Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed (86) scores a touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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The Washington Redskins were unable to notch a third straight win coming out of the bye week, as they fell to the Dallas Cowboys by a final score of 31-26.
This year, the Thanksgiving Day game carried a bit of extra meaning for the Dallas Cowboys. They were getting a chance to take on their arch rival, the Washington Redskins, in hopes of improving their win streak to 10 straight games. They wanted to do it in front of their home crowd on a holiday that made America’s team a real fan favorite.
For the Redskins, the game was a chance at revenge. They should have beaten the Cowboys in Week 2 of the regular season, but they were unable to do that. Unfortunately, they once again made too many mistakes and fell to 6-4-1 on the season with the loss.
The game was definitely an exciting one. Both sides had some serious fireworks and it was fun to watch both sides play. With that said, it is time to have an in-depth look at the Redskins loss. It is time for this week’s Redskins Breakdown.
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) throws the ball against the Dallas Cowboys during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Passing Game: Kirk Cousins Continues Hot Streak
Since the bye week, Kirk Cousins has been playing the best football of his career. The quarterback really caught fire during the second half of the 2015 season, and it appears that the same thing is happening in 2016. In his past three games, Jackson has posted a completion rate of 72.4 percent while throwing for 1,086 yards and eight touchdowns. Thursday’s game really added to his success.
On Thursday, Cousins had one of the best games of his career going 41-of-53 for 449 yards and three touchdowns. Cousins was able to accomplish a lot despite the failures of his defensive team. The offense was tasked with keeping the Redskins in the game, and Cousins was able to do that.
During the game, Cousins displayed excellent accuracy and made some great throws. On one of his touchdowns to Jordan Reed, he threw the ball into a tight window and put the ball where only the tight end could get it. It was a smart move that helped the Skins draw closer as the end of the game drew nearer.
Cousins also displayed great deep accuracy hitting DeSean Jackson for a long touchdown. The improvement in his deep accuracy and decision making is what has allowed him to have success in the second half of the season.
Overall, this was a spectacular game for the second year starter. Cousins has been earning himself money over the last few weeks, and this game will definitely give him some more to be happy about.
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) breaks up a pas intended for Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) during the second half at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Passing Game: DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed Carry The Load
Thanks to the success of Cousins, the receivers for the Redskins were able to post some stellar numbers. The team had three wide-outs record more than 88 yards during the game, but the performance of Jordan Reed and DeSean Jackson was most impressive.
For Reed, this may have been the signature game of his career. Reed was the top target for Cousins during the day, catching 10 passes for 95 yards. He also ended up being a threat in the red zone, and he caught two touchdowns during the game. He was able to work the middle of the field and exploit matchup advantages.
Perhaps the most surprising part of Reed’s performance was his return from injury. Midway through the second corner, the talented tight end suffered what looked to be a bad shoulder injury. However, he managed to return and put up some great numbers. Reed reportedly may have separated his AC joint, so that will be a situation to monitor going forward.
For Jackson, this was a nice bounce back. Since returning from injury, Jackson has posted a couple of strong stat lines, and Thanksgiving showcased what he is best at. On one play, Jackson torched the Dallas defender and gained a couple of steps on him. Cousins launched a nice deep ball to him and Jackson was able to waltz into the end zone (backwards of course) to put the points on the board. He has to continue to provide this deep threat ability, as it is hugely helpful to the overall performance of the Redskins offense.
Nov 20, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins running back Robert Kelley (32) carries the ball as Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) chases in the first quarter at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Running Game: Robert Kelley Cannot Get Moving
Though I still consider the Dallas run defense to be overrated, they were definitely able to get the job done on Thursday afternoon. Robert Kelley was on a hot streak entering the game, and the rookie was looking to follow up his first 100 yard performance with a strong game. However, the Cowboys were able to slow him down and render him ineffective.
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Kelley had issues getting through the interior of the offensive line, as the Cowboys kept bursting through to make contact. It seemed like the Cowboys focused a lot of their energy on making the Redskins offense one dimensional, and that could have been a part of Kelley’s struggles. It also did not help that the offensive line kept getting pushed back. Morgan Moses’ ankle injury was definitely a part of the problem.
Overall, Kelley posted 37 yards on 14 carries. It was his worst start as a pro, but there is not too much to read into. The team was forced to abandon the run early, though they mixed in an occasional play late, and Kelley never got into a rhythm as a result. He should bounce back in his next game.
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams (83) catches a touchdown pass against Washington Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Defense: Cornerbacks Struggle Aside From Josh Norman
Josh Norman had an intense battle with Dez Bryant that culminated in a postgame scuffle between the two. Though Norman did not have his best performance, he was able to limit the Cowboys strong receiver. The rest of the cornerbacks for the team were unable to do so.
Both Bashaud Breeland and Kendall Fuller had tough days for the Redskins. Breeland had some issues in coverage against the Dallas receivers and also dealt with an injury during the game. Dak Prescott did not end up throwing a whole lot during the game, and that was probably good news for Breeland. He really could not contain the No. 2 receivers for Dallas and probably should have been called for pass interference on a couple of occasions.
For Fuller, this game was a learning experience. Fuller spent a chunk of the day covering Cole Beasley, one of the more productive slot receivers in the league. Fuller had issues staying with him and was beaten on third down a couple of times. Moving forward, he needs to make sure that he can prevent big gains and defends harder on third down. Had he prevented a conversion or two, the Redskins may have won the game.
The performance of the cornerbacks was far from the biggest problem in the game. The real issue stemmed from the defense’s inability to stop the run.
Nov 24, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) scores a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Washington Redskins inside linebacker Will Compton (51) at AT&T Stadium. Dallas won 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Defense: Run Defense Becomes Major Issue Again
On Thanksgiving Day, the Redskins run defense took a major step back. They had performed well over the past couple of weeks, and it looked like they had started to turn the corner. Instead, they returned to their old ways and caused some major issues for the team.
The Skins allowed Ezekiel Elliott to gain 97 yards on 20 carries and he totaled two touchdowns as well. Those are not the best numbers that the rookie has put up in recent weeks, but they are not indicative of the whole story.
On the first drive, the Redskins allowed Elliott to trample them on route to an early Cowboys score. Then, the team was able to slow him down for a couple of drives. They broke through the line on a few occasions and it looked like they were ready to stop the talented young back. Instead, Elliott emerged again in the fourth quarter and helped to milk the clock while leading another touchdown drive. It was disheartening, as the Skins missed some tackles and had serious issues as their defense tired out.
The team has to focus on improving their run defense in their next encounter. They cannot allow teams to trample them, or they will end up losing. It is that simple. They just have to limit the running game of their opponents.
Nov 13, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden walks off the field after the game against the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field. The Washington Redskins won 26 – 20. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Final Note: Jay Gruden’s Newfound Aggressive Nature
After going for it on a fourth down against the Green Bay Packers, I referred to Jay Gruden’s play calling as “gutsy.” Well, he once again had some aggressive play calls on Thursday, and the results were mixed.
Gruden once again went for it on a fourth and one with the Redskins down two scores. It made sense to run the play at the time, but they made a surprising decision to pass the ball instead of trying a sneak. The play worked, as Chris Thompson caught the pass and ran out of bounds for two yards, but it was still an interesting call.
However, Gruden’s attempt at a surprise onside kick could have been viewed as a negative. With about nine minutes left, Dustin Hopkins tried an onside kick that the Cowboys recovered. It gave them great field position, and that allowed them to score. However, the team could have booted it down the field and the Cowboys could have bled the clock if they got a few first downs. That said, I do not hate the decision from Gruden, but it does deserve a little bit of scrutiny, given how poorly the defense had been playing during the game.