By Elwyn Henderson
The 7-3 Dallas Cowboys faced the 4-7 Washington Commanders Thursday afternoon in the Cowboys annual Thanksgiving Day game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. When the smoke cleared Dallas had moved their record to 8-3 with a 45-10 win, two games behind the NFC East leaders, the Philadelphia Eagles who have the best record in the NFL at 9-1 on the year. With the loss the Commanders dropped to 4-8. 93,711 fans left the stadium happy with the results.
Dallas won the coin toss prior to the game and elected to defer to begin the game. Brandon Aubrey’s kickoff went through the end zone and the Commanders set up at their 25 to begin the contest.
Sam Howell brought his offensive teammates out and got them rolling early on. He moved his unit to the Dallas 44 where the Cowboys forced a Tress Way punt on fourth down. The kick was fair caught by KaVontae Turpin and Dak Prescott brought the Cowboys offense on the field at that point to begin their first possession.
Thanks to a couple of overthrown passes by Prescott Bryan Anger had to punt the ball away on the second series. The punt was taken at the 3 by the Commanders, but Sam Williams was called for a face mask on the tackle and Washington began their second drive at their 18.
They moved the ball down to the Dallas 44 and then Way punted the ball to Turpin who made a fair catch at the Dallas 10 and Prescott and company returned to the field 90 yards from the end zone.
It took 11 plays and 5:07 of clock time, but the drive ended 90 yards later when Prescott hit Rico Dowdle on a 15-yard TD pass with 46 seconds left in the first quarter. Aubrey split the uprights on the PAT and Dallas took a 7-0 lead.
Aubrey’s ensuing kick went out of the end zone and after the touchback Howell and the Commanders went on the offensive again.
Howell drove his charges down to the Dallas 25 and on 4th and 15 Joey Slye nailed a 43-yard field goal with 11:27 left in the first half to bring Washington to within 4, at 7-3. The drive was 9 plays, 50 yards and took 4:19.
Prescott and the offense began their next drive at their 25 after Way’s kickoff went out of the end zone. The drive was run to perfection and ended when Prescott hit Brandin Cooks on a 31-yard TD pass with 8:27 left in the half. Aubrey’s extra point try was good and Dallas extended their lead to 14-3. The drive was 6 plays, 75 yards and consumed exactly 3 minutes.
Howell and the Commanders began at their 25 after yet another touchback. Howell led his offense on a lengthy 13-play, 75-yard drive that took 6:36 off the second quarter clock and culminated when Howell ran into the end zone from the 1 with 1:51 left in the half. Slye added the point after and the Commanders were within 4 points at 14-10.
Dallas began their final drive of the half at their 25 after a touchback of Way’s kickoff. Prescott led a perfect 2-minute drive, leading the team on a 5-play, 75-yard drive that took just 1:25. Aubrey’s PAT was wide left, but the Dallas lead advanced to 20-16 with 26 seconds left in the half.
Washington began at their 25 after a touchback. They ran 3 plays and the half ended with Dallas holding the 20-10 lead.
The ‘Boys received the second half kickoff and three-and-out after starting at their 25. Washington took over on their 8 after a 50-yard Anger punt and they moved down to the Dallas 38 and faced a 4th and 1. They went for it and the Dallas defense dropped the running back for a 2-yard loss and Prescott brought the offense back at their 20. They were forced to punt the ball away after suffering a three-and-out and following another Anger punt the Commanders set up shop at their 20 with 6:43 left in the third quarter.
They managed one first down and then Way punted away on fourth down. Turpin took the kick and was forced out of bounds on the Dallas 17 where Prescott brought the offense back on the field.
The offense moved the ball down to the Commanders 34 and on a 4th down Aubrey split the uprights on a 52-yard field goal with 13:36 left in the game, moving the score to 23-10 in favor of Dallas. The drive was 10 plays, 49 yards and took 4:47.
As they had all day, Washington began the next drive at their 25 after a touchback of the Aubrey kickoff. The Commanders went for a 4th and 1 and the defense dropped Howell for an 8-yard loss and Dallas set up at the 24 with a chance to put the game on ice.
They did just that, moving the 24 yards in just 3 plays and 1:21, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Prescott to CeeDee Lamb with 10:43 left in the game. Dallas went for 2 and Prescott successfully hit Lamb for the 2-point conversion, making the score 31-10 in favor of the home team.
Washington began on their 25 again after a touchback. They drove down to the Dallas 35 and an incomplete pass on fourth down turned the ball back over to the Cowboys on downs at their 35.
Prescott and the offense worked to perfection once again, moving the 65 yards in 5 plays and 2:51. The score came on a 34-yard TD pass from Prescott to Turpin with 5:59 left in the game and turning it officially into a laugher with a 38-10 score after Aubrey added the extra point.
The game became even more exciting for Cowboys fans on the next Washington drive as DaRon Bland intercepted a Howell pass at the Dallas 37 and returned it down the right side 67 yards for a pick-6. That was his 5th pick-6 this season, which is an NFL record for most in a season. Aubrey added the extra point and Dallas led 45-10 with 4:39 left in the game.
The Commanders began on their 25 again after a touchback of Aubrey’s kickoff. Howell moved his team down the field to the Dallas 42 and the game came to an end with Dallas taking the win, 25-10.
When Coach Mike McCarthy held his postgame press conference he was first asked about his thoughts overall about the performance of the offense and defense.
“I just want to say first that the players did an excellent job on a short week. I was very pleased with the preparation coming in. It’s just like anything; it’s the complementary football formula. These guys bought in and we’ll have some things that we’ll need to correct. That’s usually the case, but I’m really proud of the way we finished. They (the Commanders) did a good job of ball control. Offensively, we took some shots early and we didn’t hit them but we stayed the course and were able to win the ball game. (It was) another excellent home win for us.”
When quarterback Dak Prescott came in for his presser after the game he was asked what changed after the San Francisco loss earlier in the season that resulted in a meeting between him and Coach McCarthy and CeeDee Lamb that has brought the results since that game.
“I don’t know that I can put my finger on it and say this is why, but we know what we want to do. We know how we want to attack against these different teams. We’re running plays that we’ve run since the spring and we’ve dressed them out different ways and given them a different approach. Honestly, credit to the offensive line. That’s where it starts. The way that they’re protecting, giving me time to take shots down the field, allowing me to extend plays, whether I use my feet or make plays down the field, guys are running; guys are running to win. He’s (McCarthy) flying them off the call sheet and it feels good.”
Dallas is back home next Thursday night when they will host the Seattle Seahawks on an Amazon Prime Thursday Night Football game and they will try to keep the home winning streak continuing.