Following a loss, it's usually easy to see what wrong that caused a team to lose. What's not so easy as pointing the finger is giving credit to where it's due in a losing effort. The Washington Redskins are just 1-4 following a 31-16 loss to their biggest rival, the Dallas Cowboys, but there were just as many encouraging factors in this game as there were negative. So what do you want first, the good news or the bad news?
All season long, Washington's biggest problem offensively has been their inability to finish drives. This was no different against Dallas Sunday night where Washington was forced to settle for field goals three times in the red zone.
The second field goal came in the final seconds of the first half. Washington displayed poor time management in a situation where they had time-outs remaining but instead wasted precious seconds that could have been used to get to get closer to the end zone.
With each defense holding it's own, the last thing either team needed was a special teams breakdown but that's exactly what Washington had. Dwayne Harris returned a punt in the second quarter for an 86-yard touchdown. Then, following Washington's third field goal he returned the ensuing kick-off 90 yards to set Dallas up for Tony Romo's only touchdown toss of the game to Terrance Williams.
Trailing and being forced to pass late in games is something that Washington has unfortunately become accustomed to this year. This time around though, receivers couldn't get open for Robert Griffin III, forcing him to hold on to the ball longer than he should. Dallas was able to sack him three times even with DeMarcus Ware leaving the game in the second quarter. Two of those were strip sacks, one resulting in a turnover that Dallas eventually converted into a touchdown.
On a positive note, the Washington Redskins biggest problem coming into this game was their defense. On Sunday, the defense was actually it's best unit. Dallas had a total of just 213 yards and possessed the ball nearly 10 minutes less that Washington. The Skins held Romo to just 170 yards and one touchdown following a game in which he set franchise-highs with 506 yards and five touchdowns against the Denver Broncos. Washington even intercepted him once to halt a drive that looked to surely end in points.
DeAngelo Hall is the type of player that has games to make fans love him, then has moments that make them hate him all over again. Sunday was one of those games where he played big. Assigned with the task of guarding one of the game's biggest and best receivers, Hall held Dez Bryant to just 36 yards on five receptions out of eight targets.
One player who had a better game than Bryant was Washington tight end Jordan Reed who finished with 58 yards on four catches. Besides Pierre Garcon, Reed has been the only Washington receiver able to consistently get open. By drafting him in third-round to a team already deep at tight end, many thought Mike Shanahan was making a mistake but Reed has emerged as Washington's most reliable tight end.
When Reed and Garcon weren't getting open, Robert Griffin III ran and he ran well. Showing glimpses of what fans remember from last year out of the read-option, Griffin racked up 77 yards rushing on nine attempts. He looked fast, agile and not concerned with his knee, even drawing two flags for late hits on the sideline at the end of his runs.
If this part of the offense continues to grow, then Washington's offensive struggles should subside - and if the defense can continue to play this well, then the team won't be trailing in the second half of every game.