Redskins-Cowboys: Keys to Victory

Craig Garrison SrSenior Analyst ISeptember 27, 2008

The Washington Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys in Week Four of the 2008 regular season. As the marquee match-up for this Sunday, I have taken an extended look at this game.

For my detailed breakdown of this game see HERE, HERE AND HERE.

And now we'll note the keys to victory for each team as I see it.

The winning formula for the 'Skins on offense:

Score TOUCHDOWNS, early.

The Cowboys will likely be capable of running the ball nearly at will if given the opportunity. The Skins will need to put points on the board to prevent Cowboys' offensive coordinator Jason Garrett from feeling comfortable enough to to lean on their running game as they did against the Packers last week. The Skins can force him to put the onus on quarterback Tony Romo to make plays, perhaps enough pressure to force Romo into mistakes, which he has shown he can be counted on for maybe two per game. And if that happens, the Skins have to take advantage of those mistakes and score touchdowns, not field goals.

The winning formula for the 'Skins on defense:

See above first. A good defense often starts with the offense and it will be that way for the Redskins this week. Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator Greg Blache has done a fine job thus far game planning against three very good offenses. While the Redskins defense has allowed high yardage totals, and two 100 yard rushers, his defense has held three of the highest scoring teams to only 17 points or less (the Saints had a punt return for a touchdown to give them 24 points in Week Two). That said, this is the most potent offense Blache and the Redskins' defense have seen yet. Their focus has to be preventing the big play. But they also can't allow the Cowboys to hold a large advantage in time of possession. Last season, then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams tried to use a "bend, don't break" mentality against the New England Patriots. It didn't go very well. Williams couldn't get his players out of the mentality once the Patriots showed they could handle it, and it went down hill fast. Blache can't let that happen against the Cowboys. The will need to make plays behind the line of scrimmage early with penetration and early hits on the beast, running back Marion Barber and the speedy rookie Felix Jones.

The winning formula for 'Boys on offense:

Pound the Skins into submission first, second, and third, and then show your explosiveness. Sounds easy enough. But the Redskins have played well against the Cowboys' running game in the last six meetings overall. Their last meeting, at the end of last season, the Redskins' defense held to Cowboys' to ONE yard rushing. ONE. The Cowboys entered that game having already clinched home field advantage through out the playoffs, and didn't bring any intensity with them from Dallas. Wide out Terrell Owens was the offensive starter who didn't play in that game, with Romo and the other starters playing into the third quarter before Wade Phillips gave up trying to save some momentum and sat the "important" guys. The Cowboys' offensive line is big, very big, and they should be able to wear down the Skins' defensive front, but they will need to prevent penetration into the backfield so Barber and Jones can get a head of steam before being hit. If they can do that, they likely won't be stopped.

The winning formula for 'Boys on defense:

The Cowboys' defense has shown itself to be very inconsistent. Giving up a lot of points to the Eagles, but nearly shutting the Packers out of the end-zone completely. They will need to stand up and show us who they really are. Stuffing the running game, and not letting Cowboys' Killer Santana Moss get loose for ALL FOUR QUARTERS could make for an easy win. But they will need to be very careful in putting too much attention on Moss. Redskins' head coach and primary play caller Jim Zorn has displayed dramatic improvement in his game management and shown a knack for keeping defenses off guard with his play calling. The Redskins also have many weapons other than Moss and the Cowboys defense will need to stay focused the entire game to prevent the Skins from finding a rhythm and keeping it.

If the Cowboys can keep the Skins out of the end-zone, they'll be able to pound on the Skins' defensive front, and cruise to a win much like they did against the Packers last week, thereby limiting the opportunities for Romo to make costly mistakes. The Redskins are currently leading the league in turnover ratio with a PLUS FIVE in that category. Zorn will run the ball when it seems he should throw it, and throw it when it seems he should run it, and has done both with relative success.

It should be fun to watch the game being played on the sideline just as much as on the field.