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Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins: Game Ball of the Week

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The defense came to play!

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Dallas Cowboys have won multiple games in a row for the first time this season and man, does it feel great. The Cowboys are now sitting at 4-3 and look to make a run for a playoff berth as the Chiefs come to town in week nine. While it was not the prettiest of wins on Sunday afternoon, it was a very crucial one. BTB’s own Tom Ryle wrote that all you can really hope for in these divisional rivalries is a win.

It was not the beatdown so many were hoping for from the Cowboys, but it was a crucial win they really needed to keep pace behind the surging Philadelphia Eagles. There were frequent miscues, but also big plays by all three units for the Cowboys. You just cannot predict things when Dallas and Washington get together - and it is still a win. Sometimes, that is all you can really hope for.

It was a total team effort on Sunday. While the offense did not look like the juggernaut that the unit did against the Packers and 49ers, the defense made some big time plays throughout the rainy afternoon. Even the special teams got in on the fun, as Mike Nugent nailed four of his five field goal attempts (and all three PATs) and the unit made a momentum-shifting play that turned the tide in favor of America’s Team.

This week’s game ball has to go to the defense. As Dak and the passing game struggled in the wet conditions, the defense came up with big play after big play throughout the game.

First, the unit held Washington to just a field goal after Kirk Cousins and company were rewarded a short field after an opening play turnover in which Ezekiel Elliott coughed up the ball on the first play from scrimmage. It was a huge win, as the offense would eventually go down and put up seven on the board on the ensuing possession. Who knows what would have happened if the Redskins took control of all of the momentum that quickly in the game?

The unit continued to make play after play throughout the game. Sure, there were times were the Redskins made it look easy driving down the field — particularly in the first half — and the Cowboys were at least initially limited in getting pressure on Cousins early, but the defense may have played its best game of the season.

Once the pass rush came alive, so did the rest of the defense. Demarcus Lawrence continued his Defensive Player of the Year-caliber season by getting to the quarterback once (10.5 for the season!), hitting Cousins twice more, recorded two tackles, and a TFL. David Irving has played like a man possessed since returning from his four-game suspension against the Packers back in week five. 95 added four tackles, one pass deflection, and two sacks — his fourth and fifth of the season in three games! Oh, and he also partially blocked a Redskins’ field goal attempt that was nearly returned for a touchdown and gave Dallas the momentum for the rest of the game.

Sean Lee, the captain of the defense, led the defense in tackles on Sunday with nine (five solo). Tyrone Crawford has himself a day, too, by also partially blocking Washington’s FG try and, recording three total tackles, and sacking Cousins — which resulted in a fumble that was recovered by DeMarcus Lawrence. Not to be outdone, Orlando Scandrick racked up eight tackles (seven solo), two TFLs, and nearly returned the blocked field goal all the way back for six!

Those are the kind of plays you need from your veterans, especially in a pivotal divisional game. He played lights out and had his best game of the season on Sunday. Here’s hoping Scandrick continues his excellent play in these upcoming games!

Elsewhere on the defense, fullback/linebacker Keith Smith forced a fumble on a kickoff return in the third quarter, Taco Charlton nearly made his first career highlight by almost coming down with an athletic interception that would have ended the game. Jaylon Smith added three tackles, played his heart out, hit Kirk Cousins, and also nearly came down with an interception in the fourth quarter.

Byron Smith recorded five total tackles and had the game-sealing pick-six at the end of the game:

With all of the talk about explosive this offense can be, it was a pleasant surprise to see how well the defense performed on Sunday. Sure, there were times where it was frustrating that the defense could not get off of the field or gave up big plays, but the unit as a whole played very well in a huge divisional game.

The defense may be turning the corner at the right time, which is huge news for the Dallas Cowboys as they continue this crucial stretch of games.