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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 09/27/2011

Cowboys-Redskins: Five observations from Washington’s 18-16 loss

The Washington Redskins should have a 3-0 record right now, but rather than put the Cowboys away when they had multiple chances, they ended up fumbling away the game for their first loss of the season.

The loss obviously is a source of frustration, but given that the Redskins were facing a supposed playoff-caliber team on the road, and had a chance to win, Washington fans can draw some encouragement from the outing as well. True, Dallas is banged up, but perhaps Washington isn’t as far off as was first believed.

But in reality, the Redskins did more to hurt themselves than did the Cowboys. As Rex Grossman said, “I don’t think it is one main thing. Collectively, it’s not letting one play stall your drive.”

The Redskins have to find a way to eliminate the self-inflicted wounds.

Here are five observations from Washington’s 18-16 loss to Dallas.

1. Red zone still an issue – The Redskins won’t be a good team until they can correct this area. True, they could’ve beaten the Cowboys despite another poor showing in the red zone, but those situations are pretty rare. Washington moved the ball inside Dallas’ 20-yard line three times and ended up coming away with 10 points rather than as many as 21. No team is perfect every time out. But even one more touchdown could’ve made the difference.

2. More field goal struggles – In three straight games now the Redskins have failed on at least one field goal. For a second straight week, a makeable field goal was blocked. This time it was a 36-yarder that could’ve made the difference in a two-point loss. The Redskins have to do better than 3-for-12 on third down so it doesn’t come down to kicking field goals, but even so, they have to sure up things in that department. A bad exchange from Nick Sundberg to Sav Rocca hurt, and even if Rocca had gotten the ball down right away, I’m not so sure that ball still would’ve had a chance the way Gerald Sensabaugh managed to get through the line.

3. Aggressive call proves costly – Even with the poor red zone play and missed field goal, the Redskins had a chance to win the game thanks largely to a defensive effort that had given the Cowboys fits on third down all night. But with his team nursing a one-point lead and Dallas facing third-and-21 from its own 30, Jim Haslett elected to bring an all-out blitz rather than a more conservative approach that would’ve guarded against giving up the long ball. That eight-man blitz had been used off and on throughout the game, and while it didn’t result in a lot of sacks, it forced Tony Romo to get the ball out of his hands quickly. But after seeing that front multiple times, Romo knew how to exploit it late in the game by scrambling out of the pocket to give Bryant time to get open for the big gain.

4. Ground game struggled – A week after rushing for 172 yards, the Redskins managed just 65 yards on the ground as Tim Hightower and Roy Helu found yards hard to come by against Dallas’ defensive front. Hightower had 41 yards on 14 carries and Helu added 15 yards on five carries. (Grossman added six yards and Cooley added three.) The opportunities were there for Hightower and Helu to do more, however. Both backs appeared to have trouble with their footing at times and at times slipped while trying to make cutbacks. Other times, they appeared to overrun their running lanes.

5. Missed tackles hurt – The Redskins often gave some great effort as they beat their blocks and flew into the backfield, but several times, guys like Ryan Kerrigan and Adam Carriker were guilty of overpursuit. Other times, Redskins defensive players had some trouble wrapping up. Rather than make a stop for little to no gain, the Redskins would blow tackles and allow Cowboys players to pick up yards. Most examples of this came in the second half, when Dallas recorded 256 yards of offense and succeeded on three of seven third down conversions.

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 09/27/2011

 
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