We would rather win ugly than look pretty and lose. That is a universal truth.
The Dallas Cowboys won ugly on Sunday in Maryland, and have won ugly for two straight games, mainly because of their offensive woes. Wins are wins and nobody is complaining about them, but some pretty football on offense better start showing up over the next month before the playoffs.
On one hand it is a pleasant surprise to see the Dallas Cowboys, of all teams, carrying their franchise quarterback. Such hasn’t ever really been the case for the last 20 or so years, but in a perfect world everyone would be chipping in and playing at a high level.
We discussed everything from Sunday’s win against the Football Team on our Dallas Cowboys Postgame Show on the Blogging The Boys podcast network. Make sure to subscribe to our network so you don’t miss any of our episodes. Apple devices can subscribe here and Spotify users can subscribe here.
That isn’t exactly the case, though. Dallas is led by a defensive energy, and to be specific a defensive superstar. It was this style of play that led to their victory against their division rivals, giving them a perfect 3-0 record in the NFC East so far this season, and it is hopefully this effort that will sing songs along with the offense come January and February.
For now though we are focused on what happened in Washington. Here are our winners, losers, and honorable mentions.
Winner: Micah Parsons
We are actually running out of words and ways to describe what Micah Parsons is doing. He is spectacular. The history books won’t properly be able to capture just how the Cowboys lucked into Parsons when the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos took Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II many months ago. Dallas “settled” for Parsons (after trading back) and launched their defense into a different stratosphere of potential, much of which was on display against Washington.
While there were “only” two sacks to Parsons’ name he had the play that blew things open when he sacked Taylor Heinicke and jarred the ball loose that Dorance Armstrong took back for a touchdown. Simply put, Micah Parsons is a game-changer.
Winner: Randy Gregory
Having difficulty deciding which defensive player is making the biggest impact on the Cowboys is a fun problem to have, one that Randy Gregory is helping to create. Gregory generated two turnovers against the Football Team, the first of which was eerily reminiscent of his number 94 predecessor DeMarcus Ware against Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons. We have seen Gregory do it all this season when not hurt, and he is still getting better and better.
Winner: Dorance Armstrong
If you score on defense you are going to make the winner’s list. I don’t make the rules.
Winner: Jourdan Lewis
We said last week that Jourdan Lewis always finds a way to make a play against the New Orleans Saints, but maybe the statement should have said that he always finds a way to make an important play.
Lewis has been around the Cowboys for a while now and continually shows up for something special when the team seemingly needs it most. He helped keep the pile going against Washington with his fumble recovery and all around was a reliable presence in the secondary.
Winner: Mike McCarthy
A lot was made about the “guarantee” that Mike McCarthy made this past week, but it was a rather hollow thing. Still, though, we can now say that Mike McCarthy guaranteed a win and got it. In all seriousness, McCarthy helped guide the Cowboys to their second straight victory in December and what’s more their second straight win on this three-game road trip. He has the tenor of his team down and proved it with Sunday’s performance.
Honorable Mention: Trevon Diggs
While he got beat by an incredible catch for a touchdown, this was one of Trevon Diggs’ better games that did not feature an interception (although he did almost add to his total). Diggs is still coming into his own a bit as an NFL cornerback and we got to see that play itself out in this game.
Honorable Mention: Offensive Line adjustments
Sunday was weird in that the Cowboys dealt with injuries/absences to several members of their offensive line. The only lineman to play the entire game at his particular spot was Tyler Biadasz. Those can be challenging hurdles to overcome in general or on their own. The fact that Dallas was able to survive them is a solid testament to their ability to adapt.
Honorable Mention: Greg Zuerlein
He went four of four on field goals. The bar is low generally speaking, but Greg Zuerlein was nice and reliable in a game where he was sorely needed.
Honorable Mention: Bryan Anger
We might not be paying enough attention to Bryan Anger. He has been a monster of a punter this season and might earn a Pro Bowl berth if he doesn’t falter down the stretch.
Loser: Dak Prescott
It can be true that in general Dak Prescott is a great quarterback and that he has been struggling for a little over a month now. He almost lost this game for the Cowboys.
Consider that Dak’s first interception was only not impactful because Micah Parsons generated the fumble that Dorance Armstrong took back to the house. The second pick was one of the worst throws of Prescott’s career, he is playing so unlike the MVP-caliber quarterback that we saw over the early part of this season.
Obviously the timing of Dak’s regression coincides with his calf strain, but to the naked eye it seems like he is dealing with far more than an injured calf. Dak is frantic and pressing all of the time and is making things complicated that don’t need to be. It is past time to make excuses for him, he has to get this fixed.
Loser: Kellen Moore
The Cowboys could knew that Washington was down multiple defensive ends and still choose to run inside over and over and over again. There are problems at a lot of places on offense, but the design of things is not helping. Kellen Moore has gotten stale and predictable and is a long way away from “aggressively attacking” what defenses give the Cowboys like he promised to do.
Loser: Capitalizing on turnovers
At one point last week against New Orleans, the Cowboys generated turnovers on defense and saw their offense go three and out on those two possessions, and those happened consecutively.
We touched on the Jourdan Lewis fumble up top, but it gave the Cowboys incredible field position. Dallas started on the Washington 25-yard line, needing more points to ice the game, and managed to not even get a first down before settling for a field goal.
For years, decades even, we longed for a defense that could make life easy on the other side of the ball. We are now at a point where the defense is the other side of the ball. It is all them right now.