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Week 11: Initial thoughts (Cowboys 7, Redskins 6)

Here are my initial thoughts on the Redskins’ 7-6 loss to Dallas, one that crushes any hope generated by last week’s win over Denver. In no particular order:

*The Redskins could have won–they certainly positioned themselves well in the fourth quarter–but I don’t believe they deserved to win. They simply weren’t good enough. The offense didn’t score a touchdown and couldn’t sustain the running attack. The defense dropped two interceptions and broke late in the fourth quarter. Special teams missed two field goals, and the clock management was sloppy in the second half. Good teams win that game, but the Redskins are not good. They were good enough to be competitive–that’s all.

*One team source I spoke to last week cautioned about using the Redskins’ run/pass blocking improvement against Denver as the basis for any definitive conclusions. He said to wait and see how the Redskins blocked against a better Dallas defense before believing that the offensive line had indeed taken a step forward. Well, that was prophetic. The offensive line regressed today. It did not run block well enough to sustain positive momentum. QB Jason Campbell was pressured too often and too quickly to stretch the field vertically, and there were four false starts. That was the key to the game.

*Injuries have been a major storyline this season. No question about it. They’re one of the reasons why the offense is so ineffective, but they’re not the biggest reason. That award belongs to poor offensive line play. Yes, the line’s struggles and injuries are intertwined, but the offensive line was lousy before RG Randy Thomas went down in Week 2. If the Redskins’ front office talks itself into believing that injuries are the main reason for the team’s record, it would be a costly mistake.

*It was disappointing to see RB Ladell Betts go down with a knee injury (an MCL tear and maybe an ACL tear, too) because I wanted to see what he could do for an encore this week. On Betts’ four carries, it was clear from the Cowboys’ alignments that they emphasizing run defense. It would have been interesting to see if Betts could have worn Dallas down like he did against Denver last week. And I feel for the guy. He finally got another opportunity to start, and now this. Football can be cruel.

*I was impressed by QB Jason Campbell’s poise under pressure. We all know he is tough. He has proven that this season as his line has crumbled. However, we hadn’t seen him stand in the pocket and keep his eyes downfield in the face of the rush. He did an exceptional job in that regard today, and that’s reflected in his 11-for-11 performance on third down. His footwork was better in the heat of the rush, and he actually used his mobility to keep some pass plays alive. This was one of his better games.

*I didn’t have a problem with coach Jim Zorn’s decision to attempt a 39-yard field goal on third-and-1 with 15 seconds left in the first half. He knew how poorly Washington’s offensive line was playing, and K Shaun Suisham hadn’t missed a field goal all season. It was a conservative decision that looks much worse because his kicker hooked the kick.

*And that brings me to Suisham. I actually woke up this morning thinking that I needed to write a story about Suisham this week. He had to scrap and claw for his job in the preseason, and here he was cruising through a perfect campaign. It was a good story–emphasis on ‘was.’ He’ll rightfully shoulder a lot of blame for this loss. He didn’t do his job.

*RB Rock Cartwright isn’t physically gifted enough to be a star in the NFL, but he makes the Redskins better. He contributes in so many ways. His 34-yard second-quarter run on which he juked a defender in the open field was impressive. However, he averaged only 2.8 yards on his other 12 runs and struggled some in pass protection. Overall, though, his contributions to the game were a net positive.

*The Redskins’ defense did well in eliminating big plays. It helped that Dallas QB Tony Romo was inaccurate for three and a half quarters. FS LaRon Landry had one of his better games, especially against the pass. I could do without all his posing and taunting, though.

*RT Stephon Heyer looked like the old Stephon Heyer, and Dallas DE/LB DeMarcus Ware made LT Levi Jones look like he was unemployed last month.

*Anyone who doubts DT Albert Haynesworth’s impact on the defense should have been convinced after watching this game. Dallas was able to limit DEs Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo in the passing game, and they gashed the Redskins with interior runs in the first half. Haynesworth truly is a unique talent and force inside.

*MLB London Fletcher sure had an up-and-down game, didn’t he? He dropped interception in the first quarter. Then he forced a fumble in the red zone. He later added an interception in the fourth quarter, but he was covering WR Patrick Crayton on the winning touchdown. Talk about a mismatch.

*I hate to add insult to RG Chad Rinehart’s injury (broken right fibula), but it appeared that he ended up in a vulnerable position in the backfield because Dallas NT Jay Ratliff beat him off the ball, got inside him and pushed him back. Rinehart might have been trying to move Ratliff out to the left, but he still was beaten on the snap.

*WR Santana Moss had five catches for 38 yards and no touchdowns. He hasn’t gone over 74 yards or scored a touchdown since Week 4. He’s not making a big enough impact.

*LB Rocky McIntosh has to hold on to that interception in Dallas territory in the first quarter. Has to. Has to. Has to. Has to. Has to.

*Dallas QB Tony Romo really found his groove on that final touchdown drive. The Redskins didn’t generate much pressure on that series, and they let Romo get too comfortable. After a couple plays, you just knew Dallas was going to score.

*Devin Thomas did some things on his 38-yard kickoff return that we haven’t seen Rock Cartwright do in that role in a long time: break tackles and use quality speed to get upfield.

*LB H.B. Blades played quite a bit on defense in the first half. The Redskins even went with four linebackers on an early second-and-5. I suppose that was Washington’s plan to help cover TE Jason Witten, who had five catches for 43 yards. I didn’t notice Blades as much in the second half.

*It’s noteworthy that Edwin Williams replaced Chad Rinehart at RG instead of Will Montgomery. Perhaps Montgomery was being saved to be the backup center. Williams did OK, though I noted him as the culprit on a crushing hit on Jason Campbell in the fourth quarter. Dallas stunted on the play and Williams appeared fooled.

…I’d love to hear your thoughts. Email me or send them to me on Twitter at @Rich_Campbell and let me know what you think and what I missed.