If there is anything we learned in Thursday’s game, it is that if the Dallas Cowboys play their game they are tough to beat. Granted, we were only playing the Skins, but the way we played after we got on a roll showed the strength of our running game and how well Dak Prescott plays when playing off the run. We will need to continue this type of play to continue our win streak and make a run at the playoffs. Make no mistake, as good as a 38-14 win was, the game didn’t start off well. At the end of the first quarter the score was deadlocked at 0-0. It seemed like Washington was moving the ball, while we were straddled with 3-and-outs. The thing that helped us more than anything was the turnovers our defense and special teams induced. This stopped drives and won us the field position battle. After that, we started getting longer drives and started turning our drives into points. But, as per usual, our points started when we got our running game on track. And our running game got on track when we, surprise, started running the ball. After starting our first drive with two runs and a pass, the next three drives were two passes and one run to give us four consecutive three-and-outs. The next drive started with six runs then we mixed it up until we scored on an 8-yard pass to Jason Witten. To be fair some of the running plays were scrambles by Prescott, but the fact remains, we stayed with the run. The play ratio was nine running plays to three passes, with one of those passes being nullified by penalty. The next drive was four runs and two passes and a penalty, before settling for a field goal. After being up 10-0, then tacking on another 7 from a Ryan Switzer touchdown the rest of the game, we just didn’t do anything to mess up the game. The ran the ball in the second half and that was it.
Offense: As detailed in the summary, the offense was predicated on the run. After we got up, we just leaned on the Skins and they couldn’t take it. For the game, Dak attempted 22 passes, while we rushed 42 times for a 65% run-to-pass ratio. There are not too many times we will lose with a ratio like that. To lose would take a total turnover implosion.
Offensive Players: No one ever said that Alfred Morris is better than Zeke Elliott. However, lack of carries and given the lack of respect the coaching staff was saying Morris wasn’t good at all. The results of the game say otherwise. Coming into the game Morris was averaging 5 yards a carry, which is good by any standard. But, the offensive coordinator in his infinite wisdom saw it fit to run him and average of 12 times in the last three games. In those three games, he still averaged 5 yards a carry, but it wasn’t what the coaching staff wanted to do, so the team suffered and us fans suffered three straight blow out losses. The fact is, if we run the ball we can be a stronger team and compete with anyone and with Zeke gone that means we should have been seeing more of Morris.
Defense: The defense only let up 14 points to a strong offensive Washington team. This was because of the defensive line play and the turnovers caused mainly by the strength of the defensive line. Much has been said about the offense playing ball control and keeping the defense off the field. But, the other offshoot of this tactic is that if we can get ahead, the defense can play with their ears pinned back. With the duo of Irving and Lawrence, that is a position the opposing team does not want to get into.
Defense Players: it would be obvious to say the star of the game was the defensive monster Demarcus Lawrence. He had two sacks, four tackles and a forced fumble. Big numbers and that doesn’t account for the numerous hits and hurries he had. But, a special shout out has to go to the defensive backs. The Skins have quite a few strong receivers and the DBs shut them down. The much maligned Anthony Brown even got into the action with an interception. But the real talent seems to be Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis and Xavier Woods. If they continue to improve, all three rookies can be significant contributors next year. But, the improvement needs to be continual. Remember, Brown was that up and coming star just last year.
Special Teams: After hearing how good Ryan Switzer was in college, I have to say the rookie had been a little bit of a disappointment. At North Carolina Switzer had seven career punt returns. Coming into this game the NFL number was zero. But, Switzer changed that in the second quarter of Thursday’s game. Seeing the punt return, reminds us how game changing a special teams touchdown can be. However, without seeing one in a while it was nice to have the reminder. More than any other play, it changed the flow of the game.
Bottom Line: great win and with the Giants and their awful 2-9 record coming into town, we have a great chance to move back to a game over .500 and move into playoff striking range. No doubt, we are still on the outside looking in, but play hard, do what we are supposed to do and we will see what happens. If we cannot only win, but blow the Giants out, it will be a big clue to how the remaining three games go.