The Dallas Cowboys ended their three-game losing streak in decisive fashion with a 38-14 win over Washington, moving back to .500 and keeping their faint playoff hopes alive. The Philadelphia Eagles will also have to wait to pop the champagne — a Washington victory would’ve clinched the NFC East title for Philly. Washington has now lost five of its last seven games.
The first half was pretty much a worst-case scenario for Washington. The Cowboys forced three turnovers (an interceptions and two fumbles) and ran out to a 17-0 lead even while Dak Prescott struggled to move the ball without Ezekiel Elliott. An 83-yard punt return by Ryan Switzer made all the difference in the second quarter.
Only a late touchdown drive by Kirk Cousins kept the game from getting completely out of hand as Dallas went into halftime with a 17-7 lead. Neither team managed to score in the third quarter, but Dallas extended its lead at the start of the fourth with a vintage touchdown grab by Dez Bryant.
Washington wasn’t quite dead yet, though — Cousins hit Josh Doctson in the end zone to make it a 10-point game again. Doctson really got up for this catch, possibly not wanting to be shown up by Dez.
That was the closest it got to coming back. Dallas slammed the door with a long drive that ate up the clock, ending with a goal-line plunge by Alfred Morris to make it 31-14. Cousins threw his second pick of the night and Rod Smith iced the game for good.
4 things we learned
1. The Cowboys’ offense was more functional than usual
It’s no secret that Dallas’ offense has struggled without Elliott. That might even be an understatement — the Cowboys haven’t reached 10 points in a game since his suspension started. They finally broke that streak Thursday night, largely because they were able to run the ball again.
Morris ran for 127 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, putting the offense on his back in the second half as Prescott battled through a hand injury. Prescott was still skittish at times and missed throws he should’ve made, but it was an improvement over his previous games. He finished with just 102 yards on 11-of-22 passing, but his two touchdown passes helped swing the game. The Cowboys need more consistent performances like this if they hope to crawl back into the playoff race.
2. Washington undone by injuries again
Trent Williams returned from a knee injury, but Washington’s offensive line suffered yet another major loss when right tackle Morgan Moses got carted off with an ankle injury. As a result, the right side collapsed, and Cousins was under siege from Demarcus Lawrence and company, eating four sacks and fumbling twice. Samaje Perine was also evaluated for a concussion, but eventually checked back into the game. He mostly took a backseat as Washington abandoned the run in the second half.
Cousins ended up with 251 yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions on 26-of-37 passing. He did his best to stage a comeback before it fell apart late, but Washington was behind the eight ball all night thanks to ...
3. Jamison Crowder had a night to forget
Crowder’s first-half miscues were a major reason for Washington falling behind. With his team in the red zone in the first quarter, Crowder let a pass bounce off his hands for an interception, killing an early scoring chance.
Later on, he fumbled away a punt return at midfield, again wasting good field position.
Crowder settled down and had a solid game in the second half, finishing with five catches for 67 yards on seven targets. But those early mistakes set the tone and doomed Washington in the long run.
4. Cowboys’ season stays alive for now; Washington’s almost done
The Cowboys move to 6-6 and, for the moment, are still hanging around the playoff picture. They still have a ways to go — the Carolina Panthers (8-3), Atlanta Falcons (7-4), Seattle Seahawks (7-4), and Detroit Lions (6-5) are all ahead of them in the Wild Card standings. Still, this win gives them some measure of hope, especially with Sean Lee coming back from injury soon and Elliott slated to return in Week 16. Dallas will surely be doing a lot of scoreboard-watching on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Washington falls to 5-7 and is pretty much out of it. Its best hope is to win out and get tons of help, but 9-7 might not be good enough in a stacked NFC this year. With Washington running out of things to play for, the attention will soon shift to the future of Cousins, whose pending free agency is looming ever closer.