[Editor’s note:  Former Broncos G.M. Ted Sundquist takes a look at Sunday’s battle between the Cowboys and the Redskins, in their last meeting ever at Texas Stadium.] 
The first of two meetings between these two longtime division rivals certainly lived up to the storied history of games between the Cowboys and Redskins over the years.  Dallas was on a three-week roll, disposing of their opponents with a big-play offense and hard-hitting defense that had pundits predicting Super Bowl XLIII before the end of the week.  Washington was coming into Irving with the intent of staying in stride with the rest of the ultra-competitive NFC East. 
In the end, it was the Redskins that made up some ground. Washington won in workmanlike fashion behind a balanced and ball-controlling offensive attack, coupled with a physical and soundly stout defense.  The Redskins were able to clamp down on the Cowboys’ explosive weapons and unleash some of there own. Key #1 was for Dallas to get off to a quick start.  The Redskins had shown a certain stinginess at the start and end of their first 3 games.  Washington had surrendered just a total of 10 points over 6 quarters (1st & 4th).  Dallas has relied upon its big-play ability to build early leads, and then close out opponents behind the running game of Marion Barber III.  I thought Terrell Owens was due for some big production.  T.O. had been a thorn in the side of the Redskins last year (Week 11) catching 8 balls for 173 yards and 4 TD’s.  During the last few weeks the offense had focused on TE Jason Witten, and it was time for a T.O. breakout.
Dallas went to Owens on their first play from scrimmage, for a 7-yard completion.  Three plays later, QB Tony Romo would attempt to go deep to Owens up the right sideline.  All the credit goes to Redskin’s DC Shawn Springs.  Springs was excellent in the first half, keeping Owens in check and slowing the explosive receiver.  Romo was forced to go to his secondary target, Patrick Crayton, who finished the first half with 6 receptions of his own.  But the Redskins kept (for the most part) the big plays in check and smothered the Dallas ground game.  This allowed the ‘Skins to overcome their usual slow start and build a 17-10 halftime lead behind seventeen 2nd quarter points.  It was only the second time Dallas had trailed at the half, falling behind to Philly after giving up 24 points (again in the 2nd quarter).
I focused on TE Chris Cooley as my 2nd KEY for the Redskins.  Washington had done very little over the first 3 games in getting their RB’s involved in the passing game for QB Jason Campbell.  I thought Cooley might be a key in keeping some drives alive and serving as an outlet in the Redskins’ passing attack.  Cooley’s numbers were solid, but he caught two 3rd down passes to keep the chains moving (both on scoring drives) and was targeted on two others.   He would finish the game with 4 receptions for 28 yards.
Washington did go into Dallas and send a message.  Their win has established the NFC East (top to bottom) with the most playoff contenders from one division.  Winning on the road in Dallas is a major accomplishment against a very talented and driven Cowboys team.  Dallas had been clicking on all cylinders and QB Tony Romo was an integral part in why they entered Sunday’s game at 3-0.  Romo can pick clean any defense that doesn’t put pressure on him, but his numbers tend to fall with defenders in his face.  I thought KEY #3 would be the ability for Washington to put some heat on the Dallas QB without DE Jason Taylor.  That would leave the veteran Andre Carter to pick up the slack.  Amazingly, the Redskins won without producing a single sack and only 2 QB hurries.  It was the tight play of the secondary that held down the Cowboys and their inability to move the ball on the ground.  Dallas turned 50% of their 3rd downs, but also produced four three and outs, and trailed almost 16 minutes in time of possession.
What was the difference?  KEY #4 for me was Clinton Portis.  I felt Clinton had too much talent and big-play ability to not be making a larger contribution.  Portis took control of the ground game and pounded out 121 yards on 21 carries.  I felt a key stat would be his ability to average over 4.0 yards per carry.  He averaged 5.8 per.  With Portis and Betts able to establish the run, Dallas could not put the pressure on Campbell that it was accustomed to.  The Redskins had the Cowboys a bit off balance in the first half and were able to close out the second with a steady diet of “ground chuck” behind Samuels, Kendall, Rabach, Thomas, and Jansen.  This was an impressive performance against an opponent that had held its previous 3 foes to 84 yards on the ground.  Portis stepped up big in this big game.
My final KEY (#5) was the ability for WAS punter Durant Brooks to step up his play.  Brooks had struggled over the first three weeks with only a 32.5 net.  With a quick-strike offense staring at you on the other sideline, the Redskins needed every aspect of their special teams to create long field situations for the Cowboys.  Brooks was up to the task.  His net of 42.8 was some 10 yards farther than his average and he was able to pin the Cowboys inside their 20 twice with subsequent drives ending in a punt and an interception.


  1. In my opinion, the Cowboys lost the game because of a lack of balance. They gave up on the running game way to soon. The speedster Felix Jones did not have a single carry. The Cowboys had incredibly “poor” game calling in this game.
    That being said, the Cowboys got exposed for their weaknesses, and in my opinion learned some valuable lessons. All of the mistakes are correctible, and that is the good news. The talent to correct those mistakes is definitely there. It is only week 4, so most of the season lies ahead. There is plenty of time to correct and improve.
    In summary, the Cowboys will be better off in the long run as a result of the loss. They learned a hard lesson, and they deserved to lose. This will only make them better as the season goes forward. The most important thing is to get on a roll at the “end” of the season. The Giants taught us the importance of that this past year. Adversity is important, as is the learning that is associated with losing. The Cowboys will be fine, and time will bear this out.

  2. With all due respect to the Redskins, who played a nearly flawless game, they only won by 2 points. The Cowboys were clearly outplayed, but I expect them to be a very different team next time these teams meet in RFK. We’ll see if the Cowboys learned their lesson. I believe that the outcome will be very different.

  3. But wait…….aren’t the Cowboys the bestest team in the NFL that are better than the Patriots last year?
    Weren’t the Cowboys supposed to beat the living crap out of the red-headed step child of the NFCE? The 4th team in in a three team race? The team that the sporting news predicted would only win 4 games this year?
    Guess not.

  4. Wetdog,
    Good point! I never have paid that much attention to learning the names of all the stadiums of all of the NFL franchises. That information could come in real handy some day.
    You sure put one over on me. You got a big “o” brain, jethro!

  5. September 29th, 2008 at 6:46 pm
    With all due respect to the Redskins, who played a nearly flawless game, they only won by 2 points. The Cowboys were clearly outplayed, but I expect them to be a very different team next time these teams meet in RFK. We’ll see if the Cowboys learned their lesson. I believe that the outcome will be very different.
    Yeah “flawless” as in having TWO touchdowns called back for flags. The ‘Skins had more bad breaks than the ‘boys.
    I loved it best when I read your beat-writer describe Barber as neutered by the defense.

  6. Thats the truth dlr, anyone who claims we played a nearly flawless game is incorrect, we had td’s called back by silly almost irrelivent penalties. Please do not forget that we kicked 4 fieldgoals almost all inside the redzone. Thats not flawless, we should have been up by 3 more touchdowns at least and then some, Hell campbell threw a pass to moss that had no reason not being a touchdown and that turned into a fieldgoal. The skins were only 3 games into a brand new offense. If any team is going to get alot better I’ll put my money on the burgundy and gold. Most of the stuff the cowboys were doing have been the same problems since last year.

  7. Loren32 (3 hours ago)
    sbetanco… well some fans can not “accept”(not except), but I am a Cowboys fan that can accept that we were out coached and out executed in the game. I am just disappointed because I believe Dallas could have done better, yet Washington could have done much better also.
    from espns dallas/skins comment board. Just pointing out how an unbiased intelligent fan can sound like after a loss.

  8. I believe the numbers speak for themselves. Your attempts to find “flaws” with your teams performance are laughable. I believe that you realize that despite your great performance, and our very poor performance, you still almost lost that game. If Sam Hurd had been able to hold onto that onside kick, I believe you guys would have lost, and I think you know that as well. We had just finished scoring a touchdown prior to that play, and it took us a whole 1.5 minutes to march the length of the field and punch it in.
    Washington played a nearly perfect game. Portis had in excess of 120 yards on the ground, your QB passed for 200+ yards with zero turnovers, and the skins offense controlled the gameclock by 38 minutes to 22 for the Cowboys. Imagine, all that and you still barely won. You assume that a field goal is flawed. That is dumb. A touchdown is not a given against a good defense. Go study your Superbowl history and see how many of the big games have been won by a fieldgoal. You are in a word “unrealistic.” Combine all of the above, and Yeah, I would call the Redskins performance “flawless” or pretty close. Regardless, the Cowboys underestimated you last Sunday. That is why it is called an “upset.” That won’t happen next time. See you guys in a couple of months! I can hardly wait.

  9. Me262 – Your a typical Dallas fan. Always makes excuses. What you fail to mention is how you scored on the skins during a last minute drive while they were in prevent defense. So in my book the Cowgirls lost Sunday 26-17. Also smart guy, how do you sit there and say the cowboys in your opinion will be ok? How about winning a playoff game which you havnt done since the 90’s. Because in my opinion you havnt been “OK” since then.

  10. sportztech1,
    Romo (in the game)completed 60% of his passes and threw for over 300 yards. Did your Redskins play “Prevent Defense” the entire game?
    Your boring me!

  11. Me262 –
    A little under 200 of those yards came in 3 drives. Their first score, the first drive of the second half, and their final drive of the game. So your apparently great offense is what is borning me. And again I get no response to the fact that the Cowboys have yet to win a playoff game since the 90’s and the skins have won a few in the last couple years. So again…Just stop trying!

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