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Ten thoughts on the Cowboys 31-21 win over the Redskins

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A big win for the Cowboys deserves some thoughts.

Dallas Cowboys v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Don’t look now, but the Dallas Cowboys are leading the NFC East after their 31-21 victory over the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys finish the week 2-0 with the best divisional record. It’s a great way to begin the 2019 season, and things will only get better when they host a Miami team that has allowed over 100 points so far this season in just two games.

There were a lot of things to like in this one as the Cowboys continue with their strong start to their season. Here are 10 thoughts on today’s action.

1. Another slow beginning

The Cowboys offense has been very good this season, but it took them a little bit to get going against the Redskins. On the team’s first three possessions, two of them were three-and-outs. They started to get something going on their second possession of the game when they crossed into Redskins territory, but a deflected pass off the hands of Randall Cobb ended that drive.

For the second straight game, the Cowboys have fallen behind 7-0. And just like last time, it had a comfortable ending, but the team likes to keep us on the edge of our seat early on as we wonder if a let down game is on the menu. So far, it hasn’t been.

2. Five straight scores! Again!

The Cowboys offense may have taken a little bit to get warmed up, but once they did - they’ve been unstoppable. Just like last week, the Cowboys scored on five straight possessions. They actually scored a touchdown on each drive, however a Tony Pollard touchdown run was nullified by an Amari Cooper holding penalty. The Cowboys still scored four touchdowns in that span, including three straight 75-yard+ TD drives.

The Cowboys offense seemed to flip a switch and upped the tempo as the passing game was unleashed. The team started getting some chunk plays in the passing game, including a 35-yard play to Michael Gallup and a 51-yard touchdown to Devin Smith. Prescott even took off running for a big 42-yard play. When it was all said and done, the Cowboys had another big day of offense.

3. The Cooper coincidence?

NFC East teams simply cannot beat the Cowboys with Amari Cooper. The team’s star receiver had a modest four catches for just 44 yards. Granted, he did catch a touchdown pass, but on the surface it wasn’t anything to brag about.

Despite his low individual numbers, there’s just something about him being on the team that elevates this Cowboys offense against their NFC East divisional foes. In his six games against NFC East teams, the offense has had over 400 yards in each of them. They’ve won every one of those games. Whether Cooper has a big day statistically or not, he opens things up for the Cowboys offense.

4. The Dakuracy continues

How do you top a nice 78% completion percentage to open the season? How about completing 86% of your passes the following week? Prescott finished the game 26-for-30 for 269 yards, and three touchdowns. He completed his last 18 passes, and to be honest - the streak could’ve been even longer.

Even when his passes were incomplete, they were on target. Of the four incompletions, two of them had great coverage by the Redskins defenders. You could argue that there was some early contact on those plays. And the other two should’ve been caught. Granted, Dak’s pick that went off of Cobb’s hands was thrown behind him. And on the deep throw to Michael Gallup, the receiver just got turned around and wasn’t able to properly locate the ball.

5. Witten closing in on Dez

Jason Witten only caught four passes for 25 yards, but he sure knows how to make them count. Prescott found his veteran tight end for a two-yard pass near the goal line to give the Cowboys their first lead of the game. Witten now has a touchdown in each of the first two games this season, and he’s closing in on the Cowboys all-time receiving touchdown list.

6. Ground game control

The Cowboys dominated the running game with over four times as many yards as the Redskins. Dallas had 213 yards on the ground compared to the just 47 for Washington. Ezekiel Elliott had 111 yards on 23 carries, but he was helped out with 69 yards added by Prescott.

Adrian Peterson just never got going, only rushing for 25 yards on 10 carries. With no ability to run the ball, the Redskins were forced to attack through the air. While Case Keenum played okay, it just wasn’t enough to keep up with Dallas.

7. Mixed bag for Byron

Early on, Cowboys All-Pro cornerback Byron Jones was knocking down everything thrown his way. He looked very good regardless of who he was covering. It was great to see him back in action after being limited last week.

But as great as he played early, he was terrible as the game progressed. Jones just seemed a little late arriving to the ball, and he struggled covering rookie receiver Terry McLaurin. He gave up too much of a cushion on a 20-yard play over the middle of the field.

And then just never got his head turned around to make a play on the ball on a back shoulder fade, allowing McLaurin to score a touchdown late in the game.

It wasn’t the best showing for Jones, but keep in mind - he missed all of camp recovering from hip surgery. Jones is in a contract year, so he’s hoping better days are ahead.

8. Defense still not up to snuff

It’s tough to be hard on the defense when the team has now had two straight games with leads up to 17 points in the fourth quarter. The defense has allowed a garbage touchdown in each of those games. On the surface, they’re getting the job done. In fact, they only allowed the Redskins to have 255 total yards of offense. That’s pretty darn good. To put that in perspective, they only had two games all of last year where their defense allowed fewer yards (Jacksonville and New Orleans).

But as good as it is, they’re still lacking intensity. They only sacked Case Keenum once, and the team wasn’t able to force any turnovers. This level of play works for now, but once they face some of these stronger offensive teams, that’s not going to cut it. The Cowboys defense needs to step it up if they are going to reach an elite level.

9. Another Maher doink

There must be something about the goal posts at FedEx field that has some sort of gravitational pull on Brett Maher’s kicks, because he Cowboys kicker has now hit the upright in two straight trips to Washington. Last year, the ball bounced out, costing the Cowboys the game. On Sunday, he would get a much more friendlier bounce as an extra point found it’s way through the goal posts.

The Cowboys haven’t had to worry too much about the erratic kicking situation that is Brett Maher as nine of the ten Cowboys scores this year have been touchdowns. Maher is a perfect 1/1 on field goals this season with a 25-yarder on Sunday against the Redskins.

10. Looking ahead

The Cowboys have taken care of business getting wins we were expecting them to get. And with the hapless Miami Dolphins coming to town, a 3-0 start awaits. The team then travels to New Orleans to face the Saints, but it’s possible New Orleans will be without their star quarterback as Drew Brees suffered a thumb injury in Sunday’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cowboys also may end up facing a Sam Darnold-less New York Jets team a couple weeks after that. While we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves, the table is certainly set for the Cowboys to pile on the wins in the first half of their schedule.