NFL Wire News

Redskins-Cowboys: What we learned


LANDOVER, Md. — With the NFC East title clinched and not much chance of earning a first-round bye, there was little on the line for the Dallas Cowboys Sunday.

The Cowboys didn’t play like it, burying their biggest rival 44-17 with starters playing the entire game to finish a perfect 8-0 on the road this season and avenge the overtime loss to the Redskins eight weeks earlier.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett even tried an onside kick in the second quarter and slammed the door on the last-place Redskins, who finished 4-12 in coach Jay Gruden’s first season.

Dallas could still gain a bye with losses by favored Arizona and Seattle in games played later Sunday.

“There was a scenario where the outcome of this game was going to matter so our job was going to take care of what we could take care of and that’s what we did,” Garrett said.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was 22 of 34 for 299 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was 27 of 41 for a career-high 336 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

The 34-year-old Romo will lead the NFL with a career-high 113.2 passer rating a year and a day after his career was in jeopardy after having back surgery.

Three plays after Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal ended the opening drive and gave Dallas a 3-0 lead, Redskins receiver DeSean Jackson caught a screen pass from Griffin, was freed by a big block from left tackle Trent Williams, and turned on the jets for a 69-yard touchdown.

However, Washington’s edge lasted barely two minutes. On the fourth play of the Cowboys’ ensuing series, wide receiver Dez Bryant caught a screen pass from Romo, juked Redskins cornerback David Amerson, and was on his way to a 65-yard touchdown that made it 10-7 Cowboys with 6:25 left in the quarter.

Four plays after Washington’s three-and-out, NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards) broke Emmitt Smith’s Cowboys season record with a 32-yard gallop en route to gaining 100 yards on 20 carries. On the next snap, Bryant beat Amerson again and got both feet down in the left corner of the end zone for his 16th touchdown grab to top Terrell Owens’ previous team mark.

What the Cowboys said:

“He’s a fantastic football player. He’s had a great year. The stuff that jumps out at me is his physical toughness, his mental toughness. Coming back off that (left) hand surgery a couple of weeks ago and going back in and playing six days later is being who he is.” — Coach Jason Garrett on NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who also broke all-time leader Emmitt Smith’s team season mark.

–“The most exciting thing about getting healthy was (having) another opportunity. The division title is great, but we have bigger aspirations. We understand (that) we’re just getting started. We’re excited about the opportunity.” — QB Tony Romo, who rebounded from back surgery last Dec. 27 to lead the league in passing and has won just one playoff game since becoming the starter midway through 2006.

What the Redskins said:

“It’s not any individual, linebacker, defensive line, (defensive backs). It’s a Redskins problem. We’re going to approach it together and fix it together.” — Coach Jay Gruden on his battered defense which surrendered 457 yards and 37 points on Sunday (Dallas scored one touchdown on defense).

–“Football’s kind of like a woman. They only remember the bad things.” — S Ryan Clark after the Redskins completed their sixth season in the last seven in the NFC East basement with a 4-12 record.

What we learned about the Cowboys:

–They can take care of business on the road – finishing 8-0 this season – and were not messing around in the finale. The 47-17 rout of the Redskins was a huge contrast to their Week 17 losses to Philadelphia (24-22), Washington (28-18) and the New York Giants (31-14) with the division crown at stake to end recent seasons.

–Confidence is through the roof for a team that many projected to be one of the worst in the NFL defensively based on last season’s results. Credit the hustling and fundamentally sound crew for making the season a success, even if defense is a distant second to the glitzy stars in Big D, including QB Tony Romo, RB DeMarco Murray and WR Dez Bryant. All three delivered in a big way this season and Sunday was no different.

–RB DeMarco Murray and QB Tony Romo became the second straight teammates to lead the league in rushing and passing, following Philadelphia’s LeSean McCoy and Nick Foles, who were the first tandem to do so since 1960.

–LB Rolando McClain, the Cowboys’ leading tackler, was inactive in the wake of his $1.5 million Alabama home burning down last week. The defense then lost linebacker Anthony Hitchens to a high ankle sprain and defensive tackle Henry Melton to a knee injury during the game. There’s no word yet on their status for the Cowboys’ playoff opener.

–Only six Cowboys remain from Dallas’ last playoff team in 2009: QB Tony Romo, TE Jason Witten, OT Doug Free, CB Orlando Scandrick and LS Louis-Phillippe Ladouceur.

What we learned about the Redskins:

–Cornerback is a difficult position for a rookie to master on the fly, and the season couldn’t have ended soon enough for CB David Amerson, who was beaten by Cowboys Pro Bowl WR Dez Bryant for two early TDs and for a late 51-yard bomb to WR Terrance Williams. Amerson had his moments, and is definitely feisty with a future in the NFL in the right scheme. But his don’t-back-down approach comes with definite risk, and he will work in the offseason to learn to manage – and minimize – those risks.

–There was no real proof of positives for a passing game that coach Jay Gruden wants to overhaul, despite some solid numbers. Passing for a career-high in yardage can be very deceiving. Robert Griffin III’s 336 yards on 27 completions didn’t include a ball he threw further than 20 yards. Wide receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon gained 116 yards on a pair of screen passes. Neither Griffin nor Gruden apparently trust the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year to pass it downfield. Part of that worry, of course, is the offensive line, which was dogged by injuries all season.

— Three starting offensive linemen went down during the game. Left tackle Trent Williams suffered a high ankle sprain. Right tackle Tom Compton sprained an MCL and right guard sprained a toe, forcing tight end Logan Paulsen to play left tackle with former starter Tyler Polumbus and rookie Spencer Long filling in for Compton and Chester.

–WR De Sean Jackson’s 69-yard touchdown grab was his NFL-best 13th catch of at least 40 yards. Jackson will lead the league in yards per-catch (20.9) for the second time in five seasons.

— DE Jason Hatcher, a Cowboy from 2006-13, went on injured reserve on Saturday. DT Travian Robertson was claimed off waivers from Seattle to replace Hatcher, who had missed the past two games with an ailing right knee.

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