Where do you begin? The Dallas Cowboys put so much good on the stat sheet against the Washington Football Team that you can look at almost any number and find something to praise. And a little bit deeper examination turns up some interesting things worth noting. This is going to be a long one, so let’s just jump in.
Dak is back
It was an impressive game for Dak Prescott. 28 completions on 39 attempts for 330 yards, four touchdowns, and no interceptions. You take that any day.
And he did it all in less than three quarters of play before taking to the sidelines while Cooper Rush got a chance to see some game action. Before halftime, Prescott was just tearing the field up.
Dak Prescott was on one in the FIRST HALF ⚡— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 27, 2021
321 Pass Yards
4 Pass TDs pic.twitter.com/mKqoYZ0XIk
I guess when you take a 42-7 lead into the second half, it is OK to take the foot off the gas a bit.
Long Sunday drives
Among the many concerns over the past month or so of games was that the Cowboys were not sustaining drives and having to rely on good field position from turnovers to get into scoring position. Well, that was another aspect of things that changed in a big way.
The Dallas offense scored six touchdowns in all, and went 71, 74, 75, 80, 89, and 79 yards to do so. That is almost unheard of. Even Rush had the final long scoring drive, courtesy of the incredible Malik Turner catch-and-run to set up the final score of the game.
Home in the red zone
The failures to score from inside the 20 were also a source of angst recently. The Cowboys were a perfect six for six at home. One more reason to keep fighting for the best playoff seeding possible.
The receivers showed up
A quarterback can’t amass those big passing numbers without players catching the ball. Dropped passes and route running errors were a glaring problem during the first three games in December, and further back. Those went away for the most part, and the receiving corps had some splashy numbers.
Amari Cooper had voiced dissatisfaction about not being utilized enough. He would lead all receivers in the game with seven receptions on eleven targets for 85 yards and a touchdown. Dalton Schultz was impressive again, snagging eight balls on just nine targets for 82 yards and his own TD. CeeDee Lamb only wound up with four catches for 66 yards, but had some of the most impressive ones as he held on to the ball despite a couple of hard hits. He also exceeded 1,000 yards on the season. Michael Gallup had just two catches, but brought in one for an impressive 40-yard gain on a scramble drill that displayed both his deep threat ability and Prescott’s accuracy throwing on the run.
Highest-graded QB when under pressure this season— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) December 27, 2021
Dak Prescott pic.twitter.com/ctMU1Pks3f
Malik Turner added a touchdown and another catch to his 61-yard scamper, winding up with 82 yards on just the three targets all game.
And no one will likely remember the game more fondly than Terence Steele. He just got one yard on the tackle eligible play, but it wound up with him spiking the ball into the stands after scoring the touchdown. Elliott would track down the ball and return it to him so it can go in his personal trophy case, a very nice gesture from a great teammate.
Early in the season, we saw what these weapons can do. They are back, and may be better than ever.
Speaking of touchdowns...
We’ll go to Twitter for these factoids.
Dak Prescott is the 1st player in NFL history to throw touchdowns to a— BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) December 27, 2021
All in the same game.
The Cowboys have also ran for a TD, had a INT return for a TD, and blocked a punt for a TD pic.twitter.com/TuJXGk6Mfp
And a story in three parts.
DeMarcus Lawrence is the 17th different Cowboys player to score a TD this season, that’s a new franchise record— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
OT Terence Steele becomes the 18th Cowboys player to score a TD this season, a new franchise record— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
Rookie DE Chauncey Golston is the 19th Cowboys player to score a TD this season, a new franchise record— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
Here’s the full list of Cowboys who have notched TDs this season.
These 19 Cowboys players have scored a touchdown this season... pic.twitter.com/GCS6J5P4o0— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) December 27, 2021
And just while we are at it:
Tonight is the first time in Dallas Cowboys history that an offensive lineman (Terence Steele) and a defensive lineman (DeMarcus Lawrence) scored in the same game— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
Ending the suspense early
Let’s focus on defense for a bit. Trevon Diggs came into the game needing one interception to tie the franchise record for a season. It took exactly one play by the Washington offense to get that done.
Trevon Diggs, interception No. 11 this season pic.twitter.com/T0ihJeQov3— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
Folks, Diggs not only leads the league in picks by a margin of four, he has more interceptions than twelve teams. And for me, this was the play of the game. After having to punt on the first possession of the game, the Cowboys got a huge spark from this play, where Diggs ran the route better than Terry McLaurin did. From that moment on, the floodgates were open and the points just poured through.
For some reason, Diggs is not considered by some to be a good overall cornerback, much less one of the absolute best. But consider what he did covering McLaurin, the best the WFT has.
Face it. He’s good. So good he belongs in the DPOY conversation. But one of his biggest challengers for that lines up just ahead of him on the Dallas defense.
The super rookie continues to roar
Micah Parsons is a force of nature. He added another sack to his season total, and just keeps climbing into some rarefied air.
Micah Parsons has 13 sacks and 79 tackles this year.— NFL on CBS (@NFLonCBS) December 27, 2021
He is the only NFL player to do this over the last 9 NFL seasons.
Not just the only ROOKIE... the only PLAYER.
My goodness. pic.twitter.com/s9gtnXZKDB
And there are still two games to go...
Give this man some respect
Amazingly, there are still those who gripe about the Cowboys paying DeMarcus Lawrence.
Just a ridiculous play by DeMarcus Lawrence pic.twitter.com/MxZDttITFH— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 27, 2021
He would also get credit for a sack. But his contributions to the defense go far deeper than just volume stats. He is a player teams have to account for or pay the price. And if you stop him, Parsons, Randy Gregory, and the rest of the pass rush will get you. This man is a huge asset.
Speaking of Gregory, he had a relatively quiet night in the stats, with just one tackle and one QB hit. But he also had one of the best moments in the game.
Taylor Heinicke is probably glad they can stop meeting like this - for at least this year.
A very solid debut for Bossman Fat
All season, we have been waiting for second-round pick Kelvin Joseph to get significant playing time. Due to Jourdan Lewis being in the COVID protocol, he finally did. And it was impressive.
He also had three tackles in the game. And those 57 snaps were the most of any defender on the team. The hope before his injury was that he would give the Cowboys a great secondary. That hope may be coming to fruition at just the right time.
Some other snap count nuggets
It was a great game for protecting some of the starters. As a matter of fact, all the offensive players got a chance to rest a bit into the fourth quarter - with one notable exception. Connor Williams was the only player on the field for 100% of the offensive plays. That is quite a testament to his value to the team after his being benched for Connor McGovern. The staff belatedly realized their mistake and corrected it, and all Williams has done is solidify the line. Once Tyron Smith returns, which Stephen Jones has stated will be against the Arizona Cardinals this Sunday, things should just get better.
One lineman who did get some rest was center Tyler Biadasz. As far back as preseason there were some concerns about who would back him up, with some unsuccessful experiments in practices and preseason games. Now it appears that Matt Farnniok has claimed that role, filling in for Biadasz late in the game.
As the NBC announcing team noted, the Cowboys played eight different defensive linemen, not counting the plays where Micah Parsons’ assignment was to rush the passer. That depth could be vital. Not only does it provide some insurance against injury and illness, it keeps them fresh while the offensive line facing them is getting worn down. One player who is benefiting from this is Tarell Basham, who finished the night with half a sack, three tackles, and a QB hit.
All over the roster, the Cowboys are getting contributions from players that don’t always get the limelight. Some, like Turner, may be playing their way into a new deal with the Cowboys. Or, good for them at least, earning a nice job somewhere else in the future.
In any case, this is the most loaded roster the Cowboys have seen in decades. A savvy coaching staff is putting them in position to thrive. Everything jelled in a big way against the Football Team and their fancy benches. Keep things rolling, and we will be enjoying this team well into the new year.