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How It Should Be Remembered: The Redskins’ Win At Dallas In Week 8

The Redskins improved to 3-5 with a 20-17 overtime win at Dallas on Monday Night Football (Oct. 27, 2014).  Here were the 10 most important items from the game:

1. One of the most improbable Redskins victories in the history of the rivalry

This was not on the level of the 1972 NFC Championship Game, the 1982 NFC Championship Game, the 1983 Week 15 Army Fatigue Game or the 2012 Week 17 win to clinch the NFC East.  But I would put this victory on the second-tier of Redskins wins over the Cowboys, along with games like the 2005 Midnight Miracle and the 2006 Sean Taylor-Troy Vincent game.

The Redskins won this game…

•    …with Colt McCoy, who entered the season as a third-stringer, as their starting quarterback

     •    …despite entering it just 2-5 and without an NFC East win since Week 17 in 2012

     •    …despite the Cowboys having won six straight and being a 10-point favorite

     •    …despite the Cowboys entering the game first in the NFL in rushing yards per game and first in the NFL in third-down efficiency (57.4 percent)

2. A rare win under the lights

The Redskins snapped their seven-game losing streak in primetime games and improved to 4-17 in primetime games since the start of the 2008 season.  The Redskins are 3-12 at FedEx Field and 1-5 on the road during that stretch.

3. This was perhaps the high point for Jim Haslett over his four and-a-half seasons as the Redskins’ defensive coordinator

Haslett has taken a lot of criticism since he came to the Redskins in Jan. 2010, but his game-planning against a big-boy offense like that of the Cowboys was masterful.  The Redskins tied a season high by sending five or more pass rushers on 60 percent of dropbacks in this game.  And it’s hard to argue with the results.

The Redskins totaled five sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, eight tackles for loss and six pass defenses.  The Redskins sent at least one defensive back on the pass rush for each of their five sacks.

The Redskins held the Cowboys to just 17 points and 5-for-12 on third downs.  The Cowboys entered the game first in the NFL in third-down efficiency (57.4 percent).

Safety Brandon Meriweather has not had a good season, but he was terrific in this game.  Meriweather had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

     •    Meriweather had a third-and-five sack for a 12-yard loss on the game’s opening drive (which resulted in a punt) and a late-fourth-quarter second-and-one sack-strip on a drive that resulted in a punt.

     •    Meriweather’s first forced fumble came on a late-first-quarter second-and-20 12-yard run by running back Joseph Randle.

     •    Meriweather’s fumble recovery came off an early-second-quarter forced fumble by rookie corner Bashaud Breeland on running back DeMarco Murray on a first-and-10 36-yard reception.

Breeland had easily the best game of his young career, performing well despite repeatedly being tested.  He totaled four pass defenses and the forced fumble, helping to hold receiver Dez Bryant to just three receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown on seven targets.

     •    Breeland knocked the ball away on the Cowboys’ final play of the game, a fourth-and-three incompletion intended for Bryant.

     •    Breeland provided terrific coverage on Bryant on second-and-three and third-and-three incompletions on a third-quarter drive that began with a 51-yard run by Murray but resulted in a Dan Bailey third-quarter 21-yard field goal as opposed to a touchdown.  Head coach Jay Gruden on Tuesday (Oct. 28) credited Breeland for hustling to tackle Murray on the 51-yard run and prevent the touchdown.

Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had three tackles for loss, including a third-and-three sack for a 12-yard loss on the final play of the first half.  He did fail to recover a fumble by quarterback Tony Romo on the late-fourth-quarter second-and-one sack-strip by Merriweather, though one of Kerrigan’s arms was tied up with a Cowboy.  The drive resulted in a punt.

Linebacker Keenan Robinson led the Redskins with 10 tackles, including a third-quarter third-and-11 sack that gave Romo a back contusion on a drive that resulted in a punt.  Romo was out of the game until late in the fourth quarter.

Linebacker Perry Riley Jr. started off missing two straight games due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the Week 5 loss to Seattle on Monday Night Football and despite linebacker Will Compton impressing during Riley’s absence (Compton, interestingly, played on just four defensive snaps in this game).  Riley had a first-quarter third-and-eight sack for an 11-yard loss on a drive that resulted in a punt and came up big on the Cowboys’ lone drive in overtime, tackling Murray for a one-yard loss on a second-and-two reception and then providing quality coverage on tight end Jason Witten on a third-and-three incompletion.

Rookie linebacker Trent Murphy had the fumble recovery off Meriweather’s late-first-quarter forced fumble on Randle and had a third-quarter second-and-11 near-pick on a drive that resulted in a punt, batting the ball in the air but dropping the potential interception.

All of that said, the Redskins’ defense did have some rough moments.

     •    Murray had 19 carries for 141 yards (7.4 yards per carry) and four receptions for 80 yards on four targets.

     •    Witten had five receptions for 70 yards on eight targets, including a fourth-quarter second-and-two 25-yard touchdown reception that capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive.

     •    Bryant had a second-quarter first-and-goal five-yard touchdown reception, capping an eight-play, 80-yard drive.  The play saw corner David Amerson with a missed tackle and safety Ryan Clark wrap-up Bryant, but he literally dragged Clark and got into the end zone.  Clark also was very tentative in trying to tackle Murray on his third-quarter first-and-10 51-yard run on the drive that resulted in Bailey’s third-quarter 21-yard field goal.  But Clark did provide pressure on Romo on his late-fourth-quarter third-and-one intentional-grounding penalty on a drive that resulted in a punt.

4. McCoy was terrific

McCoy went 25-of-30 for 299 yards, no touchdowns and a pick in his first regular-season start since Dec. 2011.  His 83.3 completion percentage set a single-game record for a Redskins quarterback with at least 30 pass attempts.

McCoy went 20-for-21 on pass attempts that traveled fewer than 15 yards in the air.

McCoy went 17-for-19 for 187 yards after halftime.  The Redskins went 0-for-4 on third downs in the first half but 6-for-10 on third downs after halftime.

McCoy went 5-for-5 for 49 yards on the Redskins’ lone overtime drive, which resulted in Forbath’s 40-yard field goal.  The highlight of the drive was a first-and-10 16-yard under-center play-action completion on which McCoy ran to his left, put beautiful touch on the pass and tight end Jordan Reed did an excellent job of making the catch and staying in-bounds.

McCoy also displayed nice touch on his fourth-quarter fourth-and-one 12-yard I-formation play-action completion to fullback Darrel Young.  The drive, though, resulted in a punt.

McCoy, unlike quarterback Kirk Cousins, wasn’t afraid to use his legs, totaling seven carries for 16 yards and a touchdown.  Among the highlights:

     •    an early-fourth-quarter third-and-goal seven-yard quarterback-draw touchdown run out of the shotgun.  McCoy dove head-first into the end zone for the score.

     •    the first offensive play of the second half, which was a a first-and-10 seven-yard scramble on which defensive end Tyrone Crawford and linebacker Rolando McClain were guilty of missed tackles.  The scramble came off McCoy stumbling on I-formation play-action.  The drive resulted in running back Alfred Morris’ second-quarter first-and-goal five-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun.

     •    a fourth-quarter third-and-two three-yard run on a naked boot out of the pistol on a drive that resulted in a punt.

The negatives for McCoy included:

     •    a first-quarter second-and-12 pick to safety J.J. Wilcox in the end zone.  McCoy, working out of the shotgun, took an unnecessary risk in trying to force the ball to receiver Andre Roberts, as receiver DeSean Jackson was open on the checkdown.

     •    taking three sacks, including one by defensive end Jeremy Mincey on a late-fourth-quarter third-and-10 for a four-yard loss.

     •    being called for two five-yard delay-of-game penalties in the second half.  Gruden on Tuesday (Oct. 28) put the blame for those on McCoy.

     •    making a risky throw to Jackson as opposed to Reed, who was open, on a late-second-quarter third-and-five shotgun incompletion.  The drive resulted in a punt.

     •    underthrowing Jackson on an early-third-quarter second-and-seven 49-yard under-center play-action completion.  The drive resulted in a punt.

5. The Redskins’ running game, off being underwhelming over four and-a-half games, finally got going after halftime

The Redskins had just 10 carries for 23 yards in the first half but then had 21 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns after halftime.

Morris had five carries for 11 yards in the first half, during which he appeared tentative and was cutting late.  Rookie Silas Redd actually came into the game for Morris in the second quarter but had a near-fumble after a first-and-10 five-yard under-center-toss run.  Morris, perhaps jolted by Redd’s brief action, then had 13 carries for 62 yards and a touchdown after halftime.

Morris had three carries for 39 yards and a touchdown on the opening drive of the second half.

     •    second-and-three 29-yard I-formation-handoff run

     •    first-and-10 five-yard I-formation-handoff run

     •    first-and-goal five-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun

Running back Roy Helu Jr. had a first-and-25 18-yard run on a draw play out of the shotgun on that drive and a second-quarter first-and-10 10-yard read-option run out of the shotgun on a drive that resulted in a punt.

Redskins running backs, though, had two more near-fumbles in this game.

     •    Morris lost the ball after a third-quarter first-and-10 I-formation-handoff run for minus-six yards but was ruled down before the ball came out.  The drive resulted in a three-and-out.  Morris has two official fumbles over eight games this season but also had two near-fumbles in the Week 1 loss at Houston and another near-fumble in the Week 7 win over Tennessee.

     •    Redd came into the game for Morris in the second quarter but lost the ball after a first-and-10 five-yard under-center-toss run.  The Cowboys challenged that Redd was down before the ball came out, but the ruling was upheld.  The drive resulted in a punt.  Redd totaled just one carry for the game.

Morris also provided a late-third-quarter second-and-six 12-yard reception on the drive that resulted in McCoy’s early-fourth-quarter third-and-goal seven-yard quarterback-draw touchdown run out of the shotgun.

6. We saw more read-option from the Redskins than in any other game so far this season

McCoy had a second-and-11 read-option run for no gain out of the shotgun on the Redskins’ first drive, which resulted in a punt.  It appeared as if McCoy should handed the ball off on this play.

Helu had a second-quarter first-and-10 10-yard read-option run out of the shotgun on a drive that resulted in a punt.

The opening drive of the second half, an eight-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in Morris’ second-quarter first-and-goal five-yard read-option touchdown run out of the shotgun, included two other read-option plays:

     •    second-and-five three-year read-option run by Helu out of the pistol.  It appeared as if McCoy should have kept the ball on this play.

     •    second-and-seven 18-yard completion to Garcon off read-option play-action out of the pistol.  The next play was Morris’ touchdown run.

7. Redskins special teams were a net-positive for a second straight game

Kai Forbath went 2-for-2 on field goals, connecting on a first-quarter 44-yarder and a 40-yarder in overtime and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday (Oct. 29).  He now is 13-for-14 on field goals this season and 48-for-54 on field goals over his three seasons with the Redskins.

Roberts had a first-quarter 37-yard punt return on which he did get tackled by punter Chris Jones.  The ensuing drive resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 44-yard field goal.  Roberts did have a mere two-yard punt return late in the fourth quarter.

Tress Way had a first-quarter 53-yard punt on which safety Akeem Davis blasted receiver Dwayne Harris on a return for no gain.  Way also had a third-quarter 54-yard punt, though that resulted in an 18-yard return by Harris.  And Way had a late-fourth-quarter 38-yard punt that was downed at the Cowboys’ 3-yard line by safety Trenton Robinson.

The negatives for Way were two second-quarter punts: a 49-yarder that resulted in a touchback and a 37-yarder that was fair-caught by Harris at the Cowboys’ 12-yard line.

8. Redskins pass catchers delivered

Jackson had six receptions for 136 yards on seven targets.  He had an early-second-quarter second-and-seven 49-yard reception on a drive that resulted in a punt and a first-and-10 45-yard reception on the final play of the third quarter on the drive that resulted in McCoy’s early-fourth-quarter third-and-goal seven-yard quarterback-draw touchdown run out of the shotgun.  Jackson now has seven receptions of 40 yards or more this season, most of the NFL.  He also now has 42 career receptions of 40 yards or more, most in the NFL since he entered the league in 2008.

Reed had seven receptions for 40 yards on seven targets.  He had three receptions for 21 yards on the Redskins’ lone overtime drive, which resulted in Forbath’s 40-yard field goal.  Among Reed’s catches on that drive was a first-and-10 16-yard reception on which he did an excellent job of making the catch and staying in-bounds.

Receiver Pierre Garcon had four receptions for 47 yards on four targets.  He had a first-and-10 23-yard reception on the Redskins’ lone overtime drive, which resulted in Forbath’s 40-yard field goal.

Tight end Niles Paul had three receptions for 27 yards on three targets.  He had a second-and-seven 20-yard reception on which he broke through an attempted tackle by safety Barry Church on the Redskins’ first drive, which resulted in Forbath’s first-quarter 44-yard field goal.

9. The Redskins continued to have game-management and/or administrative issues

McCoy committed two five-yard delay-of-game penalties in the second half.

The Redskins burned their first second-half timeout during the opening drive of the third quarter while on offense and then burned their second second-half timeout while on offense with 3:46 left in the fourth quarter.  The Redskins never spent their third second-half timeout, ultimately having McCoy take a knee to send the game into overtime.

Tight end Logan Paulsen received a second-quarter second-and-five 15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty for coming into the huddle as a sub and then leaving the huddle.  The drive resulted in a punt.

A late-third-quarter third-and-six seven-yard McCoy shotgun completion to Helu came despite major pre-snap confusion regarding what personnel should be on the field.  The drive did result in McCoy’s early-fourth-quarter third-and-goal seven-yard quarterback-draw touchdown run out of the shotgun.

10. Miscellaneous Notes:

Roberts had what could be considered yet another drop, failing to catch a fourth-quarter second-and-eight shotgun pass by McCoy on a drive that resulted in a punt.

Corner Tracy Porter was active but did not play.  He re-injured his hamstring in the Week 4 blowout loss to the Giants off missing the first three games of the season.

The game averaged a season-high 11.4 household U.S. rating; 13,313,000 households; and 18,809,000 viewers (P2+), according to Nielsen.  It was the highest-rated MNF game since the New Orleans Saints-New England Patriots telecast on Nov. 30, 2009 (12.9 household rating) and the most-viewed game since the New Orleans-Atlanta Falcons game on Dec. 27, 2010 (19,137,000 viewers).

Inactives for the Redskins were:

     •    Griffin for a sixth straight game due to the dislocated left ankle he suffered in the Week 2 blowout of Jacksonville

     •    right tackle Tyler Polumbus

     •    receiver Aldrick Robinson for a third straight game

     •    rookie guard Spencer Long

     •    defensive end Clifton Geathers

     •    linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat, who was signed off the practice squad on Oct. 8

     •    corner Greg Ducre, who was signed off San Diego’s practice squad on Oct. 8

The Redskins also played this game without:

     •    linebacker Brian Orakpo, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 21 due to a torn right pectoral muscle suffered in the Week 7 win over Tennessee

     •    corner DeAngelo Hall, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a torn left Achilles injury suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    nose tackle Barry Cofield, who was placed on the reserve/injured list (designated to return) on Sept. 9 due to a high-ankle sprain suffered in the Week 1 loss at Houston

     •    safety Duke Ihenacho, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Sept. 22 due to a fractured heal bone suffered in the Week 3 loss at Philadelphia

     •    receiver Leonard Hankerson, who was placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list on Aug. 30 due to season-ending surgery to repair ACL and LCL tears in his left knee last Nov. 21

     •    linebacker Akeem Jordan, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Oct. 18 due to a sprained left MCL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28 and then re-aggravated in the Week 6 loss at Arizona

     •    nose tackle Chris Neild, who was placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 30 due to a torn right ACL suffered in the preseason-ending win at Tampa Bay on Aug. 28

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