FishTips: 5 Steps Inside Cowboys Winning Gameplan At Washington

LANDOVER, Md - FishTips: 5 Steps Inside The Cowboys Winning Gameplan At Washington

We spend the week leading up to each Cowboys game gathering information, which lead to pregame hints, which we call "FishTips."

Then, depending on the outcome of the game, we discover if we had a damn clue.

Cowboys 27, Redskins 23 and ... let's review:

FISHTIPS 1) The Cowboys altered their gameplan this week, sources told me on Thursday, to get the ball to Dez Bryant: In the slot, underneath, on the move, short routes as opposed what happened in the loss to the Giants in Week 1 when on literally half of Dallas' 45 pass plays, Bryant ran "go" routes, resulting in just five targets and just one catch.

RESULT: Fades in the end zone. Timing routes over the middle. Dez bunched as a slot guy.

It was all there.

The Dallas plan have little to do with Josh Norman and which side he would line up on; that was a concern for Washington coaches only. (By the second half, they altered their original plan and moved him more often to Bryant's side.) Dez involvement, the easy way - that was the Cowboys' week-long emphasis point, and it resulted in seven catches and 102 receiving yards.

I asked Dez to comment on the gameplan alteration.

"My preparation, my demeanor, was exactly the same last week as it was this week,'' Dez replied, pretty much winking at me, coyly avoiding the real answer as easily as he avoided defenders on intermediate timing routes.

FISHTIPS 2) I reported before the game that the Cowboys "have a special-teams gimmick up their sleeve today to exploit a Redskins flaw."

RESULT: Dallas nearly executed an onside kick, trying it after a Dak Prescott TD run gave the Cowboys a third-quarter lead. The ball was touched before 10 yards negating the effort ... and leading to a Redskins field goal to tie it 20-all.

National media guy Jason Whitlock tweeted of the gambit ...

With all due respect, Whitlock errs badly here. This is part of a "plan," not a kooky roll of the dice. It was planned on Wednesday, and maybe planned in August, and maybe in December of 2014 when Dallas successfully executed an onside kick against ... these same Redskins.

Nailed it.

FISHTIPS 3) The Redskins don't look like a prolific running team, I'd said. Can Cowboys make that work to their advantage? Because Washington figures to have too many receiving weapons for the Dallas secondary to control.

RESULT: it did appear at times as though Washingtonians were running wild through the secondary. But erratic QB Kirk Cousins was not very good at locating them, and when it came to red-zone clutch time, Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne and late-game interceptor Barry Church made huge plays on the ball.

Church told me, "As a defense, we take pride in putting the team on our back when it has to happen.''

Don't chuckle. In crunch time, it had to happen ... and it did.

Nailed? Nope. Not by me. But by Church and company, yeah. Oh, and give credit to Tyrone Crawford and his makeshift defensive-linemate assignments, too. Rookies playing in the final minutes ... tackles playing end ... backups playing like starters. ... gutsy, had-no-other-way-to-go stuff.

FISHTIPS 4) in an attempt at snarky foreshadowing, I noted, "Kevin Sweeney is the only Cowboys rookie QB to win his road debut. The rest are 0-8."

If you took that as a poke at Dak Prescott ... you were right.

I did not foresee the fourth-round rookie going these first two weeks carving out an NFL record for most pass attempts in his first two career games without an interception. I did not foresee the improvement on passing accuracy from Week 1. And even the things we did forecast -- the waggles, the Big Ben-like leg power in the pocket, the ever-present post-game bow tie -- Dak was better at them than anyone could have guessed.

So ...

RESULT: Oh, I was dead-wrong here.

Said owner Jerry Jones when asked how many kid QBs he seen in a Cowboys uniform be this cool: "None.''

Jones tossed Troy Aikman's name into the postgame conversation, and Brady was in there, and Roethlisberger, too. (And Romo, of course.) It's all very heady stuff, right, Dak?

“It was just excitement,” said Prescott of the emotions hidden by his cool demeanor. “I wanted to scream, jump up and down and all around. I was just excited to get that first win.”

FISHTIPS 5) I am a fan of Jason Garrett on a personal level, as you probably know. But in last week's lost to the Giants, as Terrance  Williams caught so much heat for bad situational football, I believed Garrett should share the blame.

If a student cannot learn, does that make him a bad student? Or is he the victimized pupil of a bad teacher?

Late last week, as part of the teacher/student "process, the Cowboys used practice at the Ford Center and "re-enacted the crime'' of the last-minute loss. The scoreboard read "20-19'' with a few ticks left on the clock, and Dallas practiced "situations.''

Would there be lessons learned, or would there be a homework hangover?

RESULT: The Prescott-led offense certainly looked like it has some level of situational mastery in Washington, even as T-Will was held without a catch. Church and Crawford and Justin Durant were "situational winners,'' too.

But maybe Dallas goes back into the Ford Center this week, back up on the scoreboard, and re-enacts a couple of scenes that kept budding star Ezekiel Elliott from staying on the field at game's end. His two fumbles (one lost) could've been -- should've been? - game-losers.

"Whenever the ball is in my hand, it's my responsibility to protect it," said Elliott, the rookie running back who fumbled just three times in three years at Ohio State. "It's on me."

So FishTips comes away with optimism here: A gameplan formulated and executed and a win as a result ... with the only flaw being fumbles from a non-fumbler.


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