LANDOVER, Md. – The Washington Redskins hung on to beat the Dallas Cowboys 20-17 to protect their lead in the NFC East on Sunday at FedEx Field.
Dallas kicker Brett Maher’s 52-yard field goal attempt clanked off of the left upright as time expired and the Redskins’ home crowd erupted in cheers as the team escaped with a win over its rival.
Washington improved to 4-2 with the win while Dallas fell to 3-4.
Here are three things that we learned from Washington’s win over Dallas.
1. It’s not pretty, but … Jay Gruden and the Redskins are finding ways to win. In a league dominated by high-flying passing attacks, the Redskins don’t appear to belong among the ranks of division leaders. They entered Sunday's game with the 29th-ranked offense. They have won big this season, they have lost ugly. They have been anything but consistent.
On Sunday, Alex Smith had even fewer proven weapons at his disposal with running back Chris Thompson and deep threat receiver Paul Richardson both injured. But this week while preparing for the franchise’s most hated rival, Gruden cooked up a throwback recipe, which called for a grind-and-pound rushing attack featuring 33-year-old running back Adrian Peterson and a stingy defensive attack. It did the trick. Peterson rushed for 99 yards on 24 carries. The defense kept Washington in the game, containing Ezekiel Elliott and then scored a big touchdown late in the fourth quarter. After Dallas cut the lead to 20-17 with 1:37 left, Washington managed to milk only 28 seconds off the clock, but the defense came through.
2. Questionable sustainability – The old school approach worked for Washington against a struggling Dallas team. But it’s hard to say if the Redskins can continue to get by for the rest of the season with such an anemic offense. A good defense is indeed a game-changer. But Washington’s unit has looked awful at times (against the struggling Colts and the prolific Saints).
The good thing for the Redskins, however, is that this is a down year for the division, with the Eagles looking nothing like Super Bowl champs, the Giants crumbling amid dysfunction and poor play, and Dallas wildly inconsistent. The Redskins are riding Peterson, but they need more from their receiving corps, especially tight end Jordan Reed and wide receiver Josh Doctson. Smith might not create and throw receivers open like former Redskin Kirk Cousins did and like elite-level passers do. He had a lot of success in Kansas City, but he thrived while surrounded by great talent. He missed a lot of opportunities for big plays on Sunday, and it's clear why Andy Reid was content to trade him to Washington and roll with Patrick Mahomes.
3. Jacksonville is really bad – The Cowboys looked like world-beaters last week as they scored 40 points against a Jacksonville defense that was once regarded as one of the best in the league. In that thrashing of Jacksonville, it looked as though the Cowboys had finally figured things out on offense in that game, but their struggles resurfaced this week.
Washington succeeded in their quest to make Dallas one-dimensional. The Redskins held Elliott to just 34 rushing yards on 15 attempts and made Dak Prescott try to beat them with his arm. Prescott did a good job of extending plays, and he pulled the ball down and ran when he caught the defense in man coverage. But this is too heavy a load for him to carry without proven pass-catchers. Against a prolific offense, Dallas would have had no chance.
Follow Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
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