straight to it – the Cowboys will win this game. Unlike many other games this year in which I really could've done better flipping a coin because I just wasn't sure, I feel pretty confident about this one. It started right after the game Sunday night against the Saints, it carried on to Monday and it hasn't wavered. I just feel like the Cowboys are destined to go to the playoffs this year. I think it's their turn. No, they're not appreciably better than the Redskins at all. Washington has already proven to be a better squad. But the Cowboys just need to be a tad better in a three-hour window Sunday night. I think they will. I think the Cowboys' defense will play well and make enough stops. I see DeMarco Murray having a big game, too. And call me crazy, but Kevin Ogletree makes a big play to help this team win. Don't forget, he's an NBC player. But I think they find a way to get this win.