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Cowboys get third win in a row, beating Commanders 25-10

It was at times awkward, but Dallas got it done in the end.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys
Welcome back, Michael.
Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys improved to 3-1 with a 25-10 win over the Washington Commanders. It featured a successful return for Michael Gallup, a largely ineffective running game, and not one, but two great defensive plays by Trevon Diggs. But the game may really have been won by something that had been a real thorn in the side of the Cowboys, penalties. For once, they played a largely clean game, while the Commanders were nearly buried by their own mistakes, with 11 flags for 136 yards. Washington killed their own drives and extended those of Dallas.

And the game featured a totally unexpected hero in rookie CB Daron Bland, who in his first game action intercepted Carson Wentz and gave the Cowboys the ball at the Commanders’ 20-yard line. That set up the fourth Brett Maher field goal of the game and, while there was still almost four minutes left to play, the 15-point margin effectively sealed things.

There were many who thought the Cowboys would roll over the Commanders, which is a big warning sign for a trap game. Even with Gallup back on the field, Dallas still had to rely on Cooper Rush. And Washington knew all about the pass rush they were facing.

While the Cowboys would manage to go into the locker room with a five-point halftime lead, there were some troubling things from that performance. The first was the difficulty Dallas had in sustaining drives. They drove past midfield on their first possession before stalling and having to settle for a 53-yard Maher field goal. It would happen again on their third possession, this time with Maher knocking it in from 45. While Rush was making some good throws, the running game was sluggish.

Meanwhile, the Commanders were finding some success running the ball. They would finish up the first half already over 100 yards on the ground for the team. The big runs came outside the tackles. Still, Dallas was able to stop them on all but one seven-play, 65-yard touchdown drive capped by a 10-yard Wentz to Jahan Dotson TD throw.

That left the Cowboys trailing by one. They answered with easily their best drive of the first half, going 75 yards. Rush welcomed Michael Gallup back to the lineup with a touchdown throw to the back of the end zone to cap it off. Things were marred a bit by a blocked extra point, which explained the five-point margin.

However, that drive almost died with a Rush interception. The team was bailed out by an illegal contact penalty that kept the drive alive. It was just the first Rush miscue to get wiped off the books, as a similar flag kept the ball in Dallas’ hands during their first possession of the second half.

Arguably it was penalties that allowed the Cowboys to take a lead and kept Washington from getting on track offensively. At the halfway point of the third quarter, they had been flagged seven times for 52 yards while the Cowboys had only drawn one penalty to that point. They would add a second one shortly thereafter, and it hurt, as it likely forced Dallas to settle for a third Maher field goal, this one from just 28 yards. It was especially disappointing as it came after the longest play of the day for the Cowboys, a 45-yard strike to Noah Brown that had them already in the red zone.

Not only did it waste a beautiful throw, it also wasted the best starting field position of the game for the Cowboys. Up until that point, they had started every drive at or inside their own 25, with three of them inside the 20. Things were further complicated by how the Commanders started bringing real pressure in the second half, which often stymied both the passing game and the rush. An injury to Zack Martin was no help. It brought Matt Farniok back on the field after Connor McGovern had returned to split time with Jason Peters at LG. Fortunately it would not be a major problem, at least in the short term.

One thing that didn’t happen was the sack-fest so many expected for the Cowboys. While they were putting pressure on Wentz, they were not getting home. They only had one sack in the first half, by Neville Gallimore, and Wentz was able to move the sticks at times when he could evade. The rush was successful in getting a couple of intentional grounding calls on Wentz. The second one was a big part in forcing Washington to settle for a field goal in the third quarter when they were threatening to score a touchdown and possibly tie the game with a two-point conversion. Then they put the Cowboys almost into Maher’s range on the next series with an obvious pass interference call (that included a facemask grab) against Gallup. And Maher’s leg didn’t matter, as Rush found CeeDee Lamb running free into the end zone after a very nifty post route. That pushed the margin to 12 points with most of the fourth quarter left, but it was the most breathing space Dallas had managed all game.

While the usual suspects were not getting sacks, Trevon Diggs was up to his old tricks. He kept the Commanders from having a shot to at least try a field goal inside the two minute warning of the first half with an interception where he was running the route better than the receiver. He would have two other huge pass breakups, including the one on fourth down that allowed Dallas to run much of the clock off at the end of the game.

Really, however, stat sheets don’t tell the entire tale. When Washington tried to answer the Lamb touchdown, they faced a third and three at their own 40, and Micah Parsons lined up right over center. It was a perfect call, as Antonio Gibson was met by a group of defenders for no gain and the Cowboys got the ball back on a punt.

However, they were once again pinned deep, this time inside their ten. And they could go nowhere, and absolutely flirted with disaster as Rush had a pass batted dangerously in the air in the end zone. Even though it fell harmlessly to the ground, Bryan Anger had an uncharacteristic shank, giving the Commanders the ball back at the Dallas 30. But the pass rush showed up at that point, with Dante Fowler sacking Wentz on third down to set up a fourth and 15. The deficit for Washington was twelve points. Combined with the fourth quarter being almost half gone, they elected to go for it. His target was Terry McLaurin, who had Diggs covering him, and Diggs got a hand on the ball to give it back to his offense.

There were some notable plays afterwards, but that was really the point at which the game was largely salted away. It was not a dominant performance, but it was good enough. Now with Dak Prescott threatening to come back against the Los Angeles Rams, the team can thank Rush for standing in so admirably, and hope he isn’t called on again.

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