ARLINGTON, Texas – They might have delivered him a precious division win – and on his 71st birthday, no less – but Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was brutally honest about his defensive linemen on Sunday night.
"Still don't give me a quiz," Jones said with a laugh. "Really, I don't know the entire roster in the defensive line."
The story of Dallas' defensive front gets more and more surreal as this 2013 season unfolds, even moreso after the Cowboys' 31-16 win against Washington. The unit that was supposed to lead the charge in the Cowboys' switch to a 4-3 scheme had 31 combined years of NFL experience and 11 combined Pro Bowl selections among the front four of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer.
When Ware left the game shortly before halftime, that ballyhooed foursome was reduced to Hatcher and a myriad of unknowns – Kyle Wilber, Drake Nevis, David Carter and Caesar Rayford – who combined to harass and hinder Robert Griffin III and the Washington offense throughout the second half. That list doesn't even include the likes of Nick Hayden and George Selvie, who were unknowns in their own right before injuries forced them into the spotlight.
"The no-name group – we're talking about the defensive line. They really did – basically, their stamina is what impressed me tonight," Jones said. "Obviously their competitiveness never waned, but their stamina – they fought through that. I can tell you, you put about 10 or 12 pressures from that defensive line, and you're spent. They fought all the way through. As far as I'm concerned they deserve a game ball tonight."
No one would be more deserving for a game ball than Wilber, who made one of the plays of the night in the fourth quarter. With Washington pinned to its own 11-yard line and trailing, 24-16, Wilber came from behind Griffin in the pocket and stripped him while sacking him to the ground. The second-year defensive end, just a year removed from playing outside linebacker, recovered the fumble and advanced it to the Washington three-yard line, where Joseph Randle would score the clinching points just two plays later.
"We still had Hatch out there – I'm glad we had Hatch. He's one heck of a ball player," Wilber said. "He's probably going to take double teams, so it allows me to get one-on-ones … Our personal philosophy is 'Next Man Up.' Everybody is a starter on this defense – stay ready so you don't have to get ready."
Nobody pushed that sentiment more than Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. After going six quarters without a sack against San Diego and Denver, Garrett saw Hatcher lead his newcomers to three sacks of Griffin and a handful of hits and hurries on top of that.
"We've had a lot of different bodies coming in since really the middle of training camp," Garrett said. "Guys have stepped up and done a nice job. They've learned our system as quickly as they can and they're playing the right way."
Here are some more notes from Sunday's win against Washington:
Another week, another first for Cole Beasley. The diminutive wide receiver scored his first career touchdown last weekend against Denver. This time around, he was the Cowboys' leading receiver for the first time in his young career. Beasley only managed four catches for 44 yards, but it was enough to lead the team on a night when Tony Romo only threw for 170 yards. The total doesn't beat his 47 yards from last week, or his seven-reception, 68-yard day against the Redskins last year. But the Cowboys had at least one, if not multiple 100-yard receivers in those games.
Not so on Sunday.
"He's been a guy who's really gotten away from his defender on a pretty consistent basis over the last few weeks and given the quarterback a place to throw it," Garrett said.
Randle Gets A Game Ball
Randle's final stat line – 11 carries for 17 yards – is far from impressive. But the rookie showed some serious determination and drive on his one-yard plunge to take a 15-point lead – not to mention score his first professional touchdown in the regular season.
Randle was one of a handful of players to receive a game ball following the rivalry win, but he said the experience gave him more determination than pride.
"It's not really pride. We've got another big game next week – on the road – so that's going to be a big deal," he said. "We have to get ready for that one." [embedded_ad]
- After a quiet couple of weeks against the AFC West, Hatcher notched two sacks against the Cowboys' division rivals, giving him five on the year. That total is a career high for Hatcher through just six weeks.
- Orlando Scandrick's second half interception of Griffin was the fourth pick of his career. He's had an interception in three of his last four seasons, but he has never had a multi-interception season to this point.
- Harris' 222 combined return yards are the fourth-most in franchise history, behind Mel Renfro, Felix Jones and Reggie Swinton.