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Scout's Eye: Elliott's Tough Running, Dez's First Down, Witten's Blocking; More

My Gut Feeling from Friday: "With the chance of weather for this game, the ability to run the ball will be critical. The Cowboys have appeared to have found something the last two games in their run game: Hats-on-hats blocking with the line and better sustain from their tight ends. Ezekiel Elliott has done a better job of making people miss and finishing runs. The Redskins have a defensive front capable of handling the run but not in this game. The Cowboys continue to have success on the ground rushing for over a 165 yards and coming away with a much needed 24 -17 victory." I wasn't correct on the score, but the Cowboys ended up with 169 yards on the ground. In large part, this was due to the tough running of Elliott. This was going to be his day – the grass field, the weather and the coaching staff's willingness to continue to give him the ball. It's never a bad thing for this offense when Elliott has more carries than Dak Prescott has completions.

  • Dez Bryant might have had a low-volume day when it came to the number of targets, but I am sure that all of his frustration went away with the victory and the outstanding play he made in the fourth quarter with the offense working to kill the game. I was waiting for offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to use Bryant in this way, especially needing more than four yards to convert. The pivot route was the perfect call in that situation. We've seen Cole Beasley run it several times in those situations, but with him out of the game, Bryant was just what the doctor ordered. He executed it perfectly, breaking hard to the inside, keeping his balance and then shooting back to the outside. Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot for the reception and first down.
  • I never feel that Jason Witten gets enough credit for the way that he blocks, especially late in his career. On the drive that ended up with an Elliott touchdown run in the first quarter, Witten not only had the key trap-block at the point of attack that broke Elliott in the clear, he also had a block on the edge while in max protection to give Prescott the necessary time to find Geoff Swaim in the middle of the field for an 18-yard gain. The holding call on him during the Bryant screen play could have gone either way, but for the most part, Witten has been getting the job done in this area.
  • People have asked me what's different about Tyrone Crawford and why, all of a sudden, he's making these plays. His sack/fumble on Kirk Cousins was a huge play in the outcome of the game, but it was his blocked field goal of Nick Rose that swung the game back in the favor of the Cowboys when things appeared to be slipping away. From my perspective, Crawford makes plays during these games, but unless you study him down after down, you might not always notice them. The move to right end has been good for him in a couple of different ways. He hasn't had to take the physical pounding on that side, so his health is better. Crawford has also benefited from better players around him. DeMarcus Lawrence, David Irving and Maliek Collins have to be accounted for, and that has allowed Crawford more of those one-on-one matchups, which he has been able to consistently win. In the past, he was the only guy they had on the defensive line that you had to account for. Not any more.
  • I don't know if the Cowboys win, if not for the play of Orlando Scandrick. Sean Lee led the unit in tackles and there were sacks from key linemen, but Scandrick was a difference-maker. It appeared that the secondary, with the exception of Scandrick, wasn't really playing all that well in this game. There were too many snaps, even with the banged up Redskins offensive line, that Cousins was able to find open receivers, but they couldn't finish plays. Scandrick was the only defender that didn't appear to be losing his man or struggling to stay in position. His positioning was outstanding and his tackling was on point. Scandrick's play reminded me of those days before he was injured and playing completely healthy. Jamison Crowder is no easy cover and when Scandrick was matched up with him, I didn't feel like the defense was going to lose that battle.
  • Remember to grade La'el Collins on all of his plays and not the ones where the Redskins' Ryan Kerrigan ended up with sacks. There was no question that this was going to be a stiff test for Collins coming into this game. Where it appeared that Collins had his struggles with Kerrigan was missing with his hands. To Kerrigan's credit, he is one of the better rushers in the league when it comes to breaking down an offensive tackle. Over the years, his best trait has been to keep the blocker's hands off him as he rushes. It  appeared early that Kerrigan was able to do just that. Collins has had his issues, and this goes back to training camp, when he misses with his hands. It usually ends up badly for him.
  • With as poor as the conditions were all day with the rain, give Travis Frederick and Prescott credit for not struggling with one poor snap under center or in the shot-gun. If you remember, the Redskins had a snap in the fourth quarter that was too low and went through the legs of Cousins. Scandrick hustled back on the play to touch-up Cousins for the 10-yard loss. It would have been easy to have those types of problems in those conditions, but Frederick and Prescott were flawless.
  • Numbers said not to blitz Cousins, but at times that's exactly what defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did. The compromised Redskins offensive line might have made him more aggressive than he normally is, but he did take advantage of the situation. I really liked the one that he dialed up right before the end of the third quarter where he sent Scandrick from the outside and Jaylon Smith through the middle. When Lawrence beat Morgan Moses, Marinelli had three defenders right on top of Cousins before he had a chance to react. The sack put the Redskins behind the chains, and the Cowboys were able to get off the field two plays later, forcing them to punt.
  • Nice to see safety Byron Jones come up with that pick-six to seal the game. But I was disappointed earlier to see Jones get picked on when Chris Thompson pulled in that 26-yard catch in the flat. I know for the fact that all week during practice the coaches drilled the defense on those types of plays from not only Thompson but Crowder as well. This was a situation that shouldn't have caught Jones or any Dallas defender by surprise.  
  • You know you're on a good turnover run when two straight weeks you've created one in the kicking game. Last week against the 49ers, Kavon Frazier's hit on Trent Taylor during a punt return led to a Cowboys touchdown. This week, Keith Smith covering a kickoff knocks the ball loose from Thompson with a pretty form tackle to give the offense the ball in Redskins territory. Smith continues to impress me with his ability to make plays regardless of where they play him on the field.
  • I know at the time it appeared crazy what Ryan Switzer did kneeling the ball on that final kickoff return, but I understood what he was doing. It appeared the Cowboys had their hands team on the field, which is primarily made up of skill guys, not blockers. Usually you're not going to get any type of a set up and the kicking team is going to have a free run at the ball carrier if the ball is kicked deep. Switzer could have tried to advance the ball farther up the field, but also risked the chance of a fumble in wet conditions like we saw from the Redskins. For that situation, I cannot fault Switzer for the decision he made.
  • I wish that Xavier Woods would have made that tackle on fourth down to end the game. This is starting to develop into a bad habit of his missing these plays in space. The coaches continue to put him in situations at critical times during the game with the hope of him coming up big. This goes without saying but he needs to shore up this area of his game quickly before that trust goes to another player.
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