There was little "typical'' about Dallas' 27-23 win at Washington on Sunday.
After the Cowboys pulled ahead 20-17 thanks to a four-yard Dak Prescott scramble late in the third quarter, "typically conservative'' Jason Garrett called an onside kick that didn't clear 10 yards, giving Washington a short field to work with setting up at the Dallas 38-yard line. Washington's defense had moved the ball with ease the past two possessions, so having a short field meant a touchdown would be a given.
On third-and-6 from the Dallas 11-yard line, Kirk Cousins, who finished going 28/46 for 364 yards, a touchdown, and an interception, threw the ball out of bounds after immense pressure from defensive end David Irving. Washington settled for a 29-yard Dustin Hopkins field goal to tie the game 20-20.
After Ezekiel Elliott's first of two fumbles on the day, Washington got the ball at the Dallas 34-yard line. With the defense presumably gassed, a touchdown would be inevitable. However, the defense found a way to get the Washington offense off the field after Cousins missed Pierre Garcon on a third-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Washington trotted out Hopkins again for a 21-yard field goal to increase their lead to 23-20 with seven seconds in the third quarter.
Dallas subsequently went three-and-out and gave the ball back to Washington, who again marched effortlessly down the field until they got down to the 6-yard line where safety Barry Church picked off an unsuspecting Cousins and gave Dallas the ball at their own 20-yard line. The Cowboys ran an 11-play drive that helped Dallas retake the lead 27-23 with 4:45 to play in the game. One Cowboys rookie, Prescott, looked good going 6/6 for 55 yards on the drive while the other, Elliott, was benched after fumbling for a second time in the game. Though this possession was not turned over, the Dallas coaching staff substituted ex-Washington running back Alfred Morris, who scored a 4-yard touchdown.
“How appropriate for our defense to be actually, at the end of the day, the difference-maker,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
"Appropriate''? How about "atypical''?
On fourth-and-1 from the Washington 44-yard line after the two-minute warning, Dallas linebacker Justin Durant, who returned to the Cowboys during training camp, knocked the ball away from Garcon to force Washington off the field and give the ball back to the offense to run out the clock. The Cowboys weren't able to do that, and thus sent the ball back into the hands of the home team. Cousins had a chance to earn his fifth game-winning drive of his career, though Washington had no timeouts left.
With 1:05 to play on third-and-10 from their own 10-yard line following a Tyrone Crawford sack on Cousins, running back Chris Thompson caught a 38-yard pass to move Washington out to midfield. Because Washington had no more timeouts, they had to trade downs for clock stoppage as they spiked the football every first down. Ultimately, this would hurt Washington as they had first-and-10 from the Dallas 36. Center Kory Lichtensteiger double-pumped the snap and incurred a false start penalty, which was not only a five-yard penalty but a 10-second runoff giving Washington seven seconds to try to win the game on a Hail Mary pass into the end zone. Dallas knocked the ball down and the game ended.
The Cowboys first touchdown of the game came on a drive that showcased the creativity of the Garrett-Linehan offensive brain trust, and incidentally called a play critics panned throughout the week. On fourth-and-1 from the Washington 30-yard line, Dallas ran a tight end screen to Geoff Swaim who rushed 28 yards to set up a Cowboys first-and-goal. After a pass interference call that set up Dallas at the Washington 1-yard line, Elliott picked up the touchdown easily to extend Dallas' lead to 10-0. The fourth overall pick would finish the day with 21 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown along with two fumbles.
Washington responded with a touchdown drive of their own that took eight plays and 3:31 off the clock. Washington never faced a third down play the entire drive as Cousins tight end Jordan Reed for a 25-yard pass, and was later aided by a questionable penalty on Dallas cornerback Morris Claiborne when he was hit with defensive holding against DeSean Jackson. Running back Matt Jones capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run that juked Sean Lee around as the second-year rusher barely broke the plane while engaged with safety Barry Church.
Jack Crawford managed to get a sack against Cousins on a second-and-9 from the Washington 26-yard line. Though the play backed up Washington on a third-and-15, DeSean Jackson was wide open as he beat double coverage. Yet, Cousins overthrew the receiver and Washington went three-and-out. On Washington's first drive of the game, Cousins similarly overthrew a receiver, that time Jamison Crowder, for a sure touchdown on third down.
Prescott continued to impress despite failing to throw a touchdown for the second-straight game of his career and being sacked four times. The fourth-round pick from Mississippi State went 22/30 for 292 yards. He also rushed the ball once for a 6-yard touchdown.
The rookie signal caller also did a better job distributing the ball this game. Receiver Dez Bryant caught seven passes for 102 yards, and receiver Cole Beasley caught five passes for 75 yards. Tight ends Jason Witten and Swaim caught three passes for 51 yards and two passes for 29 yards respectively. Even running back Lance Dunbar caught two passes for 26 yards.
A rookie QB succeeding for Dallas it a first road start? Zeke fumbling twice? Sacks and takeaways and "creativity'' and the feeding of Dez? None of it "typical,'' maybe, but all of it enough for a critical win in Week 2.
“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.”
As the Cowboys start off 1-1 for the fifth time since 2011, they host the Chicago Bears next Sunday night at AT&T Stadium, a venue they have not been victorious in since Opening Day 2015.
9:29 1st Quarter -- Dan Bailey hits a 22-yard field goal. 3-0 Cowboys
1:45 1st Quarter -- Ezekiel Elliott rushes for a 1-yard touchdown. 10-0 Cowboys
13:16 2nd Quarter -- Matt Jones rushes for a 14-yard touchdown. 10-7 Cowboys
4:39 2nd Quarter -- Dan Bailey hits a 31-yard field goal. 13-7 Cowboys
0:26 2nd Quarter -- Dustin Hopkins hits a 36-yard field goal. 13-10 Cowboys
11:23 3rd Quarter -- Jamison Crowder catches an 11-yard touchdown from Kirk Cousins. 17-13 Washington
5:47 3rd Quarter -- Dak Prescott rushes for a 6-yard touchdown. 20-17 Cowboys
2:10 3rd Quarter -- Dustin Hopkins hits a 29-yard field goal. 20-20
0:07 3rd Quarter -- Dustin Hopkins hits a 22-yard field goal. 23-20 Washington
4:49 4th Quarter -- Alfred Morris rushes for a 4-yard touchdown. 27-23 Cowboys
* This is the first time since Nov. 8, 2015 that Bryant has had a 100-yard game.
* Prescott's 103.8 passer rating is the fourth-best by a Cowboys rookie starting quarterback.
* Washington head coach Jay Gruden has not started 0-2 ever, and this is the first time since 2013, Mike Shanahan's final year, that the club has started off 0-2.
* According to our research (which is being vetted by Cowboys Radio Network stats man Bob Thomas), this is the first time the Cowboys have started two games into a season without a passing touchdown.
* This is the first time since Thanksgiving Day 2010 when the Cowboys had three different rushers score touchdowns.
* This is the first time since Dec. 4, 2014 in Chicago that Terrance Williams has not even been targeted. For his career, the Cowboys are 3-0 when he is not targeted.
THE FINAL WORD
:This week we kind of stepped up in the red zone, forced them into field goals, and we got a takeaway. I think that was the momentum we needed. Going forward if we want to keep winning and play like the defense we need to be, we need to play great in the red zone.” - Barry Church.