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The Cowboys tried to lose, but Dak Prescott and Washington’s mistakes kept them in it

The Cowboys beat Washington because their rookie quarterback was better than Kirk Cousins.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys started their backup quarterback. Washington started a man who is getting paid a shade under $20 million this season. In the second half, the Cowboys went for an onside kick and botched it, lost a fumble right in front of the end zone AND blew a coverage to give up a 57-yard pass. Somehow Washington screwed it all up.

The biggest difference in the Cowboys’ 27-23 win on Sunday’s was the quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins, the man making a case for a long-term contract this season, misfired all day. His numbers look okay — 28-of-46 for 364 yards, one touchdown and one interception — but what you don’t see reflected in those numbers are the missed opportunities. Cousins overthrew DeSean Jackson on what would have been a deep first-half touchdown, underthrew Josh Doctson on his 57-yard reception to prevent a score, and threw a terrible red zone interception in the fourth quarter.

Three big plays — the onside kick, fumble recovery and bomb to Doctson — led to just six total points, as the NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo pointed out, keeping the Cowboys around long enough for the game’s steadier quarterback to win it.

Dak Prescott stayed mistake-free, going 22-of-30 for 292 yards, and more importantly led the Cowboys’ game-winning drive after Cousins’ pick. Prescott went 5-of-6 on the drive, which included a third-and-11 conversion to Washington’s 12-yard line. Prescott then hit Jason Witten for an 8-yard gain to set up Alfred Morris’ game-winning 4-yard touchdown plunge.

Football is a fickle thing, especially for quarterbacks. This isn’t necessarily to say that Cousins is bad, but that staying consistently good is hard, and looking good at all is incredibly impressive. Prescott outperformed the veteran who is getting paid much, much more money, and that should make Cowboys fans excited.