Can the Cowboys stop RG III?
RG III can't beat Cowboys without the ball
After all, he passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns as the Washington Redskins built a shocking 28-3 halftime lead and beat the Cowboys by 10 points.
Jason Garrett can't expect his banged-up defense to slow down Griffin, just like he couldn't expect it to slow down Drew Brees last week.
For the Cowboys to beat Washington and win the NFC East, Garrett's offense must lead the way.
And, unlike in the New Orleans loss, Garrett can't get greedy.
DeMarco Murray actually ran the ball well against New Orleans, but Garrett fell in love with the big-play passing opportunities and ignored the running game.
He can't do that again.
It's not about giving Murray 20 to 25 carries; it's about establishing him as a threat and letting the offense flow through him. In the 17 games Murray has started for the Cowboys, he has averaged 24.7 touches in the 10 wins and 13.5 touches in the seven losses.
See, Murray makes everyone's job easier.
He helps Dez Bryant and Jason Witten get open because linebackers and safeties react to run fakes, creating space for Bryant and Witten to operate. He makes Romo a better quarterback because the burden of the entire offense doesn't fall upon him.
There's a reason Romo is 3-15 -- 3-5 this season -- when he throws more than 40 passes in a game. Without balance, this offense falters.
More importantly, an effective Murray keeps the team's defense from getting exposed by keeping it off the field.
The Cowboys' offense is the healthier of its two units. Garrett has all of his key offensive weapons and linemen available.
If the Cowboys are to win, it's because the offense controlled the game's tempo and kept Griffin off the field -- and it doesn't matter whether Romo is handing or throwing the ball to Murray.
This is also a week the Cowboys must protect the ball. No turnovers, especially on their side of the field. The last time they played, the Cowboys had a fumble and an interception, and Washington turned each into touchdowns.
Garrett runs the offense. A playoff berth depends on his unit playing efficiently and keeping Griffin off the field.
Up to offense to bail out defense
Jones knows what type of future Griffin means to the Washington Redskins, and he is not looking forward to competing against the former Baylor quarterback twice a year. Jones can only hope that Sunday's NFC East championship game will be one of the only games in which Griffin actually looks like a rookie or hope that the cold weather stiffens Griffin's aching knee a little bit.
The Cowboys cannot be expected to stop Griffin. It's been rare when Griffin was not the best player on the field this season against any defense this year, let alone one as banged up as the Cowboys' unit.
Just to refresh the memory for what Griffin did on Thanksgiving, remember this: He went 20-of-28 for 311 yards and four touchdown passes. Three of the TD passes went for 59, 68 and 29 yards. He ran six times for 29 yards and finished with a passer rating of 132.6.
The Cowboys will have three defensive starters going against Griffin on Sunday who are different from the ones who faced him on Thanksgiving. Sean Lissemore will start at nose tackle over Josh Brent, Ernie Sims or Alex Albright will replace Bruce Carter at inside linebacker, and Eric Frampton will start over Danny McCray at strong safety.
DeMarcus Ware had a bad shoulder entering that game but wasn't playing through a hyperextended elbow at that point, either.
So, no, you can't expect Rob Ryan to be able to devise a scheme in which Griffin will be stopped.
Last week the defense was shredded by Drew Brees for 562 yards and 33 first downs. New Orleans ran 91 plays. The Cowboys could not get off the field, could not get to Brees and could not force a turnover.
Now they face an offense with a better running game with Alfred Morris and more elusive quarterback in Griffin.
It doesn't mean the Cowboys won't win Sunday. But if they do, they will have to be carried by the offense, because the defense is simply not good enough.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
ESPN NFL analyst Antonio Pierce shares his thoughts on Cowboys-Redskins, the Giants' late-season struggles, the rookie QBs, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson and more.
Quarterback Tony Romo talks about the Cowboys' fourth-quarter rally to send the game into overtime against the Saints.