Thursday's Thanksgiving Day game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys is a significant opportunity for both teams. A win for the Cowboys would move them within a half-game of the first-place New York Giants, who have a tough game Sunday against the Packers. A win for the Redskins would put them in a position to really make a mess of the division race with the Giants coming to town in Week 13.
But as Jason Reid points out in this piece of pregame analysis for the Washington Post, the Redskins aren't going to find this week's opponent as accommodating as they found the dead-in-the-water Eagles on Sunday. And they'll have to hope that the improvement their pass rush showed Sunday is repeatable against Tony Romo and a more dynamic Cowboys offense:
This past Sunday against Cleveland, Romo made just enough plays (he passed for 313 yards) to lead Dallas to a 23-20 overtime victory, but he was sacked seven times. The lesson for the Redskins, which I’m certain defensive coordinator Jim Haslett learned from past frustrating experiences against Romo, is that you have to keep Romo guessing with different blitzes. And rushing the passer had better result in quarterback hits and sacks.
The Redskins tied their season high with four sacks against Philadelphia, which should bolster the confidence of a unit that hasn’t had much to celebrate this season.
The Redskins’ pass rush disappeared after outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, the Redskins’ sack leader the past three seasons, and defensive end Adam Carriker, who had a career-high 5.5 sacks in 2011, suffered season-ending injuries. The team is tied for 23rd in the league with 18 sacks.
The difficulty for the Redskins on Thursday, as I see it, won't be in getting through the Cowboys' permissive offensive line. The key difference this week will be that, once they get into the backfield, the Redskins' pass-rushers will be confronted with a more mobile quarterback than Nick Foles. Romo is as skilled as anyone in the league at sidestepping pressure and extending plays that can result in big downfield gains. He's had to be, the way his line has played the last couple of seasons. If the Redskins' pass rush is to impact this game Thursday -- and I agree with Jason that it must if the Redskins are to win -- then the key will be the ability of those pass-rushers to finish plays once they have a chance.