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#WASvsDAL: First Quarter Recollections

Posted by Andrew Walker on November 22, 2012 – 5:14 pm

(AP photo)

The big Thanksgiving Day rivalry matchup is underway.

The Washington Redskins (4-6) and the Dallas Cowboys (5-5) are playing on national TV with tons on the line in NFC East play.

At the end of the first quarter, the Cowboys lead the Redskins, 3-0.

Here’s some key plays from each drive of the quarter:

The Redskins won the opening toss and elected to receive:

– The first play was a pitch to the left from quarterback Robert Griffin III to running back Alfred Morris, which went for no gain.
– On the next play, Griffin III fakes a screen pass, pumped again and then found tight end Logan Paulsen wide open across the middle. The usually sure-handed Paulsen dropped it, however.
– On 3rd and 10, the Cowboys’ pressure got to Griffin III quickly. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher forced Griffin III to throw the ball away while he was still in the pocket, and he was called for intentional grounding.

Not the way the Redskins wanted to get started here. You worry about the Cowboys’ defensive ends or “outside linebackers” DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer getting to Griffin III, but when it’s the interior defensive linemen easily getting by, then you definitely have trouble on your hands.

The Cowboys’ first drive began at the Washington 49-yard line:

– On the first play of the drive, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went straight to his big target, Dez Bryant. Cornerback Josh Wilson was called for pass interference on the play, a 14-yard penalty.
– Two running plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 4. Romo, operating out of the shotgun with fullback Lawrence Vickers to his left, dropped back and found tight end Jason Witten across the middle for a gain of six yards and the first down to the Washington 23-yard line.
– On the very next play, the Redskins dialed up a cornerback blitz, but Romo found Bryant streaking across the middle for a gain of nine before the blitz could get there. Running back Felix Jones converted the first down on the next play, a three-yard running play.
– Two plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 6 from the seven-yard line when Witten was called for a false start. On 3rd and 11 from the 12, Romo — again in the shotgun with Vickers to his left — threw deep into the middle of the end zone to receiver Miles Austin, but the pass was dropped on a solid hit by linebacker London Fletcher.
– The Cowboys settled for a 30-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

9:27 left in the first quarter: Cowboys 3, Redskins 0
Scoring drive: nine plays, 37 yards, 4:40.

The Redskins’ second drive began at the Redskins’ 20 yard line:

– On the first play, Morris gained three yards on a pitch play to his right. Good to see some positive yardage after he was stuffed on the first drive.
– Two plays later, the Redskins faced a 3rd and 4. With running back Evan Royster in for Morris, Griffin III dropped back and found Pierre Garcon on a slant route for a six-yard gain and the team’s first first down of the game. Good to see Garcon — foot injury aside — get involved in the game.
– On the very next play, Griffin III found wide receiver Joshua Morgan for 17 yards on a nifty screen play. But on the next play, Spencer got to Griffin III — very quickly, I might add — for a seven-yard loss on a sack.
– Two plays later, the Redskins faced a 3rd and 13 from the Dallas 46-yard line. Griffin III tried another slant pass to Garcon, but this one was off-target and fell to the turf. The play would’ve easily set up a first down.

Good to see some momentum from the Redskins’ offense, but, again, a play by the Dallas defensive line killed that momentum. Spencer got to Griffin III for that sack just about as quick as possible. The Redskins need to generate the same kind of pressure on Romo on the next drive to establish their defensive presence, too.

After a 41-yard punt by Sav Rocca, the Cowboys began their second drive from their own 13-yard line:

– On the first play, Romo’s pass was batted down with both hands by outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. It was a play similar to the pick-six he had against the Atlanta Falcons earlier this season, only he wasn’t able to grab the ball before it hit the turf.
– Two plays later, the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 8. Romo lined up in the shotgun with Vickers to his left and Witten to his right, who was sent into motion. Romo dropped back and found wide receiver Dwayne Harris for 17 yards and the first down. That one hurts. A tough third-down break for the Redskins.
– The Cowboys executed an end-around play to Bryant on the next play, which went for six yards. Good job by the Redskins’ secondary in making sure Bryant didn’t bust that one into a huge gain.
– The next two attempted plays were a false start and a delay of game, setting up a 2nd and 14 from the Dallas 28-yard line. After a pass sailed to Witten, the Cowboys faced a 3rd and 14. Romo’s eight-yard pass to Vickers wasn’t enough to earn the first down, and the Cowboys were forced to punt for the first time in the game.
– What a punt it was. Brandon Banks decided to field the 64-yard punt in the end zone and was tackled at the seven-yard line.

Good defensive series for the Redskins, but you’ve got to wonder why Banks decided to play that punt? I’d say let it bounce in the end zone and take it at your 20:

– On the first play of their third drive of the quarter, Morris rushed for a gain of four. That’s three straight drives started by a Morris running play.
– The Redskins pulled out their East Coast Offense on the next play, as Griffin III took an option keeper nine yards and a first down before sliding down. I’d circle that play as one to go back to.
– The quarter ended as Griffin III found Garcon on a screen for seven yards.

CHIME IN: What are your thoughts from the first quarter of today’s game? Feel free to comment below.

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