Posted October 14, 2013

Lesser-known Cowboys come through in critical win over Washington

Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins
Dwayne Harris

Dwayne Harris jump-started the Cowboys with two long returns, one for a touchdown, the other set up a score.
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Cowboys’ logo — a giant, solitary star — seemed more ironic than usual on Sunday night. Already missing Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer because of injuries and coming off a heartbreaking loss to Denver, the Cowboys then watched starting running back DeMarco Murray bang his knee early against the Redskins and standout defensive end DeMarcus Ware hobble off moments later.

Dallas’ only chance to navigate its showdown with Washington was to get its unheralded players to pick up the slack. There would be no superstar on this night.

And pick up the slack they did, in a 31-16 victory that came courtesy of names like Dwayne Harris, Joseph Randle, Cole Beasley and Kyle Wilber.

“We had a lot of guys who had been working behind the scenes, they came in and made a ton of plays for us,” linebacker Sean Lee told NBC’s Michelle Tafoya. “It really was the difference in the game.”

A host of familiar faces still chipped in on Dallas’ third win, of course. Lee may have been the best among them, with 10 tackles and an interception-forcing hit on Robert Griffin III in the first half. Cornerback Brandon Carr delivered a clutch performance too, limiting Pierre Garcon to six catches and a rather harmless 69 yards.

But the Cowboys were not going to erase the sting of their Week 5 loss — the memory of another untimely meltdown — simply by having Tony Romo whip the ball around to Dez Bryant. They needed everything they could muster, even opposite a still-struggling Redskins team.

It was Harris who provided arguably the two biggest jolts. Shortly before halftime, after a penalty forced Washington to punt a second time from its own territory, he followed his blockers down the sideline and to the house for an 86-yard touchdown return and a 14-3 Dallas lead. Then, right after Washington chipped that margin down to 14-6 early in the third quarter, Harris bolted back 90 yards with a kickoff return to set up a brilliant Romo-to-Terrance Williams TD toss.

“With every opportunity we’ve given him, he’s made big plays,” Garrett said of Harris, who added a solid special-teams tackle in the closing moments. “Those are huge plays, what a great job for us.”

The Redskins tried to counter Dallas’ next-man-up effort with a performance that hearkened back to their surprising 2012 run. Namely, they wanted to unleash an increasingly healthy Griffin on a Cowboys defense he had torched one season ago.

RGIII certainly looked physically better Sunday night than he has at any point thus far this season. He was active with his feet (nine rushes for 77 yards, plus several pass attempts on which he escaped pressure), and Washington called more plays to get him involved than in Weeks 1 through 4. In the end, though, Griffin remained a touch off his game.

Dallas pounced on those lingering miscues. Orlando Scandrick, who delivered a key block on Harris’ punt-return TD, picked off an errant Griffin toss to ice the game late; Wilber, pressed into duty by Ware’s injury, ripped the football from Griffin’s arms at the Washington 3 in the final quarter — a play that allowed Joseph Randle to power into the end zone for a huge six points.

“It was a great team win for our football team,” Garrett said. “Each of the three phases showed up.

“I think particularly on that defensive line, a lot of different faces, those guys just battling their asses off.”

Aside from his scrambling, off-balance TD toss to Williams, Romo didn’t need to give the Cowboys all that much. The oft-criticized QB surely did not mind the break, after a stunning showing against the Broncos came crashing down (as Romo’s important games often seem to) with a game-altering interception.

He finished Sunday with just 170 yards passing, his lowest mark since the middle of the 2011 season. The run game also stalled without Murray — despite playing little more than a quarter, he led the team in rushing with 29 yards.

So it was the special teams and the defense and a few key catches from their no-namers like Beasley that gave Dallas a happier ending in Week 6 than it scored in Week 5.

“[It was a] disappointing performance last week,” Carr told NBC. “Left a bitter taste in our mouth. We came out here ready to perform, 60 minutes of hard work.”

Dallas’ latest showing may not be enough going forward, with upcoming road games against Philadelphia, Detroit and New Orleans. It was just what the Cowboys needed on Sunday, however, as a battered team tried to find its footing again.

21 comments
6marK6
6marK6

The Redskins are baaaaad! I mean, terrible bad. I would consider going with Cousins at QB as well. If Griffin does not have the threat of run, he ain't going to beat you with his arm.

Brian N
Brian N

What a jack*ss. Romo's interception last week vs. Denver was by a LB making an excellent diving interception. Not some errant pass right to him. Why don't you give that guy some credit for making a great play, you biased Jackwagon. Try to report without a Dallas bias for once. Romo outplayed Peyton Manning last week and you want to say he had a meltdown? What an ignorant moron you are. Done reading your crap for sure.

Marchoir
Marchoir

In the pre-season the Redskins were boasting "...anything short of a Super Bowl would be a failure", and that they "...were going to be special". Griffin was busy promoting himself for the "all in for week one" campaign, and was doing shows about his rehab on ESPN. You couldn't turn the TV on without seeing commercials about last season saying "...blow it all up". It was all Griffin, all the time. Meanwhile, most of the other QB's in the league kept their mouths shut and went about their business. Classic example of style versus substance. The guy is not a read the field, pocket QB, and never will be. His game is dinks and dunks, slants and short tosses across the middle. Griffin is not making anything happen for the offense. And yes, it's on him. All this talk about the Redskin defense is weak. The Redskin offense is far worse than the defense. Sorry Robert. You're not all that.

FredFlintsone
FredFlintsone

Sorry redskin fans but that no defense Mike Shanahan game plan is going to get worse; ask any Denver fan

DanRose
DanRose

"It was Harris who provided arguably the two biggest jolts."

I'm not arguing that. Is there anyone out there who is?

geewhiz
geewhiz

Its official, the skins have the worst oline in football.

tfaw
tfaw

cowboys will be 7-9 this year and garratt will be fired.  thank you jerry jones for ruining cowboys football.  i get that you own the team and can run it in to the ground.  it is just so very sad to see.  

Jon8
Jon8

If the Redskins miss the Playoff's, likely, this should be Shanahan's last year!

PaulSharpe
PaulSharpe

Sorry, RGIII is the Unproven Bozo...   Romo is 3 times the QB he could ever be...   #stupidQBCrippleSystem

PaulSharpe
PaulSharpe

Dallas will be Happy to play these clowns again...   Idiot owner, Beady-eyed loser coach, Sloppy QB, worthless RB, (Garbage other than one, last-minute, nobody cares run....)

dudedadesq
dudedadesq

@geewhiz  

 As a Skins fan, I have to agree.  They lost the game on special teams (horrendous this season) and the O-line.  The D held Dallas to really only 10 points.  Dallas' D gave them the ball on the Skins 4, and Dallas' special teams scored one and gave them the ball on the Skins' 15.  In addition, Dallas had the ultimate weapon:  Kyle Shanahan calling the Skins' O....he's pathetic.  Second game in a row inside the 20 and ZERO attempts at the endzone.  ZERO.  Instead, he calls plays designed to throw the ball under, when you need more yards.  RG3 has a laser, so aim it at the endzone....

Brian N
Brian N

@tfaw A negative comment after a win vs. a division rival? Are you sure you are a Cowboys fan? I am not a fan of Jerry Jones the GM either, but lets focus on the win. There are also just a few injuries the team is dealing with right now, so to expect an 11-5, record or better is absolute lunacy. But they just beat a division rival, so how about some positive?

KidHorn
KidHorn

@Jon8 He'll still have a year on his contract and I think he'll stay for another year. I don't think the skins problem is bad coaching. It's lack of talent. They gave up way too much for RG3 and they had their salary cap chopped by the league.

geewhiz
geewhiz

@PaulSharpe Why don't you talk smack when your team can win a playoff game.  Romo piles up the stats but hasn't done anything when it counts but choke.

geewhiz
geewhiz

@dudedadesq @geewhiz Unbelievable play calling in the 4th.  No sense of urgency, huddling up, running the ball as if we had the 2 score lead.  This team is done.

dudedadesq
dudedadesq

@KidHorn @Jon8 I disagree.  Kyle Shanahan is horrible.  Inside the 20 two games in a row, and not a single play called to the end zone.  Not one.  I'd understand if you had a lousy QB, but RG3's got a laser.  Never liked Shanahan (I'm a season ticket holder) and his son is even worse.  No special teams has killed them, as well.

mav1973
mav1973

@geewhiz  

Last I checked, the mighty Peyton Broncos haven't won a playoff game yet either and Peyton himself has a long history of poor playoff performances. He has one ring and that was due to his team carrying him through until they reached the SB.

He is a whiz in the regular season though and has tons of stats though. If Romo hadn't been hurt in 2009 when we lost to the surging Brett Favre led Vikings, we could have played the Saints again. We had been the team to break their unbeaten streak that season already.

Football is a game where things have to fall together at the right time. Look at KC with mostly the same roster as they had last year and a new HC with new systems. They should not be undefeated so far, but yet they are managing to do so with a quarterback that most consider to be a game manager with mediore talent.

geewhiz
geewhiz

@mav1973 @geewhiz Last I checked, I wasn't touting Manning as the gold standard.  He has certainly not lived up to his legend in the playoffs.  

As for Romo, his game against the Broncos last week is his career in a microcosm.  Arguably his best game as a passer...but of course, he throws it away at the end with the game on the line.

Since you bring up Alex Smith, one thing he does pretty well is not beating himself.  Yes, its a team sport, but here is something to be said for holding up your end of the bargain.