By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys lost two straight games heading into Week 16, and if they lost to the Washington Redskins this week, they faced the danger of losing their chance at making the playoffs. However, Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray helped the team avoid that pitfall, and the Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins, 24-23, having to rely on a 10-point come-from-behind victory. With the win, the Cowboys now have to win one more game to make the postseason for the first time in Jason Garrett’s tenure as head coach.
Here is a look at the grades from the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game this week.
Offensive Grade: B-
There are still some major problems with this offense, and they all rest on the play calling. For Cowboys fans, it looked like the same old situation, and even television announcer John Lynch was shocked at the Dallas refusal to run the clock down. Dallas went into halftime winning, as has been normal lately. However, they came out in the second half and kept throwing the ball. That resulted in two turnovers, the first a fumble by a fullback on a screen pass, and the second an interception by Tony Romo.
As a result, Washington did what numerous teams this season have done against Dallas – they came from behind and took a big nine-point lead, which Dallas faced in the fourth quarter. Then, amazingly, with the lead blown and the big deficit, Dallas finally trusted DeMarco Murray to run the ball. It was almost too little, too late.
Murray was averaging over seven yards a carry in the first half, and finished the game with 22 carries for 96 yards. He became the first running back since Julius Jones to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season for Dallas, and only the second since Emmitt Smith left the team. Yet, Murray almost cost Dallas the game when they put their trust in him at the end. He was stuffed twice at the one and then ran backwards for a 10-yard loss, trying to make something happen.
However, for the first time this season, Dallas and Tony Romo kept their faith in Murray. Romo backed up to pass on fourth down and threw it to Murray, who scored the touchdown. It was a nice come-from-behind win, and now Dallas needs just one more win to head into the playoffs.
Defensive Grade: B-
Dallas defense was solid this game. The biggest problem was the play of Brandon Carr, who was burned continuously by Pierre Garcon all game. Garcon finished with 11 receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown and became the Redskins’ single-season receiving leader, passing Art Monk’s record. However, once that Dallas moved Orlando Scandrick to cover Garcon, he was shut down when it mattered most.
Dallas also held Kirk Cousins to 197 passing yards and one touchdown, one of the Cowboys better performances lately. They also intercepted him once and sacked him twice in the game. The two touchdowns followed offensive turnovers, so this was a rare game where the Dallas defense did what they were supposed to.
There was one last chance that Washington had to get into field goal range, which Dallas fans have every reason to fear, but they stopped the Redskins on all four downs and finally closed out a game.
Special Teams: B+
Dan Bailey scared Cowboys fans when he barely made the extra point that gave Dallas the win. He did hit all three extra points as well as a 25-yard field goal. Also nice was new Dallas signee Michael Spurlock, who just joined Dallas this week. He finished the game with one punt return for 62 yards and averaged 17 yards on three kick returns
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.