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Scout's Eye: Garrett's Plan, Parnell Shines, Strong Run Defense Among 12 Thoughts

1). The tone for this game against the Redskins was set very early in the week when Jason Garrett made the decision to play his starters in an attempt to win the game. Each day Garrett was peppered with questions on why he would risk those starters to injury with the likelihood of no real chance of advancing his club's playoff positioning. To his credit, Garrett never wavered in his remarks and he in fact played his starters the majority of the game. Call it brilliance or stubbornness, but Garrett believes in momentum and the real power of it. He wanted his team playing at its best going

into the playoffs and there were periods during this game when they were just that, especially on the defensive side of the ball. As critical as we all might have been on his decision and the direction that he took this team on Sunday, let's not forget how well Garrett has managed this team all season long, which has been nothing short of miraculous. Garrett had a plan and he pulled it off. His team needed a win and some help, but with his decision to play his starters, he kept that momentum and also gave his club a chance if something were to happen in one of those other games.

2). For a player that has looked as bad as he has during his career when it comes to pass coverage, Bruce Carter continues to make plays while doing it. Where Carter has improved the most is with his awareness when he drops and also with his ball skills. Carter has developed a feel for where he needs to be in the scheme, and by playing with this awareness, it has allowed him to use his athletic ability to make plays. When you study Carter's interceptions, there is a common thread and it is how he is able to adjust to the ball when it is thrown. Over the years there have been snaps where that hasn't always the case with his ball skills because we have seen some bad drops in the past in those situations. Give Carter a lot of credit for how he has improved in this area to make himself a more complete linebacker.

3). Without watching the tape, it appeared that the Cowboys had another solid game from right tackle Jermey Parnell and his work against Ryan Kerrigan. If there was a player on the Redskins that could have caused some major issues throwing the ball it would have been Kerrigan. I only recall one pressure where Kerrigan was able to get inside of Parnell and that was down in the red zone. With Doug Free struggling with his foot injury, there is a strong possibility that Parnell will remain the starter in the playoffs.

4). The more I think about the first Redskins touchdown, on the screen to DeSean Jackson, the more I feel like that it had to be a bust in the coverage. There is no way that Rod Marinelli would have put J.J. Wilcox over the top of Jackson with that much space to deal with. Think there should have been a linebacker underneath or a corner in position as well. There was something just not right about it and I plan to get to the bottom of it.

5). It was a great defensive effort to hold Alfred Morris to just 43 yards rushing. I was worried that Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was going to load Morris up and hammer him at the Cowboys front seven, but that just wasn't the case. The Redskins were never able to stay ahead of the chains like they were in the first meeting of the season and that had a negative effect in the way that Robert Griffin III played in the game. The more he had to throw the ball, the better it was for the Cowboys defense. This front seven killed any hope of balance that the Redskins strived for.

6). From first glance, it didn't appear that Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett blitzed as much as he did in the previous meeting. The quick screen to Dez Bryant was off a blitz, which was a huge play, but either Haslett was expecting more max protection and decided against it or the blitz pickup by Dallas was right where it needed to be. The Cowboys had a couple of wrinkles if the Redskins did in fact try to bring pressure and those were the quick passes to the receivers, using Witten in the middle of the field and later in the game we saw a pass to Murray that was incomplete as he tried to break through the line of scrimmage. Those were things that I thought on Friday in my Final Notes that they would try.

7). I was surprised to see that the Cowboys were only 1-of-4 in the red zone in this game. One of the strengths of this offense has been its ability to finish drives when they get in that position, whether it was with Bryant or one of the tight ends. I am sure that is something that Garrett will talk about on Monday as an area that he was disappointed in coming out of the game.

8). Often we talk about the depth of this football team, especially at the linebacker spot, but I would have never bet that Cam Lawrence would have been the third-leading tackler on defense against the Redskins. Lawrence finished the day with seven tackles and was also able to grab an assisted tackle on special teams. No matter who has lined up at linebacker for this team, those players have stepped up and delivered when they have needed them the most, and that is a reflection on their coach, Matt Eberflus, who prepares them every week.

9). If this Cowboys offense can continue to build leads and make opposing offenses have to play from behind, you are going to see more sacks and pressures from this defensive line. The coverage in the secondary has helped as well, but I believe the reason you have seen an improvement in the defense pressure-wise, especially these last four weeks, has been directly related to playing with a lead. When these "Rushmen" can pin their ears back and not worry about dealing with the run, guys like Anthony Spencer, Jeremy Mincey, Tyrone Crawford and Terrell McClain are going to get more opportunities to make plays and be able to get off the field with more consistency.

10). Call me crazy but I was not surprised that Cole Beasley was going to lead the team in both targets and receptions against the Redskins. I felt coming in that Bryant would have a big game, but with the way Beasley has been working out of the slot and on the outside, I thought that there would be some opportunities for him, especially if the Redskins were able to limit Bryant and Witten from the ball. What teams are learning is that if they do commit resources on the outside, Beasley matched up one-on-one is not an easy cover.

11). Tyler Patmon is going to be a good cornerback one day, but until he learns how to play with better technique, by trusting his reactions and speed, he is going to have a hard time in this league with penalties. He is much too grabby with his hands and referees are not going to allow him to get away with holding onto receivers. Patmon is going to have to play a major role in upcoming playoff games, where his work on dime packages and as a backup in case of injury might be required when teams work to spread this defense out.

12). I am already preparing for that Zack Martin and Ndamukong Suh match up … let the playoffs begin.


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