For the first time in five meetings, the Washington Redskins have defeated the Dallas Cowboys. The Redskins held on to a 20-17 win over their NFC East rivals to secure first place in the division and hand the Cowboys their fourth loss of the season.
Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed a 52-yard field goal that would have tied the game and sent it into overtime as time expired. Of course, the Cowboys didn’t lose the game off a missed field goal and the Redskins certainly didn’t win it off just that one play. In fact, it was the Redskins defense that carried the team to its first victory over the Cowboys in two years.
In a battle of top-six defenses, it was the Redskins defense that prevailed. While the Cowboys eked the yards advantage, the Redskins defense dominated the flow of the game from the opening series.
Took Away Ezekiel Elliott
The run defense was once against stout, shutting down Ezekiel Elliott. The 33 yards Elliott gained on the ground was his second-worst yards total of his young career. And by far was his worse rushing performance against the Redskins — his previous was 83 yards back on Sept. 18, 2016. And so were his yards per carry average of 2.2 yards.
The Redskins’ young trio of defensive linemen studs Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen, and Matt Ioannidis just dominated the Cowboys otherwise stout offensive line. There were no rushing lanes, as inside linebackers Mason Foster and Zach Brown filled the gaps. Each collected nine tackles. And when Elliott attempted to bounce it outside, the presence of safety D.J. Swearinger in the box and the outside linebackers did a marvelous job of sealing the edge, forcing Elliott to cut back into waiting tacklers.
It was a frustrating night for Elliott and the Cowboys run offense, as Washington perfectly executed the first phase of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky’s game plan.
Forced Mistakes by Dak Prescott
It was clear early from the opening drive the Redskins weren’t going to let Elliott dictate the pace of the game, and put the ball in quarterback Dak Prescott’s hands. His finishing numbers were solid, throwing for 273 yards and one touchdown. However, 73 of those yards came with the Redskins protecting a 20-10 lead late in the fourth quarter.
And yes, Prescott seemed to bring Dallas back facing a mostly prevent-style defense, but the damage was done early on, as the Redskins defense forced two fumble losses by the QB. The first occurred on Dallas’ second possession of the game on a 4th-and-1. Prescott attempted a quarterback sneak but was met by a huge hit by Swearinger, jarring the football loose. Swearinger recovered the ball, and killed off the Cowboys’ second drive of the game.
The second of Prescott’s two fumbles occurred in the fourth quarter. A holding penalty on rookie guard Connor Williams negated a first down pickup by Cole Beasley on a 16-yard reception. Prescott faced a 3rd-and-14 and as they did much of the game, the Redskins took away any passing options — although Prescott may have missed wide receiver Michael Gallup getting open to his left. Ryan Kerrigan, who chipped the tight end off the line of scrimmage, then read the gap and rushed through hitting a spinning Prescott and striking the football away as Preston Smith recovered in the end zone for the defensive touchdown.
The score extended Washington’s lead to 20-10 and just about wrote the finish of the game with just under six minutes remaining.
Rookie Greg Stroman Held Up in Place of Injured Quinton Dunbar
The Redskins secondary held up without one of its biggest contributors, cornerback Quinton Dunbar being out with a shin injury. Rookie and seventh-round pick Greg Stroman started at cornerback in Dunbar’s place and he did a respectable job much of the game except for one mistake.
Stroman was beat by a double move by Gallup for a 49-yard touchdown just before halftime. Stroman bit the fake hitch, as Gallup cut back up to be free down the field for Prescott to hit him for the score.
It was a rookie mistake considering he did not have safety help over the top. That mistake momentarily brought back memories of two games ago when Stroman, replacing Josh Norman, was beaten badly for a touchdown pass from Drew Brees against the Saints. Unlike in New Orleans, there was no luxury of sitting the youngster. Instead he had to shake off the play and atone his gaffe.
He did in the second half, as the Redskins secondary did an excellent job keeping the football in front of them. They held top receiver Cole Beasley to seven receptions for a pedestrian 56 yards.
Outside of one game, the Redskins defense has been the catalyst to Washington’s success. The luxury of having the three beefcakes upfront allows Manusky to get creative with his linebackers and secondary against run and in pass coverage. That creativity carried the Redskins to a pivotal win over the Cowboys.