Redskins vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from Dallas' 31-16 Win over Washington
The victory came on the shoulders of Dwayne Harris on special teams, some key Tony Romo improvisations and a stout defense. The Redskins put up a valiant fight as they always do, even cutting the deficit to five points for a time.
Despite the efforts of Robert Griffin III and co. however, the Cowboys simply had too many aspects of their game rolling. Even with injuries to Ware and Murray, other players stepped up to help bring another W to the Dallas win column.
Here are eight takeaways from the Cowboys' much-needed win over the 'Skins
All statistics were gathered from NFL.com unless otherwise stated.
Dallas Offense Starts Game with Perfect Opening Drive
After their last play against the Broncos in Week 5, the Cowboys' offense could've come out of the gate a little out of sync. Despite the disappointing loss last week, the unit drove down the field in effortless fashion to start Week 6.
Quarterback Tony Romo had his team in Washington territory in just five plays and the drive capped off with DeMarco Murray finding the end zone.
With 60 minutes in the books, it might not seem like the first drive was a huge deal but it was. Getting seven points on their very first possession gave the Cowboys confidence and helped wipe their memory clean from Week 5.
Dallas set the tone on offense with its opening drive and showed that confidence in itself for much of the contest.
DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware Injured in Win
The victory for Dallas was won largely without the help of DeMarco Murray running the ball or DeMarcus Ware rushing the passer. While defeating the Redskins without these key contributors was impressive, the Cowboys can't be without them for long.
In his postgame press conference, Dallas head coach Jason Garrett updated the media on both players' current status.
Jason Garrett says DeMarco Murray has an MCL sprain and DeMarcus Ware has a quad strain.— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) October 14, 2013
Kyle Wilber and Joseph Randle did decently filling in for both injured starters. Wilber had a fumble recovery after Robert Griffin III was sacked in the second half. Randle scored his first ever NFL touchdown in the win.
Dallas saw two inexperience players fill the hole left by two of its most important players but can't expect that each and every game.
As the week goes by, more will likely come out about the severity of both Murray and Ware's injury. The Cowboys can't afford to lose either so they'll be hoping for promising diagnoses.
Cowboys Defense Got to RGIII
Jason Hatcher and Kyle Wiber combined for three sacks on Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III. The same RGIII that gave he Cowboys' defense fits in 2012 also picked him off once on an errant throw to the end zone.
The injury-ridden Dallas defensive line hurried and collapsed the pocket around him early and often in this one. This was the most success the Cowboys have had in disrupting Griffin III in their three meetings with the second-year quarterback.
There was a brief time when it looked as if RGIII was gaining his composure towards the end of the first half. Even at his best in this game, though, the Cowboys' defense held the Redskins' offense to only field goals until late.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would be wise to look at the Week 6 tape on how to stop No. 10 when game-planning for Dallas' next meeting with Washington.
Dallas' Running Game Was a Bit Flat
Not that the Dallas running game was overly needed in this win but it didn't do much to help the cause. Joseph Randle and DeMarco Murray did score two short-yardage touchdowns but that's about all they contributed.
Murray rushed for 29 yards on seven carries before exiting the game, averaging over four yards per touch. When he left due to injury, Randle did little to keep up the production.
The rookie had just 17 yards on 11 attempts and all but three of his yards were picked up on one run. Overall, Dallas rushed for just 48 yards through the efforts of Randle, Murray and Phillip Tanner's one run.
The running game has not been exactly fruitful for Dallas this season. Still, there needs to be a somewhat balanced approach to this offense. Tony Romo can't be chucking the ball up and trying to win the game all on his own each week.
Despite an impressive win, the Cowboys still have work to do on their ground game regardless of when Murray will return.
Brandon Carr Shut Down Pierre Garcon
Redskins' wide receiver Pierre Garcon led his team in receptions with six for 69 yards against the Cowboys. If one were to take away his 25-yard reception, he would have had just 44 on the night.
Dallas put its best cornerback in Brandon Carr on Garcon and the former Chief blanketed him all game. There were several times when Carr put himself in perfect position to break up a pass intended for his assignment.
With Garcon shadowed by Dallas' No. 39, Robert Griffin III had to look elsewhere to receivers like Jordan Reed and check down to Roy Helu. There were probably more than a few Redskins fans who were frustrated by Garcon's lack of impact in this contest.
It's not all Garcon's fault, Redskins nation. Carr simply played stellar tonight, so stellar Sunday Night Football named him one of three players of the game:
Our players of the game tonight is Dwayne Harris, Sean Lee, and Brandon Carr #SNF— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) October 14, 2013
When you can neutralize the other team's best receiver through largely one-on-one matchups, that's a good day for your defense.
Dallas Defense Neutralizes Alfred Morris
Taking away Alfred Morris' 45-yard touchdown run, the second-year rusher would have finished with just 36 yards on 15 carries. He simply wasn't an option for Redskins coach Mike Shanahan much in this contest.
As much as Shanahan may love to pound the rock, Morris had just one memorable contribution at AT&T Stadium. The rusher that gave the Cowboys' defense trouble was Robert Griffin III.
RGIII tallied 77 yards on the ground on nine carries. One would have to combine all of Griffin III's previous rushing totals through four games this season to get close to his output against Dallas.
Not to say those runs weren't beneficial for Washington but they didn't help stabilize the offense. The Cowboys weren't the best at tackling RGIII when he got into open field, though. That's something Dallas needs to change next time it faces Washington.
The 'Skins quarterback isn't going anywhere for a long time so Dallas needs to prepare on how to keep his running statistics rather unimpressive. Keeping Morris in check, however, was a big plus for the Cowboys. Forcing RGIII to be the only ground and passing threat worked in the home team's favor.
Jason Hatcher Becoming Defensive Leader
Just in case there was any doubt he wasn't a leader already, Jason Hatcher proved his worth to the Dallas defense in Week 6.
He was in Robert Griffin III's face all game long and helped force the fumble recovered by Kyle Wilber. Hatcher also sacked RGIII two times for good measure. Thanks to his efforts, Hatcher got a shout out from head coach Jason Garrett in his postgame press conference.
Garrett: "Jason Hatcher had an outstanding football game"— True Blue (@TrueBlueFanClub) October 14, 2013
Through six games this season, the Cowboys' defensive lineman has posted three sacks, which is one shy of his 2012 total. With Jay Ratliff nowhere to be found, Hatcher has stepped up and been a go-to playmaker for this Dallas defense. He proved exactly how disruptive he can be to opposing offenses in Week 6.
Dwayne Harris Delivers
It's not official just yet but one has to think Dwayne Harris is a shoe-in for NFC special teams player of the week. He returned an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and later returned a kick for 90 yards.
His 222 combined return yards in a single game are third-most in Cowboys' history behind Reggie Swinton and Mel Renfro, per Richie Whitt of the Blue Star Blog.
In case you haven't seen the highlight a million times, here's a look at Harris' punt return for a touchdown:
The Cowboys' offense received a huge boost from Harris, who essentially accounted for 14 of Dallas' points on the night. After his 90-yard kick return, it took Dallas just one play to cash in on seven points.
Harris was the Cowboys' MVP in this game, plain and simple. For the first time in what feels like several years, Harris has made the Dallas return game a legitimate asset to this team.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.