Reporting Grant Paulsen
Redzone defense: The Cowboys marched inside Washington’s 20 on three separate occasions and didn’t once score a touchdown. The Redskins’ most impressive defensive stand came when Dallas had a first-and-goal from the Washington two yard-line after a holding penalty was called OJ Atogwe. Stephen Bowen made a tackle on a run play that resulted in a loss-of-three, then Tony Romo threw a pair of incompletions before the Cowboys settled for a field goal.
Graham Gano: Gano has improved since missing his first field goal attempt of the season. He drilled all three of the kicks he had control over on Monday night, even connecting on a career-long, 50-yarder. Gano’s statistics will say that he was three-for-four on Monday because one of his kicks was blocked, but Sav Rocca botched his hold attempt. Gano had a very strong game and looked like a competent, weapon of an NFL kicker. He felt like a sure bet to make his kicks in week-three, which wasn’t the case last season.
Third-down defense: Monday marked the third straight strong showing for Washington’s defense on third-down. The Redskins held the Cowboys to a 23 percent conversion rate on third-down (three-for-13). When you are getting that many stops and halting drives, teams aren’t going to score consistently.
Jabar Gaffney: In the wake of another strong showing (5 catches for 60 yards), Gaffney continues to look like he’s an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense. He runs good routes and uses his 6-foot-2 frame well to shield defenders. There’s a lot to like about Gaffney. He’s not a game-breaker but it seems like he could end up being a solid complement to Santana Moss at wide receiver.
Stephen Bowen: The former Cowboy made the most of his return to Dallas. He had his best game as a Redskin, stuffing rushing lanes throughout the night while proving very stout against the run. He had three tackles, one for a loss on a first-and-goal play that sent the Cowboys in reverse from inside Washington’s five yard-line.
Trent Williams: DeMarcus Ware was held in check almost all night. The Cowboys had to move their ace pass rusher to the left side of their defensive formations(Jammal Brown’s side) to allow him to impact the game. Monday night’s performance was what the Redskins were hoping for when they drafted Trent Williams with the No. 4 pick last year. With help from his teammates, Williams made Ware a non-factor for a couple of quarters.
3rd-and-21 play-call: I normally try not to make a huge deal about any one play because there are so many of them in a game, but I can’t understand why Jim Haslett gambled with a heavy blitz on 3rd-and-21. Washington went to a look without any safety help and with three cornerbacks playing press coverage on receivers at the line of scrimmage, when the Cowboys needed to throw the ball down the field.
The risk Haslett was taking was that one of the Redskins’ pass-rushers would get to Tony Romo, or close enough to him to force him to get the ball out on a short, hot-route. . I get it. The same design had worked several times earlier in the game. But it didn’t work on Dallas’ game-winning drive and I just don’t think the gamble was worth it. There was no reason why Washington shouldn’t have kept some bodies roaming the secondary knowing a down-field pass was coming.
Rex Grossman: I didn’t think Grossman was terrible. He was actually pretty sharp at times. But he wasn’t consistent. Grossman threw for 250 yards and finished the game with a respectable quarterback rating of 77.5. But he had two bad turnovers. The second quarter interception he threw was a pass that an NFL quarterback just can’t make. He said he didn’t see the linebacker who ended up catching his pass, intended for Fred Davis. But that linebacker (Sean Lee) dropped into coverage with Davis well before Grossman delivered the football. Just a bad read. Oh, and Grossman has to learn to do a better job protecting the football when he leaves the pocket to scramble.
Third down efficiency: The Redskins converted on just three of their 12 third down attempts. Successfully moving the chains on just 25 percent of their attempts likely goes hand-in-hand with Washington’s struggles to run the ball. When you aren’t picking up more than a yard or two on first and second down, you’re in third-and-long more frequently.
Running game: While the Redskins’ ground attack seemed to improve as the game wore on, there still weren’t enough holes for Tim Hightower to exploit. Hightower’s longest run went for nine yards, and he finished the day with 14 attempts and an average of 2.9 yards per-pop. As a team Washington ran 22 times for 65 yards, a three-yard-per-carry average, which just isn’t good enough.
Sav Rocca’s poor hold: This one kind of explains itself. You miss a chance at a chip-shot field goal because Rocca couldn’t get the hold down after a fine snap and the game end’s up being decided by two points. Dagger.