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Tuesday Take—The Drive

Sep 30, 2008, 12:35 PM EDT

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Make no mistake about it, the Washington Redskins’ 26-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys was no fluke.

The better team won.

Not the better collection of talent. Jerry Jones has pieced together an excellent mosaic of individual talent. They are big and fast on defense, quick and sharp on offense.

The Redskins aren’t as impressive under the stop watch or doing the bench press. They sent three players to the Pro Bowl, 10 fewer than did Dallas, and one of them was their long snapper.

But in the fourth quarter of a six-point game, the Redskins got it done and the Cowboys didn’t. The Skins came together as a team while Dallas was focused on one tile in its mosaic.

Dallas took possession with 10:48 after the Redskins had taken that six-point lead. Washington had turned Chris Horton’s interception of Tony Romo into a field goal. Romo, of course, is one of the NFL’s glamour boys while Horton is a rookie seventh-round pick. But the rook jumped the route and picked off the Pro Bowler.

So the Redskins go back on defense with some of their backs sidelined with cramps and other muscle ailments. The Cowboys go three and out with all three plays being passes going to a tightly covered individual, one Terrell Owens.

Were the three attempts to TO an response to “give me the ball” complaints on the sideline, an effort to prevent a blowup by #81?

As far as I know, nobody asked those questions.

In any case, the Redskins took over at their own 34 after a punt. What followed hasn’t been talked about much, but if this turns out to be a special season for the Washington Redskins the 12-play, 6:54 drive that followed will be one of those moments to remember.

Back in the prime of The Hogs, game-clinching drives like this one were accomplished primarily through brute strength with the offensive line blasting back a tired defensive front and a big back slamming in behind them.

This drive was achieved by using a combination of brains and brawn.

Watching it again and breaking it down, I noted that on a few occasions Dallas was in a pass-defense alignment, with only five in the box, when it seemed apparent that the Redskins were in a running frame of mind. This was a result of Jim Zorn’s play calling in late-game situations over the last two weeks when he has shown a willingness to pass in run-out-the-clock scenarios.

1-10-WAS 34 (10:16) 26-C.Portis left guard to WAS 37 for 3 yards (94-D.Ware).

Dallas has the two outside linebacker crowding the line with an inside linebacker five yards off the line.

2-7-WAS 37 (9:38) 26-C.Portis up the middle to WAS 48 for 11 yards (25-P.Watkins).

The two outside backers are again at the line with the two inside LB’s within five yards. The safeties both are fairly shallow, about 11 yards downfield. The offensive line gets about three yards of push and Sellers clears the way for Portis to break for the last five yards.

1-10-WAS 48 (8:58) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 39 for 13 yards (55-Z.Thomas).

Every Dallas defender except one safety is within five yards of the line. There isn’t as much surge by the line this time but a large hole opens between Jansen and Thomas. Portis shakes off an attempted tackle by Bradie James (who was expending an awful lot of energy preening and celebrating earlier in the game) and breaks loose for five more.

1-10-DAL 39 (8:18) 17-J.Campbell pass short right to 47-C.Cooley pushed ob at DAL 33 for 6 yards (98-G.Ellis). Pass complete off play-action and roll right.

Only six in the box this time, a pass defense alignment. Cooley sets up as if to block for a moment and Greg Ellis and a safety are fooled. Cooley slides into the flat and catches Campbell’s throw off of the bootleg.

2-4-DAL 33 (7:43) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 31 for 2 yards (94-D.Ware; 55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #1 by WAS at 06:58.

Three linebackers crowd the line and the line gets no push.

3-2-DAL 31 (6:58) (Shotgun) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 31 for no gain (94-D.Ware). PENALTY on DAL, Defensive 12 On-field, 5 yards, enforced at DAL 31 – No Play.

All 12 defenders are within five yards of the line with nine of them on the line. I’m not sure how Wade Phillips could be paying attention and not see the mistake. As you know, it wasn’t one of these situations where a player is caught running off the field at the snap. They were all right there, seven crowding the middle, two corners in press coverage and a linebacker and a safety—apparently the extra defender—five yards back.

1-10-DAL 26 (6:32) 26-C.Portis right end to DAL 25 for 1 yard (96-M.Spears).

Dallas has six in the box. The Redskins get no push and Marcus Spears gets penetration and trips up Portis before he got going.

2-9-DAL 25 (5:52) 46-L.Betts left tackle to DAL 18 for 7 yards (72-S.Bowen).

This is where it looks like the fact that Zorn has shown that he’s willing to call a pass in what normally would be a running situation pays off. The safeties are 10 yards downfield, the corners are playing seven yards back from Moss and Randle El, and Zack Thomas is six yards downfield. So in a situation where the other team is pounding the ball down your throat and is in an I formation with a tight end, the Dallas D is lined up just like it would be in the second quarter of a 7-7 game. The offensive line gets a nice surge and Betts follows the pile for seven yards.

3-2-DAL 18 (5:07) 46-L.Betts right guard to DAL 16 for 2 yards (99-C.Canty; 96-M.Spears).

The entire Dallas defense is within eight yards of the line this time. Betts disappears into the pile at the line of scrimmage and finds enough daylight in between three Dallas defenders to get just enough for the first down.

1-10-DAL 16 (4:22) 46-L.Betts left guard to DAL 16 for no gain (96-M.Spears).

The defense is bunched at the line, Betts has no chance.

2-10-DAL 16 (3:37) 26-C.Portis right guard to DAL 12 for 4 yards (55-Z.Thomas). Timeout #2 by DAL at 03:30.

Again, the Cowboys are playing loose. Only six defenders are within five yards of the line.

3-6-DAL 12 (3:30) 26-C.Portis up the middle to DAL 11 for 1 yard (97-J.Hatcher). Timeout #3 by DAL at 03:26.

Zorn got the defense spread out by lining up with four wide receivers, but the line couldn’t get any push despite a 5-4 man advantage. The run up the middle kept the ball in the center of the field for Suisham’s clincher.

4-5-DAL 11 (3:26) (Field Goal formation) 6-S.Suisham 29 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-67-E.Albright, Holder-14-D.Brooks.

WAS 26    DAL 17    Plays: 12    Possession: 6:54

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