Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins: Some Perspective on Five Sacks
Dallas Cowboys fans watched a former University of Texas quarterback Colt McCoy led Washington Redskins team march into AT&T Stadium on Monday Night Football and defeat the now 6-2 Cowboys 20-17 in overtime. The Cowboys versus Redskins rivalry is legendary and this installment had its moments of drama. Team owner Jerry Jones brought back many Cowboys alumni before the game to hype-up the crowd, and fans got involved in the fun interacting with and meeting the former players.
In analyzing every snap of this game, Washington has a below average offense and a slightly above average defense led by defensive coordinator Jim Haslett; the Redskin’s 3-5 record reflects the team’s mediocrity. Other than Haslett’s effective blitzes forcing 5 sacks, the stat that stood out most was the Redskins’ dominating time of possession 38:12 to the Cowboys 28:37. The one Washington player who was a difference maker for the Skins was strong safety Brandon Meriweather who had seven tackles, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and two sacks.
The Cowboys yielded five sacks, and while some are blaming poor play of the offensive line, I have a substantially different opinion. While the Cowboys offensive line did not play their best game, the sacks cannot all be attributed to the o-line. Let’s take a look at each sack play-by-play.
At the 13:10 point in the 1st quarter, Dallas had the ball at their 41-yard line on a 3rd and 5 play. This was Redskin Brandon Meriweather’s first sack of the game, and I do not believe it was a designed blitz as Washington only rushed five men, including Meriweather. Initially, Brandon lined up across from Cowboys tight end Jason Witten to the left outside of tackle Tyron Smith. However, quarterback Tony Romo audibled and pulled Witten away from the left and into protection on his right. Meriweather simply stayed in his original alignment and went around the left side of Tyron Smith for the wide-open sack on Romo. Why Romo audibled out of the alignment which provided him the correct protection is a head scratcher, but this sack was on Romo, not the offensive line.
With 6:09 in the first quarter, the Cowboys had a 3rd and 8 at Washington’s 42 yard line. The Redskins showed a seven man blitz with free safety Ryan Clark coming off the right edge and linebacker Perry Riley coming straight up the middle. Riley threw Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray aside and pulled Romo to the ground for the sack. Once again, Romo should have seen that he had seven men rushing him with only six to protect, but he erroneously did not change the protection.
On one of the last plays in the first half with just 23 seconds remaining; the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 3 at their own 44-yard line. The Redskins overloaded the left side with Brandon Meriweather showing blitz with a six-man front. At the snap, Washington linebacker Ryan Kerrigan ran a stunt to his right allowing a clear path to Romo for the sack. Right tackle Jermey Parnell was beaten on the play, but it was a beautifully designed and executed blitz, and I credit coach Haslett and Kerrigan more than I fault Parnell for the missed block.
In the third quarter, Dallas had the ball at their own 36-yard line facing 3rd and 11 with 7:59 to play. This is the play in which Tony Romo was injured and left the game until his gutsy come back in the fourth quarter. Washington had an eight-man alignment with linebacker Keenan Robinson showing blitz straight up the middle. Once again, Romo did not change his protection with just six men to protect him, and he paid dearly for his mistake as Robinson burst of the gut of the line for the easy sack. Romo should have shifted protection or called a time out at a minimum, but instead he took the sack and almost took himself out altogether.
Skins SS Brandon Meriweather collected his second and final sack with 1:27 left to play in the 4th quarter as Dallas faced a 2nd and 1 on their own 12-yard line. Haslett drew up a beautifully disguised safety blitz utilizing Meriweather’s speed from Romo’s right side. Running back DeMarco Murray missed the block giving Meriweather a free run at Romo who fumbled. Murray made up for his mistake by recovering Tony’s fumble from beneath the pile up, but the damage was done.
The next time someone says Dallas’ offensive line played poorly against Washington, what you can tell them is that of the five sacks the team gave up, three were missed blitz pickups by Tony Romo, and two were beautifully designed Jim Haslett plays with Jermey Parnell and DeMarco Murray missing blocks. The Cowboys face another tough challenge as the 6-1 Arizona Cardinals come to AT&T Stadium Sunday November 2nd. If Tony Romo’s back allows him to start, my guess is that much time will be spent this week preparing the Cowboys offense to recognize and counter a safety blitz.
Follow Matt Thornton on Twitter @MattsCowboys