After a crushing loss to Denver in which their offense played spectacularly, the Dallas Cowboys must regroup as they prepare to face division rival Washington tonight. The Redskins beat Dallas twice last season and could win three straight games against the Cowboys first time since the late-1980s. Washington, at 1-3, hasn’t looked nearly as formidable as it did in 2012 after it beat out the Cowboys for the NFC East title. But a bye week before this game could help the Redskins and their quarterback Robert Griffin III as he continues to recover from reconstructive knee surgery. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
Three of the Cowboys’ five games have been decided by a total of nine points. Yet Dallas has run the ball only 33.9 percent of the time. Dallas has repeatedly shown it isn’t willing to make a strong commitment to its ground game. Last Sunday, the Cowboys had only 14 rush attempts and tailback DeMarco Murray has been a non-factor since he gained 175 yards against St. Louis last month. This would be the week to run the ball, however. Washington is allowing 142.3 rushing yards per game – the second-highest average in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
Regardless of how Tony Romo’s performance ended Sunday, he showed he can be one of the best passers in the league with a 506-yard, five-touchdown effort. Dallas’ air attack looked explosive in the 51-48 loss to Denver as Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Jason Witten each posted impressive stat lines. Romo and Co. should do well again this week against Washington’s defense, which is allowing an average of 298.3 passing yards per game. Only four teams are conceding more.
When the Redskins run
What happened to Washington’s running game? That’s a question being asked inside the Beltway. The Redskins’ rushing offense, which led the league in 2012, is ranked 17th. The limitations of Robert Griffin III after knee surgery and early deficits have conspired to weaken one of the Redskins’ strengths. A bye week may have given Washington a chance to sort things out against a Cowboys defense that yielded 200 yards to running back Alfred Morris in a December loss last year.
When the Redskins pass
Robert Griffin III remains the centerpiece of Washington’s offense. But the quarterback is much more likely to attack defenses through the air than on the ground. The Redskins are averaging 284.8 passing yards per game, the eighth-highest average in the NFL, despite having only one receiver – Pierre Garcon — among the top 50 in catches. The Cowboys, who allowed at least 400 passing yards in three games this season, will be tested again.
Kai Forbath has experienced more disappointment than excitement since he burst on the scene in 2012 and led the NFL in field goal percentage. Because of a groin injury, Forbath hasn’t played since the opener, when he missed a 40-yard attempt. He expects to be back on the field Sunday. He will be matched up against his old teammate, Dan Bailey, who has made 9 of 11 field goal tries this season.
The two losses to the Redskins the Cowboys suffered were arguably the most gut-wrenching defeats Dallas endured last season. Rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris tore up the Cowboys’ defense, prompting Dallas to make changes in the off-season to stop them. But until they prove they can, Griffin, Morris and the Redskins will have the mental edge in this age-old rivalry.
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When: Sunday, October 13th, 2013 at 7:30 (Dallas time)
Where: AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX
Watch on TV: Local NBC affiliate | DirecTV
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