If there’s one thing NFL fans are guaranteed it’s that when ever the Skins meet the Cowboys in primetime, the game is sure to be filled with unusual plays and often a thrilling finish. Last night was no exception. While the first half was mostly a dull affair (the Skins had only 104 yards in the half), the stadium woke up when DeAngelo Hall stripped the ball from Tashard Choice, recovered the fumble, and then ran 32 yards for the TD to give the Skins a 10-0 lead at halftime. Both offenses faired better in the second half. The Skins ran the ball more effectively and were able to get into the redzone on the opening drive of the half. However, after missing two good opportunities to get the TD, they botched the snap on the field goal attempt and Dallas was able to stay in the game. Both teams traded scores and when the Cowboys gained possession of the ball with 1:50 left in the game, the stage was set for a classic finish. Carlos Rogers and Laron Landry dropped two sure interceptions, and Miles Austin had a huge 4th down catch to put Dallas in the redzone with 12 seconds remaining. On the very last play, Tony Romo was pressured out of the pocket and delivered a pass to Roy Williams for the game-winning TD…except it was called back by a holding penalty on Alex Barron. Game over. The Skins beat the Cowboys 13-7 as the fog rolled through FedEx Field.
Positives – Offensively, the Skins O-line did a good job handling the Cowboys pass rush and Trent Williams looked impressive in his debut. He only gave up one sack to DeMarcus Ware but had few mistakes in general. Clinton Portis played solid as well. He found some good cut-back lanes and showed a burst we haven’t seen in a couple of years. Donovan McNabb was on target for the most part and could have had more completions if not for some drops by the receivers. He had good protection particularly in the second half and the physical blocking wore out the Cowboys D-lineman. Defensively, the Skins were bend-don’t-break but made key stops while keeping the Cowboys out of the redzone for most of the game. The new 3-4 defense that Jim Haslett has installed showed very few hiccups. At times, the Skins had only two down lineman or none at all. They would blitz corners, safeties, and linebackers from different angles, either in bunches or individually. It was a well-executed game plan by Haslett. Also, credit Mike Shanahan for his decision to kick the 49-yard field goal late in the game rather than punt. It was a gutsy call but the right one.
Negatives – Most people think a long snapper has little impact on a game but they are an important part of the special teams. Last night proved why. Nick Sundberg was brought in this year to replace long-time Pro Bowl long snapper Ethan Albright and he had a terrible night. The botched field goal was a result of his high snap and he even had a low snap on the last made field goal. He struggled throughout training camp and may get the boot if his troubles continue. While the Skins were able to move the ball on offense, this area is still a work in progress. McNabb needs to improve his timing with the receivers and they need to do a better job concentrating on the catch. It was also unusual to see Fred Davis and Joey Galloway not targeted through most of the game. This offense will need a few games to gel.