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Cowboys vs. Redskins: Five winners, five losers, and everything in between as Dallas takes first place

It’s going to be a fun week as the Cowboys take the lead in the NFC East.

NFL: Washington Redskins at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

For the third time in a row the Dallas Cowboys won a football game, the latest one on Thanksgiving. It was just about everything we could have wanted.

The Cowboys now sit atop the NFC East and control their own destiny which is something that seemed impossible less than 20 days ago after the Monday Night Football loss to the Tennessee Titans. Time, and winning, heals all wounds.

What did we take away from the big Turkey Day win, though? What is important that we learned? Welcome to BTB’s five winners, five losers, and just about everything in between.

Winner: Amari Cooper the number one wide receiver for the Cowboys

Thursday was the coming out party for Amari Cooper in Dallas as far as things go. It’s more clear than ever that the trade to go acquire him was a good one for the Cowboys.

Amari had the second-best day of his career as far as yardage is concerned, 180 is impressive, and in fact Dez Bryant only out-performed this once in his career. Nobody is comparing the receivers to one another we’re simply just noting how difficult a performance like this is to achieve.

Things were sluggish for the Cowboys before Cooper broke open the third quarter. He was more than the receiver they needed against Washington, he was the jolt they needed. He is paying dividends and then some.

Winner: DeMarcus Lawrence’s bank account... again

One of the more impressive storylines from this season that’s gone a bit unnoticed is how DeMarcus Lawrence is doing it... again. While Tank might not be racking up sacks at a historic rate he is without question making significant plays on a game by game basis.

Lawrence and the Cowboys look like they’re headed towards a long-term future with each other this offseason. If you were one of those apprehensive about giving him a deal because you wanted to see it done again, he’s likely alleviated whatever worries you had. Tank is a beast.

Winner: Dak Prescott... the runner

We’ll get to Dak Prescott’s passing prowess in a bit (spoiler, it’s in the not winners portion of this ride) but we need to discuss what he’s doing on the ground.

Dak has utilized his legs in efficient manners over the last couple of weeks. Many have chirped that the Cowboys should ride this wave at a larger frequency, but they have consistently chosen not to, that is until now.

Prescott can do quite a number of things on the ground which he proved against Washington. Let him get out in space and use that size of his and good things can happen. Good for him, this play was incredible.

Winner: Turnovers!

There was a long stretch of time early this season where the Cowboys had yet to record an interception. While the streak ended some time ago, another came to a conclusion against Washington when, for the first time this season, a Cowboys cornerback intercepted a pass.

Anthony Brown, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Xavier Woods all got their hands on passes thrown by Colt McCoy. Dallas won the turnover battle by a margin of three (they didn’t have any themselves) and that’s one of the more critical ingredients in a winning formula.

The Hot Boyz have been effective for a large part of the 2018 season but turnovers are key. Good for the Cowboys for finding a way to generate some, they were a huge part of the victory.

Winner: The offensive line play... sort of

Look, I understand that you might scoff at the notion of putting offensive line play in the winners portion of this conversation, but allow me to explain.

The Dallas Cowboys played against the Washington Redskins without Tyron Smith, Connor Williams, and Travis Frederick. That’s the left wing and middle point of their intended offensive line. While it’s true that early on Dallas was allowing too many Redskins to get to Dak Prescott, it’s also true that the line buckled down later on and more importantly, helped propel Ezekiel Elliott to another fantastic day on the ground.

Marc Colombo has really done wonders with this unit since taking over a month ago. They managed to put some impressive duct tape on Dak’s defenders and while they’re definitely not the elite offensive line we saw for a few seasons they’re holding their own. That’s impressive and a win in many ways.

Loser: Dak Prescott... the passer

Similar to the way we all like to eat our Thanksgiving food, let’s get right to the point and not mess around.

Dak didn’t have the best day in the air for the Cowboys. Yes, he threw some nice passes and the 90-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper was perfectly placed, but he also one-hopped some balls and had some very questionable throws in general.

Prescott is still clearly struggling at the passing element of being a quarterback in the NFL. The unfortunate news is that passing is sort of a fundamental part of playing the position so his struggles there are going to limit both him and the team as a whole. We’ve definitely seen Dak make big time NFL throws, but on Sunday he made some glaring ugly ones.

Loser: Lance Lenoir on punt coverage

Last week in Atlanta we saw Lance Lenoir commit a penalty when covering a punt. That’s something you cannot do and he did it. Not good.

Against Washington, Lance Lenoir had an opportunity to light up the Redskins return man and instead whiffed, and he whiffed hard. There are many Lenoir truthers around these parts who want to see him succeed, but when you’re in his position you have to make the absolute most of all of your snaps and he just isn’t doing that so far this season.

Loser: The Oakland Raiders

Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper had fantastic Thanksgiving Day performances for their new teams. Thanks, Jon Gruden.

Funny how Jay Gruden was on the wrong end of some of this.

Loser: The non-Cowboys NFC East teams

Things have taken a drastic turn in the NFL’s most storied division and right now it’s the Dallas Cowboys who have all the power. That’s what being in first place means.

Other teams are scrambling and trying to find their own path to hoisting the division crown. Eagles fans are even talking themselves in to how a Cowboys win on Thursday was good for them, but in spite of that their fans believe Dallas will win the division when it’s all said and done.

The tables sure have turned.

Loser: Putting the game away... still

The Cowboys took a 31-13 lead just after the fourth quarter began and a lot of celebrating started in homes around the globe. That lead should be safe, right?

Unfortunately the Washington Redskins went down and scored their own touchdown shortly after which made things feel a little dicey, but the Cowboys offense was rolling. They should have been able to keep the momentum going and put the game away, right? Wrong.

Dallas has been unable to keep their foot on their gas and effectively put games away this season. They possessed the ball twice more in the game and those drives resulted in a turnover on downs and a punt. That’s not exactly a killer instinct.

Thanksgiving was a win and that’s the most important thing to note, but the way the Cowboys handled themselves offensively after they got the big lead was definitely towards a more conservative approach. The thing even is, you can be conservative in a situation like that. It’s understandable that you would want to be, but you also have to be able to ice a game. You have to be able to end it on your terms.

We haven’t seen that from the Cowboys. It sure would be nice for it to happen soon.

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