The first game this season between the Redskins and the Cowboys was a defensive match-up won by the Cowboys in the fourth quarter. The Redskins had the lead for most of the game and were able to apply constant pressure to the Cowboys defense for most of the game, but in the end the Cowboys defense adjusted and stopped the Redskins. A lot has changed since that time. Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Kory Lichtensteiger, and Tim Hightower are now all hurt. Rex Grossman lost his job to John Beck and then won it back when John Beck turned out to be a less aggressive version of Rex Grossman (all of the turnovers with none of the down field passes).
The Cowboys have had issues of their own. One week the offense looks dynamic picking apart the other team’s defense and then the next Tony Romo can’t do much of anything but have a fourth quarter meltdown. The strength of the Cowboys is their defense. They have allowed the tenth fewest points per game at 20.2 and the ninth fewest yards a game at 327.8. The Redskins defense has allowed slightly fewer points per game at 19.8 and slightly more yards a game at 337.1.
The Redskins defense last season was the second worst in the NFL and this year they have showed remarkable improvement. There are still issues though. The Redskins struggle against the run and are ranked 15th in rushing yards allowed per game at 120.4. The Cowboys happen to be one of the better rushing teams in the NFL having rushed for 125.4 yards a game which ranks them ninth in the league. Dallas also happens to feature the sixth ranked passing attack and have managed 278.4 yards a game.
Orakpo and Kerrigan have been the Redskins two best players on the season and can give the offensive line and quarterback fits. The problem with the Redskins passing defense is it is more dependant on the pass rush than the secondary. If a quarterback gets time against the Redskins there will be an open receiver. The Cowboys have a good receiving core and when Romo isn’t in the midst of a fourth quarter meltdown he is one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL.
One thing that cannot be forgotten with this game is that it is the Cowboys vs. the Redskins. This is one of those games where the stats can be looked at an analyzed and the conclussion is the Cowboys should handle the Redskins rather easily, but this is a rivalry game at home, and the Redskins barely lost in Dallas earlier in the season. Emotion means more in football than it does in any other sport. For one game the thoughts of revenge and beating a rival can drive underwhelming players to have a good game.
All that emotion is going to have to come from the defense. The Redskins offense is so beat up that even if Niles Paul decides he is going to play with fire and have the game of his life he is still Niles Paul. The Redskins are down so many receivers at this point they had to bring back Donte Stallworth who they had just cut. Against the Dolphins Leonard Hankerson had a breakout game but then ended up broken and once against the Redskins without a receiving threat.
The Redskins defense is going to have to play the game of their lives if the Redskins are to win this contest. This is the rivalry and there is no better time than this game for the defense to have the game of their lives. With Rex Grossman at quarterback the Redskins have a punchers chance on offense. All it takes is one of his deep passes into double coverage connecting. If the Redskins defense can play their best game of the season and Rex Grossman can manage to find a receiver instead of a corner back down field then the Redskins have a good chance to come away victors in this game.
With the Redskins season having spiraled out of control and thoughts of the playoffs a distant memory this is the most important game of the season. Beating Dallas at home is what some Redskins fans call a successful season.