The Cowboys entered Sundays game against the Washington Redskins looking to rebound from a frustrating loss to the New York Giants just a week ago. A big focus for Dallas coming into this week, was getting Dez Bryant more involved in the offense. It would be a tough task against Josh Norman and the Washington secondary, but Dez and the rest of the Cowboys offense was up to the task, edging the Redskins 27-23 on their home field. (With big-play help from the D, too!)
A mostly chronological "20 Takes" from an important win ...
1. After a nice opening drive for the Cowboys, led by Dak Prescott’s 75 yards through the air, the Cowboys were unable to get into the end zone from goal-to-go distance. It has been a tough go for Dallas in the red zone dating back to last week, which was held to yet another field goal in enemy territory, to take a 3-0 lead.
Zeke Elliott meanwhile, continued to struggle running the football on the opening drive, tallying three yards on just three carries.
2. Despite a big play from DeSean Jackson, the Cowboys were able to get off the field on defense, thanks a bigtime missed opportunity on a deep throw from Kirk Cousins to Jamison Crowder. You can chalk this stop up to luck, because Crowder couldn’t have been more wide open than he was. Cousins just flat-out missed him, leading to a Redskins punt.
3. The Cowboys continued to move the ball on next drive behind some good running from Zeke Elliott, and some poised and accurate passing from Dak. Elliott put together his best string of runs in this young season, gaining 25 yards on five carries, including a one-yard touchdown plunge, that put the Cowboys up 10-0. The biggest play of the drive was without a doubt the fourth-down conversion, in which Dak hit Geoff Swaim on a play-action that went for 28 yards and put Dallas deep in Redskins territory.
4. If the Cowboys plan was to get Dez going early - and if you read CHQ you knew it was as of last Thursday - that certainly succeeded in that regard. Bryant had three grabs for 41 yards in the first quarter. Scott Linehan moved Dez around the field ... and kept him away from All-Pro corner Josh Norman, leading to some early success? Kinda. But the Cowboys game plan wasn't about avoiding Norman; it was about feeding Bryant.
5. The Redskins answered the Cowboys touchdown with one of their own on the following drive, when Matt Jones bruised his way in for a 14-yard score. Cousins dissected the Cowboys defense, going 5/6 for 54 yards on the drive. ... The biggest of which was a 25-yarder to Jordan Reed to open things up for the offense. The pass put the Skins at midfield right off the bat, and put the Dallas D on its heels.
6. The Cowboys would come up empty on the next drive, after a holding call on Travis Fredrick nullified a first-down run by Prescott on 3rd and 10. The penalty put the Cowboys back to 3rd and 20, which led to a check-down to Lance Dunbar, and a punt for the Cowboys.
7. The Cowboys defense would answer with a stop, though, after a sack of Cousins, and a miss on a deep ball to DeSean Jackson. I for one didn’t think it was humanly possible to overthrow Jackson, but somehow this QB managed to do it. The miss led to a punt for Washington, giving Dallas the ball back at the Cowboys 44-yard line.
8. I continue to be impressed with the poise of Prescott. He keeps his cool under pressure in the pocket, and delivers confident, smart throws on a consistent basis. The difference between him and previous Cowboys “Romo-Replacements” is so vast, it’s refreshing. The following possession for Dak and the Cowboys would be held to a field goal, but Prescott showed some very impressive stuff on the drive, and Dallas took 13-7 lead.
9. The Redskins answered yet again with a field goal, cutting the Dallas lead to 13-10 with just 26 seconds left in the half. The ‘Boys would take that lead into the locker room, with Washington ready to receive the ball to open the second half of play. Prescott ended the first half 12/18 for 182 yards, with Dez catching four balls for 56 yards, and Zeke rushing 12 times for 44 yards and a touchdown.
10. The Cowboys defense, all things considered, did a decent job getting pressure on Cousins, but still had a hard time slowing down the Washington passing attack. If not for a couple of bad misses on deep balls Cousins, the score could very well have been 21-13 Washington instead of 13-10 Dallas. Credit to Jack Crawford for contributing a sack to this point.
11. The Redskins opened up the second half with a scorching-hot passing performance from Cousins, who led an 8-play 75-yard drive in just 3:44 of game time. Cousins was 5/6 for 64 yards on the drive, and hit Crowder for an 11-yard TD to close things out, giving Washington a 17-13 lead to start out the second half of play.
12. Elliott really improved on his running from last week. He showed more patience and vision throughout the game, which is something he was unable to do last week against New York. The changes in his game this week led to a much more consistent and confident performance from the young bell cow.
13. The seesaw battle at quarterback continued on the next drive, with Dak Prescott getting the Cowboys into the end zone on his own scramble run. This was the first NFL touchdown of Prescott’s career, and gave Dallas a 20-17 lead. The bulk of the drive, though, was the running of Elliott, who had four carries for 39 yards, good for just under 10 yards-per-carry.
14. Following the Cowboys touchdown, Jason Garrett opted to attempt an onside kick, which went disastrously, and gave Washington momentum, and a short field in which to work. To some, it's not clear what prompted this decision, but if you follow Fish on Twitter or read his "FishTips'' column you were probably nodding your head ...
The play gave Washington some momentum with good field position.
15. Cousins would answer right back for Washington, leading the Redskins to a field goal, and tying the game 20-20 with 2:06 to go in the third quarter. After an explosive start for his receivers, the Cowboys were able to put some pressure on Cousins at the end of the drive, and save face. Mo Claiborne made a great play stopping Vernon Davis for a one-yard loss, continuing his exceptional play on the afternoon.
16. Elliott would fumble on the first play of the Cowboys following possession, leading to another Washington score on a 21-yard field goal, giving Washington a 23-20. Despite a roughing the passer penalty on Anthony Hitchens, and an offside call on Cedric Thornton, the Cowboys defense was able to hold Washington on a short field, which was a huge win.
Elliott had some ball security issues late in the game, coughing the ball up yet again later in the game. He was pulled in crunch time in favor of the sure-handed Alfred Morris, but overall, it was still a decent day ... marred by slippery fingers ... for the budding star.
17. The Cowboys were unable to respond on their next drive, after going three and out for the first time in the game, and giving the ball right back to Redskins. Cousins would take advantage after the punt, hitting Josh Doctson on a deep route for 57-yards. However, the Cowboys defense stood tall in the red zone, and forced Cousins to throw an interception to Barry Church in the end zone. It was the second time in as many drives that the Cowboys answered the call in the red zone on defense, limiting a potentially 14-point Washington lead into just a three-point lead.
Speaking of the Cowboys defense, Claiborne may have played his best game as a Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He consistently held down his side area of the field, and came up huge on multiple end-zone attempts by the Redskins. The former sixth-overall pick has had struggles in his career up to this point, but this game was a different story. He was maybe the best defender on the field for Dallas all day long, and maybe, just maybe, he has turned a corner.
18. Prescott showed some serious stones one the following Cowboys drive, leading the Cowboys on an extremely impressive 11-play, 80-yard drive, which was capped off by a four-yard Morris touchdown run. On the drive, Prescott was 4/5 for 53 yards, including a huge 12-yard pitch-and-catch to Cole Beasley on 3rd-and-11 late in the drive. The touchdown drive gave Dallas a 27-23 lead with 4:45 to go in the fourth quarter.
19. Justin Durant and Sean Lee both came up huge for the Cowboys on the following Redskins possession, forcing a turnover on downs for Washington, and giving the Cowboys the ball at the Washington 44-yard line. Dallas was unable to do anything with the field position, but following a nice punt from Chris Jones, Washington would have 90 yards to travel in just over a minute and a half to play.
20. Washington got the ball into Dallas territory after a few quick strikes from Cousins, but thanks to a Washington penalty occurring while the clock was still running, the Redskins incurred a 10-second runoff at a crucial point in the game. The penalty gave the 'Skins one last shot at the end zone from just shy of midfield. The pass sailed out of the back of the end zone, giving the Cowboys a 27-23 win at FedEx field.
Prescott would finish the game 22/30 for 292 yards and a rushing touchdown, while Zeke toted the rock 21 times for 83 yards and a touchdown, while averaging four yards-per-carry. Finally, after one of the most disappointing games of his career last Sunday, and a swirl of doubts about his ability to be effective with Prescott under center by national pundits, Dez Bryant responded with seven grabs for 102 yards on 12 targets.
The win marked the first in the career of Dak Prescott, and brought the ‘Boys to 1-1 on the year with the Chicago Bears coming to Arlington next Sunday night.