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Cowboys vs. Redskins Analysis: Film Study & Grades

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At ABC, I broke down two important plays in the Cowboys’ Week 6 win over the Redskins, including the Terrance Williams touchdown:

The Terrance Williams Touchdown

Facing a second-and-10 at the Redskins’ 15-yard line with just under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, the Cowboys held a five-point lead. They lined up in “Gun Trips”—a formation I’ve discussed in the past because the Cowboys simply don’t run out of it. Despite using it in situations like this when they could run, the ‘Boys have done so on less than one percent of their hundreds of snaps from the formation since 2009.

On this particular play, Williams was lined up at the bottom of the screen. The Redskins blitzed, rushing six defenders—everyone who was lined up in the box other than the middle linebacker, as well as the slot cornerback.

That slot defender—Josh Wilson—got in clean in Romo, who didn’t have a hot read on the play.

Romo’s only option was to either throw the ball away or try to avoid Wilson. He chose the latter, just barely eluding Wilson without going down to the ground.

Romo wasn’t done, though, gathering himself before firing to Williams in the back of the end zone. Williams wasn’t open, but Romo threw an absolutely perfect ball over top of cornerback E.J. Biggers. It was the quarterback’s best throw of the night, by far.

Romo didn’t play an outstanding game, primarily because he was under constant pressure from Washington, but this particular play changed the course of the contest. It gave the Cowboys a two-score lead—a lead they never relinquished—and set them up to head into Philadelphia tied with the Eagles atop the NFC East.

At Bleacher Report, I handed out position grades:

Tony Romo

Statistically, it was a putrid game for Tony Romo. Coming off of his record-breaking 506-yard, five-touchdown performance against the Denver Broncos, Romo was able to compile just 170 yards against Washington. He did it on 30 attempts, good for just 5.7 yards per attempt. That’s the sort of efficiency we saw from him when the ‘Boys were losing early in the season.

In his defense, Romo threw just one pick on a tipped pass and had really poor protection all day. The Cowboys couldn’t give him time to throw, even when he wasn’t looking downfield.

Actually, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan did a good job of moving to five-wide and other spread sets once 1) running back DeMarco Murray was injured and 2) he realized the offensive line couldn’t give Romo time to throw. By spreading the field, Callahan made Romo his own blocker, giving him the option to throw hot at times. It wasn’t overly successful, but it ironically allowed him to avoid sacks.

Ultimately, the Cowboys got the win. But we can’t grade Romo, or any quarterback, solely on team wins. A good question to ask is this: “If he plays like this again, will the Cowboys win?” Against the Broncos, the answer was a resounding “yes.” Not so much this week.

Grade: D+

And at NBC, I posted a few other random thoughts:

– Rookie running back Joseph Randle had 11 carries for 17 yards and a touchdown. His efficiency will inevitably increase, but by how much? Probably not a lot considering he’s a light back with poor speed. I didn’t like Randle before the draft, I didn’t like him after it, and I don’t think he’ll offer the Cowboys much long-term value. It was smart for Dallas to wait on a back in the draft, but not one with a horrific weight/speed combination.

– Prior to the season, I argued that Barry Church will have a big 2013 season. Still, I projected him at only 80 tackles in the preseason and 98 tackles after Week 1. He’s currently on pace for 125, which is remarkable. Church still needs to improve in coverage, but he’s playing some good football.

– Orlando Scandrick has undoubtedly been the Cowboys’ best defensive player in 2013. He’s been a lockdown player inside, and he was rewarded with an interception on Sunday night. Who could have seen this sort of play coming from Scandrick? Me, when I graded him as the top player on the team last season. He’s also the most underappreciated.

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