The Redskins did a good job of pressuring Tony Romo all night, staying aggressive from start to finish — something they did not do in the first meeting. The Redskins showed a variety of blitzes: double-A gap pressure from the inside linebackers; safeties and corners blitzing off the edge; zone blitzes; safety blitzes from the slot; corner blitzes from the slot. It caused issues for Dallas in part because the Cowboys were caught off-guard by some rushes. Also, Dallas’ line is a little bigger, so the Redskins tested their quickness and won.
The most popular blitz was the double-A gap pressures by linebackers London Fletcher and Perry Riley. Here’s what happened when they both blitzed the middle (there was one time Riley blitzed off the edge and Fletcher up the middle; it resulted in Fletcher’s sack, but it wasn’t a double-A gap blitz).
1. Third and 8 from the Redskins’ 25-yard line, first quarter. An excellent example of fooling an offense, then overwhelming them. Lorenzo Alexander aligned on the right drew the attention of tackle Tyron Smith. But Alexander dropped into coverage, leaving Smith and left guard Nate Livings doubled on end Stephen Bowen. Running back DeMarco Murray picked up London Fletcher while Perry Riley came free to Livings’ left. All totaled, six Redskins rushed.
The result: Quarterback Tony Romo, under pressure, overthrew receiver Kevin Ogletree, and Richard Crawford intercepted the pass.
2. Second and 14, Dallas 23-yard line, first quarter. Nose tackle Barry Cofield dropped into coverage with Riley and Fletcher blitzing the middle. Dallas was more prepared with a tight end and running back in the backfield, and both slowed the blitz. However, Fletcher still applied pressure in a four-man rush.
The result: Romo unloaded the ball in 2.5 seconds but threw high to Dez Bryant. Corner DeAngelo Hall, knowing the ball would come out quick, played tight coverage in the cover-3 zone (shaded to the outside). Hall drove hard and was all over Bryant.
Second and 13, Dallas 19-yard line, second quarter. The Redskins actually sent both inside ‘backers on the previous play, a run down, for a three-yard loss. Fletcher and Riley started two yards off the ball and were helped when nose tackle Chris Baker took two steps up, then dropped into coverage.
The result: Romo recognized the pressure and threw quickly to Jason Witten for seven yards.
First and 10, Dallas 45-yard line, second quarter. Dallas had a three-receiver set; the Redskins rushed seven. Riley again broke free through Dallas’ right side as the guard, tackle and center were occupied. Murray picked up Fletcher. But the Cowboys only had six to block seven.
The result: A five-yard pass to Witten over the middle.
Second and 10, Washington 49-yard line, third quarter. Once more the Redskins conned Dallas into doubling Bowen, leaving a gap for either Fletcher or Riley. Smith anticipated Rob Jackson rushing (most teams do: One reason he did not play on third downs often is because he was limited to only rushing. Made it tough to disguise blitzes like this). But Jackson dropped, and Smith ended up helping Livings inside on Bowen. Cofield occupied Cook. Murray picked up Fletcher and Riley was free for a pressure, hitting Romo as he threw.
The result: Romo threw incomplete to a covered Bryant. Again, Hall played smart, knowing the pass would come out fast, and had him covered.
Third and 10, Washington-49 yard line, third quarter. Romo was finally able to escape the inside pressure by London Fletcher by rolling to his right as Riley was picked up by the back. But it was linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s rush that completed the play. He beat right tackle Doug Free to the outside, preventing Romo from getting too wide. The Redskins ended up rushing seven on the play, with linebacker Lorenzo Alexander first jamming Witten off the line, then racing around the left end.
The result: Romo threw the ball away, which the Redskins initially had hoped would be called intentional grounding. But Romo was able to get outside the pocket enough, and the ball went well beyond the line of scrimmage.
Second and 10, Washington 37-yard line, fourth quarter. The Redskins showed seven in the box; they rushed all seven including Fletcher and Riley inside. Tight end Jason Witten blocked Ryan Kerrigan on the left side. Smith took care of Bowen. But Livings failed to slow Fletcher. Actually, he whiffed on him.
The result: Hall, playing in off-man coverage, sat on a 10-yard comeback to Dwayne Harris. Hall, shaded inside, drove hard. Romo threw as he was moving back away from Fletcher. Incomplete as Hall tipped it away with his right hand.
Third and 4, Washington 10-yard line, fourth quarter. The Redskins rushed six and Fletcher came free, rushing between right guard and center. The guard, Mackenzy Bernadeau, looked first at Jarvis Jenkins, aligned over him, but Jenkins rushed outside, at tackle Doug Free. Fletcher beat Bernadeau to the inside.
The result: Not what the Redskins wanted. Romo unloaded the ball in 1.5 seconds to Kevin Ogletree on a back shoulder pass against Richard Crawford for a touchdown.
First and 10, Dallas 14-yard line, fourth quarter. The Redskins had five on the line with Fletcher and Riley both within two yards of the ball. Two dropped into coverage – Kerrigan on the left; Jackson on the right — leaving the Redskins with five rushers.
The result: The Cowboys picked up the blitz; Romo unloaded the ball over the middle for a 14-yard gain to Witten.
First and 10, Dallas 29-yard line, fourth quarter. Once more the Redskins blitz worked because Dallas wasn't sure exactly who was rushing. The Redskins showed seven within two yards of the ball at the snap. Jackson started upfield, causing Smith to focus on him. But when Murray ran out of the backfield, Jackson went with him. It was too late for Smith to block someone else. Meanwhile, Livings took Bowen, and Cook blocked Cofield. That left a gap for Riley, who broke through clean.
The result: Romo backpedaled as he lofted a pass to Murray. I think Romo saw Jackson covering him and tried to dump the ball over his head. He failed. Jackson intercepted the ball.
Get all of John Keim's coverage of the Washington Redskins delivered to your inbox -- free! Subscribe to his weekly e-mail newsletter, published each Friday. Email John at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @John_Keim.