*FRISCO, Texas – *Just like last week, I wasted no time in getting to the tape of this one.
It’s a more enjoyable watch coming off a 24-point win, as opposed to a 22-point loss – and you can certainly see the differences show up on tape.
Having looked things over, here are my primary impressions from the Cowboys’ 38-14 win, starting with a big kudos to this team’s newest starter:
- I have to give the coaches credit for starting Chidobe Awuzie against Washington. He was only going off a couple of weeks of practice, and to throw him in the mix took some confidence. Awuzie got off to a great start when he drove on a slant to Josh Doctson and was able to knock the well-thrown pass out of his hands. He played the play with perfect technique in working behind Doctson and attacking the ball with his right hand. It was one of those bang-bang plays that was very close to being a fumble.
- It was interesting to see Jason Witten, pre-snap, point to the coverage for Dak Prescott before his touchdown reception. Witten knew that he had the smaller Deshazor Everett on him, which gave him the chance to get inside. Once D.J. Swearinger took two steps to his left on the fake to Alfred Morris, that’s all Witten needed. It was a play that they thought they could hit on during the week and it paid off.
- Nice job by Xavier Woods and Orlando Scandrick holding their ground to allow DeMarcus Lawrence to record a sack. Kirk Cousins wanted to throw the ball inside to Josh Doctson on the “in” route -- but Scandrick was able to carry him. Woods, playing short, read Cousins’ eyes and moved right into the throwing lane -- forcing Cousins to have to pull the ball down. By the time he came back to the middle of the field, it was too late because Lawrence had beaten Ty Nsekhe off the snap with his first step and was around the corner.
- Tremendous second level blocking by Jonathan Cooper and Zack Martin to free Alfred Morris on his longest carry of the day. Martin was able to knock the blitzing D.J. Swearinger wide, while Cooper came off a combo block with Tyron Smith and took care of Zack Brown. It was just the lane that Morris needed and once he saw it open up, he took full advantage by planting off his left foot and exploding up the field.
- I can’t say enough about how well Anthony Hitchens played, especially in the running game. Samaje Perine is not an easy back to meet in the hole and get to the ground. Hitchens did a nice job of reading the down blocks by Niles Paul and Vernon Davis and then going underneath a pulling Morgan Moses to stick Perine for a tackle for loss. On the day, Hitchens was credited for 15 tackles, which is very Sean Lee-like for the defense.
- I had a feeling that the Cowboys, offensively, were going to push the ball down the field if the protection could hold up. As good as the touchdown pass was to Dez Bryant, I thought the throw he made to him on third down was even better. Prescott stood in the middle of the pocket and threw the ball in the direction of Bryant just as he broke to the inside. Bashaud Breeland had no chance on the play as the ball hit Bryant chest high. It was a well-executed route that benefited from protection and a quarterback that put the ball right on the money.
- Kavon Frazier had some big stops during the game, but his tackle with the Redskins coming off their own goal line almost resulted in a safety. Frazier lined up in the box at linebacker and when he saw the ball go to Perine, he attacked the space between Lewis Neal and Benson Mayowa. Perine, sensing there was about to be a collision, put his head down to protect the ball. Once that happened, Frazier drove his right shoulder right into him -- stopping him at the line. With Frazier now ripping at the ball, Perine somehow managed to get one more little surge to get the ball out of the end zone to save the play.
- I have no idea how Dak Prescott got Terrance Williams the ball on that “stutter-go” comeback against Josh Norman. It was one of those routes that appeared to take forever to execute, but Williams was able to pull it off by getting Norman to think he was going up the sideline and was able to get some separation. What was even more impressive was that Prescott threw the ball from the far hash to the Cowboys’ sideline -- basically off his back foot. Williams did a great job coming back to the ball and adjusting to the throw.
- The Cowboys caught a nice break when Arie Kouandijo came into the game at guard for the Redskins. I had a strong feeling studying his tape that he was going to struggle with the power of the Cowboys’ tackles. What I didn’t account for was Rod Marinelli bringing Tyrone Crawford inside for some snaps and putting David Irving on the outside. On a third down play, Crawford was able to blow past Kouandijo on the inside and get his left hand up right in the path of Kirk Cousins to knock a pass down. What was even more impressive about the play was Kouandijo had a handful of Crawford and he still managed to fight his way inside to make the play.
- Tip of the cap to La’el Collins and the way that he played against two difficult pass rushers in Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. It wasn’t an easy week for Collins due to the fact that he didn’t take one snap with offense during practice this week with the exception of a walk through on Wednesday. His movement was good along with his ability to sit down to play with power. There didn’t appear to be any limitations or struggles with his technique, but more importantly, he didn’t require any help on the edge -- which allowed the tight ends and running backs to focus in other areas.
- Back-to-back games where Jaylon Smith is seeing things better. He’s not over-running plays or playing out of control. He’s done a much better job of reading his keys, which has put him in better position to make stops. He might not be 100 percent recovered from his injury, but he’s getting closer to making more stops. A large part of that is that his understanding of what his responsibilities are and doing what the coaches are asking him to do. With Sean Lee back in the lineup against the Giants next week, I would expect to see Smith coming off the bench. But I do feel better about his chances to develop even more as a player in the final month of the season.
- On the Ryan Switzer punt return for a touchdown, there wasn’t a Redskins cover man within 20 yards of him when he fielded the ball. It was a great job by Byron Jones to execute the block on Quinton Dunbar to get him to the crease with a little assistance from Anthony Brown. Geoff Swaim also contributed a block coming back, which eliminated Deshazor Everett from chasing Switzer down. But it was all Switzer when he got into the open field. He made Chris Carter and Tress Way miss with two nifty moves and then he was off to the races.