Scout's Eye: Dak's Decision Making; Forgotten Moments By The Defense

FRISCO, Texas – I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving holiday. More importantly, I hope you enjoyed that riveting victory by the Cowboys to improve to 10-1.

As usual, I spent some time with the tape on Friday afternoon, and there's plenty to talk about. Here is my normal Monday notebook following a game, but we're adjusting it for the holiday weekened.

Hope you enjoy.

  • You have to respect the hustle by Cole Beasley to get across the field in order to give Dak Prescott a target to throw to when Ryan Kerrigan was in his face. Prescott booted to his right, but Kerrigan was not fooled and flushed the quarterback wide. Instead of hitting Jason Witten in the flat for a small gain, he pulled the ball down and continued toward the sideline. Witten was caught too close to the sidelines and turned to block Donte Whitner, thinking Prescott was going to scramble. Prescott, keeping his eyes down the field, instead saw Beasley flashing from his left to right with separation on Kendall Fuller. Prescott hit Beasley at eye level, which allowed him to get both feet down to pick up the first down.
  • The Redskins set up a screen to Jamison Crowder off the right side that had a chance to convert a 3rd-and-17. They had receivers blocking out front and linemen in space. Justin Durant read the play in an instant and broke to the direction of the screen. Crowder felt him coming and tried to duck underneath him, but Durant was able to wrap him and toss him to the ground. The play went for no gain and the Redskins were forced to try a 43-yard field goal, which they missed wide to the left.
  • During the course of the game, you might have seen a chance that Dak Prescott missed to Dez Bryant with Josh Norman in coverage that would have likely ended up as a touchdown. Earlier in the game, Prescott, facing a 3rd-and-15, took a shot down the field to Brice Butler working against Bashaud Breeland that was a tight window throw. Butler was unable to come up with the ball and the Cowboys were forced to punt. What Prescott missed was Bryant running across the field right at the first down marker with at least five yards of separation. Prescott had plenty of time to go through his reads, but he chose to let it fly Butler -- never seeing Bryant. To Prescott's credit, he did come back to Bryant later in the game for a key third down pass where he was working against Kendall Fuller.
  • Anthony Brown misplayed the 67-yard touchdown down pass to DeSean Jackson, but he didn't misplay the ball that was thrown to Vernon Davis in the flat -- which saved a touchdown. On that particular play, Davis was able to get to the outside on Sean Lee, who got picked by Jordan Reed. Kirk Cousins fired the ball to Davis in the flat and started to head up the field. Brown, reading what was happening on the play, sprinted to chase Davis and was able to close the separation. Brown threw his body into Davis along the sideline and chopped him down at the five-yard line. From that spot the Redskins ran three unsuccessful plays, forcing them to settle for the field goal instead of getting a touchdown.
  • As nice as Dak Prescott's touchdown pass to Terrance Williams was, the real key to the play was Williams holding his ground near the pylon against Bashaud Breeland and not getting knocked out of bounds. Breeland was trying to force Williams wide, but he was able to separate from him.  Once Williams got that little bit of space, he was able to square up to Prescott and present him with a target. In typical Williams fashion, he was able to cradle the ball against his left shoulder pad and contort his body in order to get his feet to the ground. On the play, Williams was the only shot that Prescott had to make a play. Cole Beasley was running along the back of the end zone, but he was forced out of bounds.
  • The Redskins tried to bring a blitz they borrowed from the Ravens last week that gave Dak Prescott some problems. They fired their two inside linebackers on a blitz. Will Compton stumbled, which allowed Prescott the opportunity to flip the ball to Ezekiel Elliott, who was checked down right in the spot where the linebackers came from. The offensive line was able to handle the blitz and Elliott was able to do the rest with a simple pitch and catch for 19 yards.
  • The Cowboys were able to break a tendency they have on running plays in the way they position Lucky Whitehead. Usually, when Whitehead comes in motion and sets behind the line, the ball tends to go in that direction. On Elliott's long run of the day (21 yards), they set their formation heavy to the left with five blockers to that side. On the opposite side, they only had three. Despite having four defenders to that side, Prescott went through with the play. On the counter action in the backfield, Doug Free and Gavin Escobar blocked inside and Zack Martin pulled to his right to block first support. Elliott was able to run through an arm tackle by Ziggy Hood and Duke Ihenacho with Martin out front knocking Donte Whitner to the ground. It was a well-designed and executed play from the offensive staff.
  • I thought this was one of the best games we had seen from Cedric Thornton this year. He made a great hustle play last week against the Ravens and he was able to convert that over into this week. There were several snaps where he was just able to overpower Spencer Long, Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff to end up in the backfield. One play in particular was his penetration with the Redskins facing a 3rd-and-2 in their own end. Thornton drove Long back into Robert Kelley, who nearly lost his balance and ended up on the ground. If Maliek Collins and DeMarcus Lawrence had not lost their balance, the defense would have likely been off the field with a tackle for loss. Instead Kelley was able to lunge forward and get the first down.
  • Tremendous effort by Terrell McClain on the two-point play to get penetration. He pushed so hard up the field that he forced Spencer Long to go to the ground, which held up Jordan Reed from getting into his route. Reed had to jump over Long, and Cousins couldn't find him. Cousins was forced to drift to his right, but he faced pressure from Tyrone Crawford in his face. The coverage on the back end was outstanding as well from Sean Lee in the flat and Anthony Hitchens in the back of the end zone. Cousins had no choice but to unload the ball, which Lee grabbed.
  • The way special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia plays his normal kickoff return unit, it is hard to onside kick on him. Bisaccia has five across, but he keeps a space between the center (Justin Durant) and the guard (Damien Wilson) and he backs Gavin Escobar five yards back to fill that void. On the Redskins' first attempted kick, he walked Vince Mayle down a little tighter to the front line just in case the Redskins attempted the kick – which they did. Nice aggressive play by Damien Wilson to go get that ball and secure it for the recovery.
  • Heck of a job by Dez Bryant on the screen pass to Cole Beasley to get two blocks. Bryant knocked back Kendall Fuller, then adjusted to Josh Norman. He was able to get just a piece of Norman, which is all Beasley needed to explode up the field for the game-clinching first down.           
  • I didn't think the Redskins would travel Josh Norman with Dez Bryant on the short week. On the pass plays I counted, Norman went with Bryant 13 times and that was primarily on the outside. Norman stayed away from Bryant when he went inside in the slot. This was their way of keeping Bryant free of him during the game.

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