It wasn’t pretty in the second half, but the Cowboys emerged victorious over the Washington Football Team on the road Sunday. The win boosted their odds of winning the NFC East from 84% to roughly 95%, according to the New York Times’ playoff simulator.
Just like the last game, it was one where the Dallas defense dominated from start to finish while the offense continued to give fans reason to be concerned. Still, when it came down to it, the Cowboys won just as Mike McCarthy had foretold. These five plays were a big part of what made this game go in their favor.
Randy Gregory’s first career interception sets Cowboys up for a touchdown
The defensive dominance for Dallas started early in this one. After the Cowboys kicked a field goal on the opening drive, they forced a three-and-out from Washington. Then Dak Prescott threw the first of two interceptions on the day, and his teammates just had to get the ball back for him.
Randy Gregory, who returned to the field in this one after missing several weeks, was the one who obliged. He made a nice tip at the line of scrimmage before catching his own deflection for his first career pick.
Randy Gregory is back with a great play.pic.twitter.com/EwjfWqjcbT— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 12, 2021
This play was especially huge because Washington had been set up with good field position from their own interception, and may have already been in field goal position. Gregory’s interception changed that, and the Cowboys scored a touchdown on the ensuing possession to go up 11-0 early on.
Micah Parsons bullies Taylor Heinicke and Dorance Armstrong gets a touchdown
After that touchdown, it was a critical moment for the Football Team that was coming far too early in the game for an offense that isn’t built to overcome large deficits. They had to score or things would get out of hand before halftime. Well, things got out of hand for Taylor Heinicke, quite literally. After a penalty on Malik Hooker moved the chains for Washington, they ended up going for it on fourth-and-two on the Dallas 46-yard line when the drive fizzled out. That’s when Micah Parsons struck:
RT if you love @MicahhParsons11— Blogging The Boys (@BloggingTheBoys) December 12, 2021
(via @NFL) pic.twitter.com/sdVaz1xzPD
Sent on a blitz, Parsons overpowered All-Pro guard Brandon Scherff and slammed into Heinicke, knocking the ball loose. That’s when Dorance Armstrong scooped it up, and he never even had to hold down the R2 button on his way into the endzone. Washington’s critical, must-score situation had quickly become a three-score game.
Micah Parsons gets another sack to bring up fourth down
Washington got the ball back right away, now down 18-0 and still needing to score. It wasn’t very long before they faced a third-and-eight from their own 38, desperately needing a conversion. But if you thought Parsons was content with just one sack in this game, think again.
MICAH PARSONS IS UNBLOCKABLE pic.twitter.com/MzctZfvBUZ— PFF (@PFF) December 12, 2021
He even gets roped around by the offensive lineman, which wasn’t called, and it doesn’t matter. Parsons is unblockable, especially with Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Neville Gallimore (more on him in a moment) out there. Parsons’ sack capped a dominant three-possession series for this defense and set the tone very early on.
Neville Gallimore’s powerful sack leads to Washington punt
Things quieted down for both teams in the third quarter, although the Football Team did score a touchdown on a highly improbable deep shot while the Cowboys scored a field goal to hold a 27-8 lead as the fourth quarter began. After another Dallas punt, Washington took over on their own 20-yard line knowing they were running out of time to try and make things happen. But then Neville Gallimore decided to remind everyone that he, too, was back on the field for the Cowboys.
NEVILLE GALLIMORE pic.twitter.com/OF1wzT5vS9— Joey Hayden (@_joeyhayden) December 12, 2021
Gallimore just shoved the center straight back before wrapping up Heinicke in a bear hug for the sack. That backed the Football Team up against their own endzone and staring at a second-and-20. To no one’s surprise, they ended up punting on the drive, and Gallimore’s sack killed this drive before it ever really began.
Randy Gregory’s strip sack ices a sudden Washington comeback attempt
In what felt like a couple seconds, the Football Team was suddenly only down by one touchdown. The Cowboys went three-and-out after a suspicious lack of a pass interference on a third-down pass to Michael Gallup, which would be getting a lot more attention had this game gone another way.
Either way, the Football Team got the ball back with three minutes left, although they were now led by Kyle Allen after Heinicke was injured. On third-and-three at their own 37-yard line, and with time ticking down, Gregory decided to make another appearance in a big way.
Randy Gregory with the strip-sack, Cowboys recover. pic.twitter.com/y8qJYhgB7J— ✯✯✯✯✯ (@FTB_Vids_YT) December 12, 2021
The play was reviewed and upheld, as Gregory recorded a strip sack on Allen that Jayron Kearse fell on top of. That gave the Cowboys the ball back with just over two minutes left, and the offense was able to effectively run out the clock and secure the win. It was all made possible by Gregory’s timely big play, and the team is undoubtedly thrilled to have him back.
We broke down all of the highlights from Sunday’s win in our Highlights Show on the Blogging The Boys YouTube Channel (make sure to subscribe to our channel right here).