Watching the game from our TV studio back at The Star, here my initial impressions from the Cowboys’ victory over the rival Washington Redskins.
And as usual, I’ll have more breakdowns from the game once I’ve had a chance to watch the video.
- I thought the only way that the Redskins had a chance to win was if they were able to control the game with their run and attempt to shorten it. Give credit to the Cowboys front seven for not allowing that to happen. Their gap control was sound, and there were no problems with defenders getting off blocks. The integrity of the defense was solid, which is what allowed them to hold Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson in check.
- I continue to be amazed at the type of player that Leighton Vander Esch is. There aren’t many linebackers in the league who can handle a running back one-on-one in the open field and not allow the guy to break them down in space. For Vander Esch to maintain his leverage, understand where he was on the field and have the presence of mind to drive Chris Thompson to the sideline to force him out of bounds to get the defense off the field on the opening drive was as good as it gets.
- No better example of how deep this Cowboys receiving core is than what Devin Smith was able to accomplish today. Smith not only fought his way on to this roster, but when his number was called, he came up with some outstanding receptions. As good as his touchdown was against Josh Norman, it was the slant off the backside that he caught with a defender all over him that got my attention. It takes guts to execute those routes, and he came up big-time to snatch that ball.
- I appreciate Kellen Moore for what he has done with this offense through the first two weeks of the season. I just wish he would have handed the ball to Ezekiel Elliott on third down and short, picked up the first down and kept the drive going. To that point, the offense had moved the ball smartly down the field with a mix of run/pass, but that was a time to lean on Elliott and the offensive line. Instead, Prescott gets pressure and throws the ball behind Randall Cobb, which bounces off his hands. A ball that’s tipped in the middle of the field generally results in a turnover, and that was the case.
- What a nice day for Byron Jones playing in his first extended time since coming off his hip surgery. I thought the Redskins were trying to challenge him to see where he was physically, but he didn’t blink. If it was the Redskins plan to attack him then he answered their challenge. As good as Jones was, I didn’t feel as if Anthony Brown had his best game. Brown’s game appeared off. Generally he’s a good tackler and cover man when the ball goes his direction, but he was neither in this game. He just appeared to be out of sorts in both areas. I was honestly surprised that he played as poorly as he did.
- I have to admit that I thought that Connor Williams was going to be better equipped to handle a guy like DaRon Payne, but it appeared that wasn’t the case. Just watching the game, there were several snaps where Williams was overmatched by the strength/power of Payne, who can be a difficult man to deal with. On the other hand, I thought that La’el Collins was able to hold up fairly well against Ryan Kerrigan. Through the years, Kerrigan has been a problem for this Cowboys offense line, but with only two tackles and a sack, he wasn’t nearly the factor he normally is. It was a quiet game for him overall.
- The numbers never fully tell the story for Tyrone Crawford, but the versatility once again showed up. Crawford once again had to take snaps at both defensive tackle and end during this game. When Antwaun Woods went out with an MCL injury, it was Crawford who had to pitch in with Maliek Collins and Christian Covington to man the inside position. Crawford was also awarded with a sack for his effort on a well-executed twist stunt that got him home for a finish on Case Keenum for their only one of the day.
- It’s all about getting turnovers in this league, and the Cowboys had a shot at two of them. Both Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods couldn’t have played the ball any better and not come up with anything to show for it. The Woods drop was especially tough because not only could he have made the interception, but he could have scored on the play to seal the game. The drop gave the Redskins another chance at life on fourth down, but Keenum was unable to find Thompson in the flat and the Cowboys took over on downs.
- Dak Prescott once again was nearly perfect throwing the ball, but I am interested to find out what happened on the miss to Michael Gallup down the left sideline? It appeared that Josh Norman was defending the route as if Gallup was going on the post. Instead, Gallup just maintained his path going vertically. I don’t know if Gallup lost concentration with how open he was, or he just lost the flight of the ball? He made a very awkward attempt to come back to it, and that threw me off. It’s one of those throws I am looking forward to seeing on tape.
- Loved the design by the offensive staff to get the ball to Jason Witten in that goal-to-go situation. Putting Blake Jarwin and Witten together created problems for the defense. Once Jarwin went vertical it acted as a natural pick. With that little bit of separation, that’s all Witten needed. Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot where all Witten had to do was extend his hands to make the catch and step into the end zone. I said it when Jason Witten returned: Third down and red-zone receptions were going to be his major contributions to this club, and that’s been the case through two weeks.
- I mentioned Devin Smith and what he was able to accomplish catching the ball, but his route running helped Amari Cooper with a big catch. Smith came off the line and ran a curl route to the inside about 8 yards up the field. Cooper, who was to the outside of Smith, executed the same route but at more depth. When the defense collapsed on Smith, Cooper was wide open right behind him. Prescott saw exactly how the Redskins were playing the coverage and found Cooper on the second level. This is something we’ve seen from Kellen Moore going back to OTAs with his route combinations and creating windows for Prescott to throw the ball into.
- Nothing against Joe Looney, but I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it is along this offensive line with Travis Frederick lining up at center. His ability to not only communicate the calls across the line and to the backs but also play on the second level and cut the defense in half is an offensive staff’s dream. He does such a good job of playing on his feet, and by doing so, he doesn’t give the backs a poor read when they’re pressing the line. When it’s muddy for those backs, there’s that bit of hesitation and indecision. With Frederick in there you don’t see that. The backs attack the line due to their clean reads.