IRVING, Texas – The two big keys I'm watching this week while the Cowboys try to get back on the winning track against Washington.
Dallas Cowboys Win If:
In four of the Redskins' six losses this season, Kirk Cousins has thrown two interceptions. The tape has shown that when Cousins makes these mistakes, it is due to him feeling defensive pressure. Three weeks ago, Carolina was outstanding in not allowing Cousins to feel comfortable at all, and with that pressure they were able to turn him over.
For the season, Washington overall has done a nice job protecting him, but they have allowed eight of their 17 total sacks in two of their last three games. What is also interesting is that when Cousins throws 28 or fewer passes in a game – they generally come away with a victory. What worries me in this matchup for Dallas is, will they score enough points without Tony Romo in the lineup to force Cousins to have to put the ball in the air?
For Dallas to win, I believe they are going to have to have an offensive explosion and force this Redskins offense to play along with them. If they can do that, then we will see a similar game -- much like the game in Miami where they were able to create turnover possibilities and generate pressure to finish with sacks.
Defensively, the Cowboys don't need this game to be tight. Grab a lead, build on it and force Kirk Cousins into a game that he is not comfortable playing in. Do this and a much-needed victory is within grasp.
Washington Redskins Win If:
If there has been an issue for Washington this season it has been their run defense. They are ranked 29th in the NFL in yards per attempt. If this were the Cowboys of 2014, then there should be some massive concern in their camp.
Although Dallas is ranked in the top 10 in rushing offense, there have been games where it has been wildly inconsistent. Whether that has been the loss of DeMarco Murray, Bill Callahan or the offensive line just not playing well enough – it is all fair game. Teams that have had success against Dallas this season have been able to choke off their running game and put them in difficult down and distance situations, then pressured the quarterback to get off the field. Carolina was able to do it, as were New Orleans and Tampa Bay.
For the Redskins to win this game they are going to need to play better run defense – it is really as simple as that. There is no question that Scott Linehan is going to want to try and run the ball to help Matt Cassel. If he is able to play this way, then he will continue to pound the rock like he did against the Dolphins.
For the Redskins, this game is going to come down to how well Chris Baker, Terrance Knighton and Jason Hatcher, along with these linebackers, get after this Dallas offensive line and tight ends. If they are able to control the front, they will control the game and will ultimately win.