In fact, Griffin's fifth game with his surgically reconstructed right knee was clearly his best yet. It appears he took a big step forward from a medical and/or psychological standpoint during the bye week, because he was extremely mobile and surprisingly nimble. He no longer looked afraid. He ran for more yards against Dallas (77) than he had in the first four weeks combined (72).
It was refreshing and encouraging, but the Redskins still lost for the fourth time in five games this season, which indicates that this team's problems are further from being solved than expected.
Griffin made progress, but the Redskins as a whole were supposed to be better coming off their bye week—just like last year, when they came out of the bye with a 3-6 record and went on to win seven consecutive games.
Dallas spent the majority of Sunday's game without three starting defensive linemen, all three of whom have Pro Bowl-level talent. Sure, they've been without Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff for a while, but throw in the loss of potential Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware, and that's supposed to be devastating.
And yet Griffin was sacked three times, including on what was essentially a game-clinching fourth-quarter play inside the Washington red zone.
Dallas was also without top back DeMarco Murray for the majority of the night. Murray was a huge part of the offense in the first quarter, and that loss forced the Cowboys to essentially ditch the running game. A one-dimensional attack could muster only 19 yards on 12 carries from Joseph Randle and Phillip Tanner.
And yet Tony Romo was sacked just once, and the Cowboys still found a way to score 31 points.
It helped that Dwayne Harris broke off two 80-plus-yard returns, both leading either immediately or eventually to Dallas touchdowns.
The Redskins didn't adjust and failed to exploit the Cowboys' clear deficiencies. They were the healthier, better-rested team, and they swept this Dallas team a year ago, dominating the 'Boys in this very same venue on Thanksgiving.
They took 12 penalties for a ridiculous 104 yards. They were given so many opportunities to win a game they had no business winning, but it was impossible to overcome all of those miscues: dropped passes, penalties, errant throws, poor routes, turnovers.
This is the kind of game they won last year. Usually, they'd grind it out on the ground, but nobody except Griffin could run the football on Sunday night. Alfred Morris' final numbers don't look half bad, but he had just 27 yards on 13 carries before some great blocking and a missed tackle helped spring him for a 45-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. They needed more from the league's second-leading rusher.
|The player||The problem|
|Alfred Morris||45 yards on one carry; only 36 on the other 15|
|Leonard Hankerson||2 catches on 6 targets|
|Brian Orakpo||Zero sacks; zero tackles|
|Everyone on kick coverage||2 returns of 80-plus yards|
The real tragedy is that they didn't lose to the best Dallas had to offer. They weren't defeated by Romo (72.9 passer rating), Dez Bryant (36 receiving yards) or Ware (no sacks before getting hurt). They were defeated by borderline-anonymous backups/youngsters/journeymen like Kyle Wilber, Dwayne Harris and George Selvie.
Either that, or they defeated themselves.
Put simply, they were a mess. The only good news, aside from Griffin's evident progress, is that the rest of the NFC East is nearly as messy.