The Dallas Cowboys had to work a bit harder, but got another win over Washington by the score of 31-21. Dallas is now off to a 2-0 start, with both wins over division rivals, and have scored 31 or more points in both games, while having a two score or more margin of victory in each as well.
The big unknown for the Cowboys coming into this game was whether their season opener against the New York Giants was a fluke, or something that they could reproduce. While it took them a little longer, this game wound up looking very similar. In the season opener, the Cowboys fell behind 7-0 before coming back to go into halftime with a 21-7 lead. Against Washington, they fell behind 7-0 before they took the second half kickoff and marched down the field to get to a 21-7 lead. Last week, the Cowboys had to drive the length of the field for all their scores, going 75, 93, 83, 75 and 89 yards for their touchdowns. This game had 97, 83, and 75 TD yard drives. That is a good news, bad news type of thing, as it shows that this team is very good at sustaining drives, but that it isn’t getting many short fields from takeaways or big ST plays. And they strung scoring drives together once they got on track, with five consecutive trips yielding points.
Oh, and Jason Witten scored the second touchdown in each game, with Amari Cooper getting the next, and Ezekiel Elliott closing the scoring out with a rushing TD. On the bad side, the defense was again not as stout as we would have liked to see, and their were too many penalties again. Washington was also pretty bad in that department, which helped the Cowboys with their second touchdown.
However, there were some differences that should be noted as well. It took the Cowboys longer to get on track this game, scoring their first touchdown on their fourth possession. They gave up their first turnover of the season on a pass from Dak Prescott that was a bit behind Randall Cobb, but still went off his hands. Also for the first time they had to settle for a field goal in the red zone, with penalties once again hurting them, including a hold on Cooper that wiped out what would have been Tony Pollard’s first touchdown. Admittedly, replay showed that had Cooper not held, his man would likely have stopped Pollard at or near the line of scrimmage. It was another long drive, covering 68 yards before the first failed red zone possession of the year.
But one first that was not wiped out belongs to Devin Smith, who got the initial touchdown of the game on a 51 yard reception. He had Josh Norman covering, but it looked like Norman was supposed to have help. It probably was a case where the play design helped make it happen. And that was not the only play Smith made, as he was the surprise leader in receiving yardage with a total of 74 yards on three catches, including that long strike, of course. Michael Gallup was the leader in receptions, grabbing six passes for 68 yards. Cooper of course had the touchdown. Cobb was quiet, with only 24 yards on five receptions, but added 11 on a couple of jet sweeps.
Ezekiel Elliott saw a workload that was much closer to what we are used to, with 23 carries for 111 yards, thanks to a big run while the Cowboys were mostly just running clock, and the final Cowboys touchdown, plus a couple of catches for nine more.
Dak Prescott was not nearly as impressive as in week 1, but he still completed 87% of his passes for 269 yards, threw 3 touchdowns, had a 123.5 passer rating, and was big in the running game, with 69 yards on five carries, including a career long 42 yards on a beautifully executed zone read play.
Washington made it close in the second half, pulling to within a touchdown at 21-14. Dallas left the door open a crack when they only answered with that field goal, but the door was slammed when their defense stopped Washington on a fourth and three at the Dallas 46 yard line. That finally gave the Cowboys a short field, and they marched briskly down the field to push the lead to 17 points with only 5:07 left, putting it pretty much on ice.
The Cowboys did dredge up some old trends in this game. They appeared to be running more on first down, and then after taking the big lead, the defense played soft, which allowed Washington to get another touchdown to narrow the lead, but they were forced to burn some time.
It was not quite as impressive as the first game of the season, but it was still a big win. There were warts, but we really couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season.