Grading the Redskins: Takeaways prove key

Grading the Redskins: Takeaways prove key
January 1, 2013, 12:15 pm
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New season starts Sunday for the Redskins


Grade vs. Cowboys: A

Comment: During the Redskins' seven-game winning streak, the defense has yielded an average of 20 points per game. Over the course of an entire season, that would be tied for eighth best in the NFL. 

On Sunday, Jim Haslett’s unit limited the Cowboys to only 18 points by doing what they’ve done best in recent games: pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers.

Tony Romo rarely looked settled in the pocket Sunday and it was reflected in his stat line. Although he tossed two touchdowns, he was picked off three times, sacked twice (London Fletcher) and hit five times. In all, Romo racked up only 218 yards in the air – his second lowest total of the season.

“He was uncomfortable the whole night, always had pressure in his face, [he] wasn’t quite sure where the blitz was coming from and where the coverage was rolling to,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “Mission accomplished, and we won the game because of it.”

Takeaways also proved to be crucial again for Washington, which has forced an eye-popping 15 turnovers since the bye week.

“Turnovers are key,” said Wilson, who had one of the unit's two picks in the first quarter. “When you make that a major focal point of your defense – and were able to do that – yards go out the window. If you drive 99 yards and turn the ball over on the one-yard line, who cares about those other 99?”

Wilson also praised the job fellow cornerback DeAngelo Hall did on wide receiver Dez Bryant, Dallas’ top offensive threat. Bryant had 10 touchdowns and 808 yards receiving in his previous seven games, but he was limited to four catches and 71 yards before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with a back injury.

For comparison’s sake, consider this: in the teams’ previous meeting on Thanksgiving, Romo and Bryant carved up the Redskins' secondary to the tune of 441 yards passing and 145 yards receiving, respectively. On Sunday, the Cowboys’ offense produced a combined 296 yards on the ground and in the air, a total that ranks as the third fewest the Redskins have permitted in 2012.

Overall, Haslett drew up another solid game plan and his players did another impressive job of executing it.