DALLAS – The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys square off at 4:30 p.m. today with the Redskins looking to avenge an early-season four-point loss.
Dallas, meanwhile, hopes to extend its winning streak to 10 games and remain comfortably in the lead of the NFC East.
It’s the first Thanksgiving game between these teams since 2012, when Robert Griffin III threw four touchdowns to lead Washington to a 38-31 victory at AT&T Stadium.
Now, Kirk Cousins will attempt to lead his squad to another much-needed victory, which would improve their division record to 3-1 (7-3-1 overall), and drop the Cowboys to 2-2 in the NFC East (9-2 overall).
● Cousins has played his best ball of the season in the past three games. He has played with more aggression, he has made quicker decisions, and he has made some seemingly impossible throws. Unlike early in the season, where Cousins threw primarily to the open receiver rather than making some tough throws to get receivers open, he has been more of a playmaker as of late.
“It’s a trust that you develop with your receivers through practice, knowing the type of balls they’re able to make a play on or what balls they can’t make a play on,” Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon said this week. “And when you get to that factor with those guys, even when they might look like they’re covered, you throw them open because of their catch radius or leaping ability, or things that you worked on in practice. …
“That’s what I developed with Cris Carter when I went to Minnesota. After knowing skill sets, I knew what kind of balls I could throw him because no one could cover him on them. Like a corner route. I knew I could just throw it up there because he was going to make a play on the ball, even if a guy was on him. I could throw it high to the outside, and he could go up and make a play on it because he had the body positioning and was a great basketball player in high school.”
Moon said that from his observations, Cousins was playing safe during the opening stretch of the season, and he wondered if that was a result of the pressure of playing on the franchise player tag. But now, Moon sees great strides, and he said Cousins has “put the team on his back.”
The early season pressures, in a way, were probably good for Cousins to experience, and now he believes the quarterback now isn’t trying as hard to be perfect, and is just playing.
“I think you have to go through what he went through early and experience it, and then have a talk with yourself, or maybe someone close to him did, maybe it was his head coach,” Moon said. “I’m not sure. But it’s settling down and saying, ‘Look what you have to work with.’ Because he’s got a ton of weapons that can make plays for him. It’s just a matter of getting them the football. Whether it’s a shallow crossing route to DeSean Jackson, or down the field to Pierre Garcon or whomever, it’s just his job to let them be the playmakers and just get the ball to them. That’s the easy part of it. Don’t press and try to do more than you’re capable of. Those guys have the ability to take the football even on a short route and get up the field. Even his tight ends have that ability. Once you realize what you have, and you just do your job and don’t have to do any more, you can just let the rest of the guys doing their job.”
● Even during Thanksgiving week, Redskins rookie linebacker Su’a Cravens still isn’t talking to his mom – a Cowboys fan – as he didn’t when Washington hosted Dallas in Week 2. But he is speaking to Cowboys rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who Cravens got to know during the recruiting process in high school. Cravens said he bumped into Elliott at camps and got to know him at the Army All-American game. The two kept in touch over the year.
“I always kept an eye on Zeke and whenever he was doing well, just hit him up and, ‘Congrats bro,’” Cravens said. “It’s fun seeing him do as well as he is in the NFL.”
Cravens is looking forward to the game, although it comes at the sacrifice of missing Thanksgiving. The blockade on his mom’s Facetime calls and text messages went into effect after the victory over the Packers, but it could extend behind the Cowboys game if she doesn’t save him a plate with an extra serving of his mother’s favorite side – yams.
“It’s exciting,” Cravens said. “We’ve got two division teams fighting for a playoff spot. Obviously, Dallas is ahead in the division. We’ve got to knock them off, and we’ve got to do everything we can. We’re going to be the underdogs going there, but I think I’m more upset about missing Thanksgiving meal though. Hopefully we can come out with a ‘W’ over there to make up for that meal. My mom better bring me a plate, or she’s not getting a flight back home.”
● You may have noticed cornerback Josh Norman hasn’t replaced his “bow-and-arrow” celebration after he was fined in Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns. Instead, he sprints off the field. Ever since that encounter, Norman has felt limited in his ability to express his emotions on the field because there’s a target on him. That sentiment continued against the Packers when Norman was flagged for a delay of game penalty after scooping what he thought was a fumble. Norman took off with the ball, then tossed it, drawing the flag.
“I don’t want to do anything on the field, man,” Norman said. “I do stuff on the field, and they always try to get me. So I just run off to the side because if I do something on the field, they’re going to try and fine me for something, flag me for something because I take it overboard — which they claim. It’s always something, man. Even when I threw the ball, or ran off on the sideline and did the arrow, they still popped me. It’s like I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t. So I just go off to the side and just do my own thing man.”
● Cousins needs three touchdown passes to become only the fourth Redskins quarterback to post back-to-back 20-touchdown seasons. Joe Theismann did so in 1983 and ’84. Sonny Jurgensen did in 1966 and ’67, and again 1969 and ’70, and Sammy Baugh did so in 1947 and ’48.
● Wide receiver Jamison Crowder has a touchdown catch in each of the last three games. With another today, he would become the first Redskins player since Fred Davis in Weeks 12-15 of the 2009 season to record a touchdown catch in four straight games.
● With a touchdown catch today, tight end Vernon Davis would move into a tie for seventh most by any tight end in NFL history with 57.
● Wide receiver Pierre Garcon enters this game with 20 touchdown catches with the Redskins and is chasing Jean Fugett (21) and Rod Gardner (22) for 12th and 11th place, respectively, on the franchise all-time list.
● Running back Rob Kelley aims to become the first Redskins running back to post consecutive 100-yard rushing games since Alfred Morris in Weeks 8 and 9 of the 2013 season.
● Ryan Kerrigan is set to start his 91st consecutive game, which is tied for second-most among active NFL linebackers.
● Kerrigan needs two sacks to become the fifth member of the Redskins franchise to post multiple 10-sack seasons, joining Dexter Manley (4), Charles Mann (4), Andre carter (2) and Bryan Orakpo (2).
● Coming off of last week’s game which featured a forced fumble, Norman will try to do so in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Norman is one forced fumble shy of his career high (2015).