Snaps- Greg Manusky utilized 19 of his 24 defenders throughout the Redskins’ 68 defensive snaps against the Cowboys.
The 5 who did not play were either inactive (Montae Nicholson) or worked exclusively on special teams (Josh Harvey-Clemmons, Chris Carter, Joshua Holsey and Fabian Moreau).
Yards- The defense only allowed 275 yards of offense, their third best showing in terms of yards allowed all season; but the team’s 4 giveaways and the punt return touchdown allowed by the coverage unit helped the Cowboys to rack up nearly 40 points on the night.
Points- Dallas scored 38 points, to be exact. That is tied (Week 10 vs. Vikings) for the most points allowed by the Redskins’ defense this season. It was also the first time the Cowboys’ scored 10 or more points in their last four contests.
The Skins have now given up 33 or more points in five of their last seven games. The team was allowing 22.6 PPG in Weeks 1-6 (19th in the NFL), but this number has ballooned by a touchdown to 28.7 PPG since (29th).
Quarterback Pressure- The Redskins only sacked Dak Prescott once and only hit him on three other dropbacks. That is pretty disappointing considering Prescott held the ball for an average of about 3 seconds before he threw it.
The Skins are definitely in the midst of a sack slump. They only averaged 1.8 sacks per game in November, after getting sacks at a 2.85 per game clip prior.
Turnovers- This was Washington’s second game without a takeaway in 2017 (Kansas City) and the 16th time the team has failed to force a turnover in the Jay Gruden era. The Redskins’ record in those games is 3-13.
Three-and-Out- The defense opened the game with four straight three-and-outs against the Cowboys’ offense. The last time a Redskins’ defense did this was in Week 2 of 2014 against the Jaguars. Washington won that game by 31 points (41-10), but lost Thursday night by a margin of 24 (38-14).
Third Down- The Dallas’ offense moved the chains on 7 of their 14 third-down plays (50%). It was just the second time in the last six weeks a Washington opponent has converted on more than 36% of their plays on the money down (Week 10 vs. Minnesota).
The Redskins are 0-5 when they allow a third-down success rate of 50% or better this season.
Red Zone- The Cowboys scored touchdowns on four of their five trips inside of Washington’s 20-yard line. They have allowed their opponents to score TDs on 11 of their last 15 red-zone stands (73%) and at a 60% rate on the year.
The team ranks 28th in the league in defensive red-zone success rate, after finishing last season with a 26th place ranking in this statistic.
Tight End Defense- Cowboys’ tight ends only caught 1 of 5 targets for 8 yards and a first down against the Redskins on Thursday night, which makes this easily the Skins’ best performance against the position all year.
The only problem was that one reception went for a touchdown. The defense has allowed a tight end to score in seven of the team’s last nine games.
Rushing Defense- This was likely the worst game of the year for the Washington rushing defense. They allowed two scores on the ground for the third time and allowed season highs in rushing attempts (42), rushing yards (182) and rushing first downs (13).
The Cowboys 4.3 yards per carry average was the third highest mark allowed by the Skins’ defense in 2017. Dallas runners gained 10 or more yards on as many plays that they failed to rush for positive yardage on, and they took a whopping 15 runs for gains of 5 or more yards.
Sweet Revenge- To make things all the more embarrassing, former beloved Redskins running back Alfred Morris gashed the Burgundy and Gold defense for 127 yards, 8 first downs, 6 missed tackles and a touchdown. Of his 127 yards, 89 of them came in the second half.
This was Morris first 100-yard rushing day since he put up exactly 100 yards in his final game with the Redskins. The opponent in that game, you guessed it, the Dallas Cowboys. It was also AlMo’s first contest with over 125 rushing yards since Week 10 of the 2013 season.
Morris became the first player in NFL history to rush for 100 yards on both sides of the bitter rivalry. He is the only the second player to have ever rushed for 100 or more yards in a game as both a Redskin and a Cowboy, regardless of opponent (Duane Thomas).
Matt Ioannidis- Matty I led all Skins’ defensive linemen in snaps for the third consecutive week. He made two tackles, one of which he teamed with Kendall Fuller to stop Dez Bryant short of the line to gain.
Ioannidis also hit Dak Prescott on a third-down incompletion. He has recorded at least 1 hit in every game since returning from injury.
Ziggy Hood- Hood did what he does every week: play on the second most defensive linemen snaps on the team, make a couple of meaningless tackles (1 solo and 1 assist) and fail to generate literally any pressure as a pass rusher. Expect a nearly identical line or worse next week. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Anthony Lanier- Lanier was your week 13 stat-sheet ghost. He played 29 snaps but did not record any traditional statistics and only got 1 pressure on Prescott.
Stacy McGee- There is an argument to be made that McGee has been the team’s best defensive lineman since Jonathan Allen and Ioannidis suffered their injuries.
He played 29 snaps against the Cowboys and led the DL corps in tackles for third time in the last four weeks (2 solo, 3 assists and 5 total).
McGee also finally did something as a pass rusher. He scored a hit on the opposing quarterback for the first time since Week 1 and hurried Prescott on another dropback. He had only recorded 5 pressures prior to Thursday night’s game.
McGee’s 79.4 PFF grade for the game ranked 2nd on the Redskins’ defense.
A.J. Francis- Francis basically set new career highs across the board in this game. I’ll just list them out instead of wasting space explaining them all in narrative form: snaps (26), snap rate (38%), assisted tackles (3), total tackles (4) and QB hits (1).
He led or tied for most assists and hits by a Washington DL in the game.
Perhaps, he’ll stick around for a while as a backup, but I wouldn’t count on the 27-year-old journeymen having many other performances like this one.
Terrell McClain- McClain missed his second straight game with a foot injury. He did not record a single stat the last time he did suit up (Week 10 versus Minnesota).
Caraun Reid- One would expect the Redskins to part ways with Reid if and when McClain gets healthy. He is the team’s seventh D-lineman and he has yet to take a snap of any kind in a Burgundy and Gold uniform.
Ryan Kerrigan- Kerrigan tied season highs in snaps (57) and snap percentage (83.8%) in Thursday’s game.
The extra PT didn’t help him much in the pass rushing department. There were no HBK sighting this week, as Kerrigan failed to sack or hit the QB for the first time since Week 10. He did hurry Prescott on a couple of dropbacks, though.
He was better in the running game, where he notched 3 solo and 4 total tackles, including a TFL. The Cowboys gained 2 or fewer yards on all four of RyKer’s tackles.
Preston Smith- Preston Smith finally got off the sack schneid when he teamed with Josh-Harvey Clemmons on a third-down sack of Prescott at the Cowboys’ own 4-yard line. He also assisted on 3 other tackles and made a solo stop of his own.
The sack was Smith’s first since Week 6, and he had recorded at least one half sack in every game leading up to that point. Unfortunately, his only pressure of the night came about six minutes into the game.
He joined Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo as the only Redskins’ players to record 4.5 or more sacks in each of their first three seasons. Orakpo (25.5), Kerrigan (23), Charles Mann (22.5) and Dexter Manley (20) are the only Redskins who have recorded more sacks than Smith (17.5) has in their first 44 career games.
Junior Galette- Unfortunately, Junior Galette’s Week 12 success didn’t carry over into Thursday night’s game. A much better opposing O-line, negative game script and the Cowboy’s ground-and-pound attack basically took him out of the game.
Galette played on just 28% of the snaps, his lowest snap share since the last time the Redskins faced the Cowboys. He did not record a pressure for the first time since Week 6 and only made 1 tackle (an assist).
Ryan Anderson- Anderson failed to get a single pressure on the QB, again. He kept his 1-tackle streak alive, too. This makes five straight games with exactly 1 tackle for Anderson! Wooooo!
Chris Carter- Carter still doesn’t play on defense. He is slated to hit free agency in the offseason.
Zach Brown- Brown didn’t post double-digit tackle numbers for the third straight week, but he did lead the team in tackles for the 11th time this season.
His 7 total tackles (6 solo and 1 assisted) all came within 3 yards from the line of scrimmage. The Cowboys only gained 7 total yards on the plays Brown made a tackle on (1.0 yard per play), with three of his takedowns coming either at or behind the LOS (1 TFL).
He did not give up any receptions in coverage.
Brown has a 1-game leg up on most of the competition, but he still leads the NFL with 117 total tackles and is 17 tackles ahead of second-place Bobby Wagner.
According to Jason La Canfora, the Redskins are wisely working to extend Zach Brown’s contract. Signing Brown to a long-term deal should be the front office’s top priority right now.
Zach Vigil- Vigil got the start opposite of Zach Brown again, and for the second straight week he did not disappoint.
He played on 53 snaps, which nearly doubled his old career high, and made 4 solo and 6 total tackles, both of which were career bests. Vigil also recorded a TFL for only the second time as a pro. He did not allow the only target thrown his way to be completed.
His 80.1 PFF grade ranked 1st on the Redskins’ defense.
Josh Harvey-Clemons- Josh Harvey-Clemmons saw his snap count drop from 17 to 12, but he was able to make the biggest play of his young career with the limited PT he received in Dallas.
Harvey-Clemmons and Zach Brown blitzed on a first quarter third-down play, and JHC met Preston Smith at the quarterback for the first sack (0.5) of any kind in his pro career. That was only his third sack since high school (2 sacks at Louisville).
Martrell Spaight- He looks to still be recovering from his ankle injury, as the Redskins only used him as a backup to the Zachs (Brown and Vigil). Spaight played just 8 snaps in the game. He made his only tackle of the night on a Dak Prescott run which gained a yard.
Pete Robertson- Spaight was healthy enough to play in a backup role, so Robertson’s services were not needed and he was listed with the inactives.
The Redskins just incorrectly wished their linebacker a happy birthday ten days early. Unless his DOB is wrong on just about every site, then you can count this as another savvy move by the team’s PR department (sarcasm font).
Josh Norman- Everybody wants to talk about Josh Norman vs. Dez Bryant. Well, I’ve got news for you: 1) Bryant plays primarily on Breeland’s side of the field, 2)The Redskins do not use Josh Norman to shadow top opposing receivers and 3) Norman has dominated Dez when they have faced off against each other.
I’m sorry, but that’s it. The occasional trash talk and the commercials are cute and all, but this whole rivalry is totally overblown.
The only reception the Cowboys’ star wideout caught on Norman was a 6-yard screen pass. That was Bryant’s 15th career target and 5th career reception against Josh Norman. He has only gained 44 yards versus Norman and has failed to score a single touchdown on him throughout all of their matchups.
Norman didn’t have any trouble with Bryant, who he didn’t even line up opposite of for the majority of the night. He did, however, have a few issues covering Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. The duo combined to catch 3 passes for 27 yards and 2 first downs on the Redskins’ top corner.
Norman made solo tackles on both of Williams’ catches against him and on two other plays (4 solo tackles).
Bashaud Breeland- Bashaud Breeland started out very strong, but struggled mightily down the stretch.
Breeland recorded both of his tackles and his pass defense in the first half. He also only allowed 1 of the 3 throws in his coverage to be completed for a gain of 8 yards.
Things took a turn for the worse in the second half, when Breeland gave up 2 receptions for 47 yards, 2 first downs and a touchdown to Dez Bryant, his first score since Week 7.
He was flagged for defensive pass interference on the TD and on another end-zone target to Bryant on the Cowboys’ subsequent drive; both plays came on third down.
Alfred Morris ran the ball in for the 1-yard touchdown right after the second DPI.
Kendall Fuller- The second-year corner allowed all 3 of the targets thrown in his coverage to be caught for 16 yards and a first down.
He gave up another chain mover when he got flagged for defensive pass interference on Cole Beasley (6 yards). That was the first DPI of his career and only the second penalty Fuller has ever committed in the NFL.
He chipped in with 3 solo and 4 total tackles, as well.
Quinton Dunbar- Dunbar only saw action with the defense on 3 snaps. He did not record a stat and was not targeted on those plays.
He started each game between Weeks 6 and 9, but has only played 9 defensive snaps since then.
Joshua Holsey- Holsey played for the eighth straight week. Unfortunately, for him it was the fifth straight week he’s only taken snaps with the special teams unit.
Fabian Moreau- Moreau didn’t play on defense for the sixth time in the last seven weeks. The Redskins need to throw the rookie out there and see what he’s got if they are even remotely considering letting Bashaud Breeland walk in free agency.
Moreau looks like he has all the right stuff on paper, but we just won’t know until we see him get some extended run with the defense. He’s only played 54 snaps for Greg Manusky all season.
D.J. Swearinger- The fiery safety played on every defensive snap for the ninth time this season. Swearinger now leads the team with 786 defensive snaps played.
He ranked second on the team, behind Zach Brown, in solo tackles (5) and total tackles (6). Now that he is playing in more of a free safety role again, less of his tackles are coming around the line of scrimmage. His closest takedown to the LOS was on a Dallas gain of 6 yards.
Swearinger didn’t give up a catch on either of the passes thrown in his coverage, both of which were targeting Jason Witten.
Deshazor Everett- Everett got his second straight start and played on all but 2 snaps.
His 6 total tackles (3 solo and 3 assisted) tied him with Swearinger and Vigil for second on the team in this department.
Everett was solid in coverage, with the exception of one play. He defended a pass thrown towards Dez Bryant on a third-down, but also gave up an 8-yard touchdown to Witten. I guess you can’t hate on him too much for giving up a score to the surefire Hall of Famer. That was the only catch Everett allowed on the 3 targets thrown in his direction.
DeAngelo Hall- D-Hall saw his total snap count rise from 0 in Week 12 to 1 on Thursday against the Cowboys.
I’ll start writing more about Hall if he ever gets significant playing time again. In my mind, he has already retired.
Montae Nicholson- Nicholson sat out with a concussion and missed his fourth game of the season. The NFL is definitely a grind, but this is a bit unexpected for a 21-year-old who only missed one contest in his three years at Michigan State (played in 38 of 39 games).
ALL DEFENSIVE PLAYERS
Snaps- Ben Kotwica used 34 of the team’s 46 active players over a span of 34 special teams snaps against the Cowboys. This unit was made up of 19 defenders, 12 offensive players and 3 specialists.
Chris Carter and Fabian Moreau led the team with 26 specials snaps each. Carter leads the entire NFL in special teams snaps going into Sunday’s games.
Nick Rose- Rose did not attempt a field goal for the first time in his NFL career. He did make both of his extra points and kicked the ball into the end zone for touchbacks on all three of his kickoffs.
Rose seemed to have a knack for kicking the ball inside the 5-yard line in order to tempt players to return his kickoffs. I wish the Redskins would ask him to do more of this, because teams are rarely able to return kicks past the 25-yard line with any kind of consistency.
Kick Coverage- The Cowboys did not return a kickoff and Ryan Switzer only took his first punt return for a gain of 5 yards. Ryan Anderson made the Redskins’ only special teams tackle of the game to stop that return at the Dallas’ 41-yard line.
Switzer and the Cowboys only had one other return in the game, but it was an absolute back-breaker for the Redskins.
Switzer fielded Tress Way’s next punt at the Dallas 17-yard line and forced missed tackles by Martrell Spaight, Chris Carter and Way en-route to an 83-yard return TD which put the Cowboys up by a score of 17-0.
This was the first touchdown of the rookie’s career and it marked the first time since Week 6 of last season that a team returned a punt or a kickoff against the Redskins (Philadelphia).
Tress Way- Way booted his 5 punts for 213 yards and a 42.6 yard average. A season-high 60% of his kicks pinned the Cowboys inside their-own 20-yard line (minimum 2 punts).
The problem was Ryan Switzer’s aforementioned return resulted in a 25-yard net average for Way, his lowest such average since 2015.
Switzer’s score represented the third one of Way’s 251-career punts which has been returned for a touchdown. The last time this happened on a Way punt was in Week 1 of the 2015 season (Jarvis Landry).
Punt Returns- Jamison Crowder only returned 1 of Chris Jones’ 5 punts, and the results were disastrous. Crowder gained 4 yards before fumbling the ball and turning it over to the Cowboys. That was Crowder’s league-worst sixth fumble of the year (among non-QBs), five of which have come on returns.
Jones’ next punt was downed at the Redskins’ 1-yard line. His other punts were fair caught or downed at the Washington 24 and 33 yard lines and at the Dallas 49.
Kickoff Returns- The Redskins struggled in this department, as well. The team returned 3 of Dan Bailey’s 7 kickoffs for 54 yards (18-yard average).
Maurice Harris missed a golden opportunity to set the offense up at the 40-yard line because he didn’t put his foot out of bounds when he fielded the ball. Instead, he returned the ball 13 yards to the Redskins’ 18-yard line.
Byron Marshall unwisely fielded the opening kickoff of the second half at the 1-yard line, but gained a career-best 29 yards on the return taken out to the 30. The return was tied for the team’s longest of year (Chris Thompson vs. Minnesota). This was the Redskins’ only good return of any kind in the game.
Kendall Fuller muffed the first return of his career and the team’s final kickoff return of the night at the 13-yard line and failed to gain any yardage on the play.
Bye, bye Ben- If there is one Redskins coach that will probably be shown the door this offseason it’s special teams czar Ben Kotwica.
Washington’s special teams currently rank 23rd or worst in the following categories: kickoff return yards (24th), kickoff return average (25th), punt return yards (30th), punt return average (31st), fumbles (t-31st), punting average (23rd), net punting average (31st), punt return yards allowed (25th), punt return average allowed (31st) and special teams DVOA (24th).
*All statistics are courtesy of Air Yards, CSN Mid Atlantic, ESPN, Football Perspective, NFL.com, NFL Gamebooks, Player Profiler, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Redskins.com, Sharp Football Stats, Team Rankings and The Washington Post*
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