Around the National Football League these days it's in vogue to wonder whether Dallas
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo will throw another game-losing interception on Sunday against the Washington Redskins (1-3). If he does, he will be blamed for his (2-3) team losing for the third straight time to its NFC East rivals. Late in the fourth quarter week against the Denver Broncos, he threw an interception and Dallas lost.
But putting aside the Romo issue for a moment, let's consider other factors that could be
as pivotal in determining the game's outcome.
Field Goal Kickers
The first involves the kicking game. Dallas has the edge. Dan Bailey, the second-year kicker for the Cowboys, has so far this season converted 81 percent of his field goals including 9 of 10 from beyond 30 yards and 2 of 3 over 50 yards. For the Redskins, however, the field goal kicking situation has been less stable. The starter, Kai Forbath, is expected to return to field goal kicking after coming off a groin injury that has sidelined him since the regular season's first week. Compared with Bailey, Forbath will likely be rusty. To make a big field goal to win a game, I would bet on the kicker who has been active and accurate the past few weeks.
Defensively, the Redskins rank last in the league in several categories. They have allowed
the most yards per pass reception (13.6), the highest percentage of fourth down conversions (80 percent), and made the fewest interceptions (only 2). They also are second to last in rushing defense giving up 142 yards per game. With all that to overcome, it will be key for the Redskins to leverage two of their best defensive players, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Kerrigan ranks sixth in the league with five sacks; Arakpo has three. The sacking ability of
these two guys is the beleaguered defense's strength. If the Redskins hope to slow a hot quarterback who has thrown 13 touchdown passes while completing 71 percent. Kerrigan and Orakpo need to blitz more often than usual.
Worry About the New Cowboy Receiver
Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, the receiving stars for the Cowboys, have been vexing the
Redskins defenses for several years. This trend will continue on Sunday. But the Redskins need to stop Terrance Williams, the newcomer to the Dallas receiving group. Against the Broncos last week, he had a breakout game catching four passes for 151 yards including and an 82-yard touchdown. The secondary of the Redskins has its hands full with Bryant and Witten, and may be overloaded tangling with this new home run threat.
Pass the Ball to Garcon in Space
Pierre Garcon, the best Redskins wide receiver, ranks third in the NFL in yards gained
after catching the ball with 189. Overall, he has caught 29 passes for 339 yards and 2 touchdowns. For the Redskins to beat the Cowboys, he will need to heavily exploit his yards after the catch skills. There will be opportunities. Similar to the Redskins, the Cowboys defense is awful. They are ranked 30th in total defense and have surrendered 2,046 yards already.
Learn from Last Season
In the NFC East title game last season, Redskins running back Alfred Morris ran for 200 yards
and 3 touchdowns with a 6.1 yards per carry average. The Cowboys could not stop him. There is no reason to believe the Cowboys rushing defense is much better this season, so the Redskins should give the ball to Morris over 20 times. If that happens, he will likely accumulate over a 100 yards.
Wait for Romo to Succumb to Pressure
Now a few thoughts on Romo's late-game difficulties: In that NFC East championship
showdown, Romo heaved an interception to Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson with three minutes left. Even though he's only thrown two interceptions this season-tied for second least in the league-it's been his habit to wilt in the big moments. It won't be shocking, therefore, if he succumbs to the pressure again on Sunday. The Redskins know they can get to him. They intercepted him a total of five times in their two victories last season.
With both defenses struggling mightily, there will be plenty of offense and scoring by
both teams. If it comes down to a last-minute, game-winning field goal attempt, I expect Dallas to win. If Romo has to win the game with a fourth quarter drive, I picture him throwing another dire interception and the Redskins prevailing.