Knight, who has made four starts on the left this season, came in for Irving. Martin was replaced by Terence Steele who restored his old right. The combination of these moves added this 15th weird opening five to the Cowboys in the attacking line.
“Brandon and Terence, I can’t tell you how proud I am of those who jumped in there,” said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “But you know, you’re making changes. Unfortunately, we have little experience with that situation this year.”
Naturally, it is difficult to choose a bad opponent to face a compromised attack line. The Cowboys learned this lesson again in October when they traveled to play in Washington without Martin and surrendered six sacks.
This is not six excuses for Thursday, but it is a decided advantage for the first round draft selections of the visiting team.
The Cowboys ran 60 yards as a team, setting a new low for the season. Within that performance, Ezekiel Elliott managed just 32 yards out of 10 carries – he stumbled at the start of the third quarter, which was recovered by defender Jonathan Allen.
“I try to fight for extra yards,” Elliott said. “I think a foot might have kicked it before I got off.”
There was pressure, too. Andy Dalton was fired three times a day, including a third down two times. Throw in a sack of CD Lamb in a bad tactical play, Washington finished with four men that day. Dalton was out of pocket all evening.
“They have a big front seven, a big front seven,” Elliott said. “The D-Line are first-rounders, so I think they’re the best. They’re a tough team, with seven people advancing against.”
It came to a head with the game already decided. Washington took the lead 34-16, when Montez tore right through the barrier, batted Dalton’s pass into the air, caught it and drove 15 yards to the surprise point touchdown.
Irving and Martin will be further evaluated on Friday. As it stands now, their position is not clear. With any luck, their injuries are not long-term issues and they may return to try to give some stability to this level group.
However, this season does not fit, and the Cowboys’ offense is finding out how badly their luck can get.
“Like I said, thankfully we have some experienced guys who have played a lot of games this year,” Dalton said. “We have to keep going.”