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    • DATE: December 3, 2013
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Defense Up For Challenge In Dallas

Posted Oct 10, 2013

The Washington Redskins looked on as the Dallas Cowboys scored 48 points last week, but come into this pivotal Week 6 matchup brimming with confidence. Here's why:

Much-maligned through the first quarter of the season, the Washington Redskins defense has a difficult task staring them right in the face on Sunday: stopping a potent Dallas Cowboys offense.

Last week against the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys went toe-to-toe with the league’s top-rated offense.

Behind a career-high 506 passing yards and five touchdowns, quarterback Tony Romo outdueled early season NFL MVP frontrunner Peyton Manning.

While Romo’s late interception set up the Broncos’ game-winning 28-yard field goal to escape Cowboys Stadium with a 51-48 victory, the offense has been clicking on all cylinders through the first five weeks of the season.

“They looked amazing,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall said, veteran of nine Redskins-Cowboys games. “I didn’t think it was an offense that could keep up with Peyton Manning, but Dallas and Tony Romo never cease to amaze me.

“They [went] out there and set all types of records and they made a lot of plays. The last second cost them, but they played a heckuva game.”

Top-10 in yards per game (377.2) and points (152), the Cowboys find themselves as early NFC East leaders.

But with only one more win than the Redskins, Sunday’s game could give way to the Redskins moving up into a tie for first place. In order to do that, they must beat the Cowboys deep in the heart of Texas.

“We’re four games into our season, nothing is going to be decided this early into the season,” defensive captain London Fletcher said this week. “It’s a division game, so it’s a big game for us and we just have to take it one game at a time. The way the NFC goes, the way I’m used to, it doesn’t really get good until the last four or five ball games of the season. We are still positioning ourselves now.”

That starts with rattling the cage of Romo who has a reputation of struggling under pressure.  Against the Oakland Raiders, the Redskins registered a season-high seven sacks, including two of which from nose tackle Barry Cofield.

Cofield, who has spent his entire eight-year career playing against division rival Dallas between the Redskins and New York Giants, understands that matching that number will be difficult but with reach.

“You have to be willing to rush the [quarterback for] four, five, six seconds,” Cofield said. “Normally the ball is out of the quarterback’s hands two or three seconds, but he’s willing to extend the play so you have to be willing to extend the play.

“We have to rotate. Guys are going to get tired chasing him around for 50, 60 snaps but you just have to trust the guy behind you and they come in and do the job. I think we have that type of faith in each other.”

Luckily for the Redskins, they return defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and outside linebacker Rob Jackson from NFL suspensions.

“Obviously getting guys like that adds depth to the rotation,” defensive end Stephen Bowen said. “[They’re] guys that have been playmakers for us and allow us to keep guys fresh and continue to play at a high level.”

Romo, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant form a deadly trio, but running back DeMarco Murray may be their most effective weapon.

With 399 yards so far this season, Murray is off to his best start as a professional.

His play has forced defenses to be honest.

Predicated on stopping the ground game, the defense is hoping to force the Cowboys into a one-dimensional attack where they’re more vulnerable to turning over the football.

“We do know Romo is an effective passer, but you still want to force them into a one-dimensional game,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “If they have the option with [either] Romo or running the ball, that’s what they want and we don’t want that to happen.”

Cofield echoed that sentiment.

“We’re going to have our plan, we’re going to try to execute and make them one-dimensional, but if the one dimension throws for five touchdowns then it’s not really ideal,” he said. We’ve got to force turnovers throughout the game, make big plays when they arise and we’re going to counter our offense to their offense, they’re score points and that’s going to help us get in a situation where they’re one-dimensional and we can really rush the quarterback.” 

If the defense can execute in similar fashion to Week 4’s turnover generating performance, then they’ll have a great case to leave Dallas with their second-straight road victory.

“We’re just taking everything in stride,” cornerback Josh Wilson said. “Understanding that we need to win the next one and not worry about the last one.”

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