- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

A review of the best and worst performances by the Washington Redskins‘ defense and some observations after re-watching the TV broadcast of their 27-24 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

GAME BALLS

ILB LONDON FLETCHER: This was one of those games in which you simply appreciate the opportunity to watch firsthand Fletcher’s exceptional talent and burning passion. He’s a special player who was worth the price of admission on Sunday. He was credited with a game-high 16 tackles (nine solo), a sack, a forced fumble and two tackles for loss.

His list of positive plays is long, but the one that stood out most was his tackle of RB DeMarco Murray for a 1-yard gain on a simple pitch to the right on first-and-10 in the second quarter. CB DeAngelo Hallcame up and took on pulling RG Kyle Kosier by going low. The TV camera angle was bad, but Hall appeared to disrupt Murray’s footing a bit as Murray tried to turn the right corner. Fletcher, meanwhile, chased the play toward the sideline to his left. Lead blocker FB John Phillips was in Fletcher’s path, so Fletcher dove through Phillips’ legs and into Murray to finish the play. Basically, Fletcher took out two guys with one surge. He was a human bowling ball.

Overall, he was aggressive and precise reading running plays and filling his gap. On a couple of runs, he eluded LG Montrae Holland on the second level and made the tackle. He diagnosed a swing pass to Murray on the first play of Dallas’ fifth series and closed in time to run Murray out of bounds for a loss of 2.

He jarred the ball loose from TE Jason Witten in the second half by closing fast and punching the ball with his left hand. QB Tony Romo’s spin out to his left worked several times in this game, but not on Fletcher’s third-quarter sack. Fletcher also helped the Redskins get the ball back for their game-trying drive in the fourth quarter by running side-by-side with WR Laurent Robinson on a third-down incompletion down the right seam.

Fletcher missed a couple of tackles, but that’s going to happen when a player is around the ball as much as he was. For him to produce at this level at age 36 leaves me in awe.

SS DEJON GOMES: Gomes played a quality game on its own merit. Then when you consider it was his first NFL start, it truly was exceptional. He was extremely active in run support; the 13 tackles with which he was credited were second only to ILB London Fletcher. Those two and ILB Perry Rileyare the main reasons why the Redskins limited RB DeMarco Murray to 2.9 yards per carry on 25 attempts. Overall, Gomes’ reads and run fits appeared sound, and his speed helped him make plays around the line of scrimmage and in coverage.

He read the draw from a deep safety position on Dallas’ first drive and sprinted up to stop Murray for no gain. He tackled RB Felix Jones for 2-yard gain in the fourth quarter after charging from a safety position at least 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.

Gomes helped forced DE Stephen Bowen’s sack early in the third quarter by beating Murray on a blitz. He lined up in the box and engaged with Murray four yards behind the line of scrimmage. He got his hands inside Murray’s and got through to Murray’s inside shoulder. That disrupted QB Tony Romo enough to flush him from the pocket, and Bowen finished the play after 6.2 seconds — an eternity.

As you’d expect from a rookie making his first start, he had some plays that need work. He should have fallen on TE Jason Witten’s fumble in the third quarter instead of trying to scoop it and run. That gave Witten the opportunity to regain possession, which he did. I’m interested in learning more about Gomes’ role on Witten’s 59-yard touchdown. Witten broke off his route and ran in front of Gomes on a slant, but Gomes appeared to be in Cover-2 and responsible for the other half of the field instead of Witten. Overall, it was a promising debut.

GASSERS

CB DEANGELO HALL: Hall said after the game that he would cut himself if he were in the front office. That’s not going to happen, but he’ll at least top this list. He excoriated himself for failing to stop a 26-yard completion to WR Dez Bryant on third-and-15. Hall slipped when Bryant cut back to the left sideline, and Bryant extended the Cowboys‘ game-winning drive.

It wasn’t just Hall’s slip, though. He appeared beaten on the play even if he kept his balance. When Bryant planted and broke out to the sideline, Hall tried to stay with him by turning his back to the line of scrimmage instead of opening his hips. Because QB Tony Romo timed his throw so well to Bryant coming out of his break, Hall was beaten as soon as turned.

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