Defense stages its version of Washington shutdown

Posted Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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lebreton One week after they couldn’t seem to stop anything, the Dallas Cowboys defense staged another Washington shutdown, of sorts, Sunday night.

Nothing political intended.

A week after the Denver Broncos reached the end zone six times against the Cowboys, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins could get as far only once.

No one would dare compare a savvy Peyton Manning with a knee-braced, post-surgical RGIII, but the home team’s defensive effort should not be trivialized.

This is the same opposing quarterback, the league’s offensive rookie of the year in 2012, who passed for 311 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys in this same stadium 12 months ago. And it’s the same Pride of Baylor who was healthy enough to knock the Cowboys out of the playoffs on the season’s final weekend.

Now this, a 31-16 Cowboys’ victory in which coordinator Monte Kiffin’s defense — a mere shadow a week ago — dictated the flow of things all night long.

This is how you win a football game, though some may argue that it was ragged around its edges. The Cowboys’ glow of getting back to the .500 mark has to be dimmed by the injuries suffered by DeMarcus Ware and DeMarco Murray.

This is a show, however, that head coach Jason Garrett can take on the road. Beating a division archrival by 15 points, on a night when you scored 31 points even though your offense only had 50 snaps, suggests that a lesson was learned in last weekend’s assault on the scoreboard.

Griffin, admittedly, seems far from his old self. Washington finished with 25 first downs and 433 yards, more than doubling the yardage that the Cowboys had, but Griffin fumbled twice, threw an interception and failed to get the Redskins into the end zone on three trips inside the 20.

Griffin’s All-American quickness — he was national high school champion in the 110- and 400-meter hurdles — has been slowed noticeably. His once-elusive running ability seems modest, at best.

To protect his knee, Griffin wears a cumbersome brace. Lots of football players wear knee braces these days. But faced with pressure from the Cowboys’ pass rush, notably Jason Hatcher, Griffin couldn’t seem to find his once-signature escape gear.

His counterpart, meanwhile, has never looked fitter. Quarterback Tony Romo has had flashier games and more neon numbers, but two of the Cowboys’ biggest plays of the night were set in motion by his elusive feet.

Romo, as Cowboys fans remember, had an offseason surgical procedure of his own. Whatever concern and caution loomed in training camp, however, has been easily dispelled over the past two weeks.

The script is likely what owner Jerry Jones had in mind last Sunday, when he saw positive building blocks despite the 51-48 defeat. The Cowboys don’t need to play league-leading defense. Kiffin and aide Rod Marinelli are trying to build toward that. An efficient Romo will buy them that time.

As Griffin, meanwhile, struggles to regain his footing, the Redskins sank further behind in the NFC playoff hunt. Clearly, he is so vital to what coach Mike Shanahan is trying to put together.

But despite owning the football for more than 28 of the game’s first 45 minutes, RGIII and the Redskins could only get one touchdown.

Griffin was sacked three times, officially hurried five other times and spent most of the night searching for receivers who struggled to get open. Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr, in particular, enjoyed a monster game.

It was a shutdown, of sorts. And for the Cowboys’ defense, perhaps, a surprising turn of events.

This is a show that the Cowboys could take on the road.

They’ll see soon enough.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @gilebreton

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