The Dallas Cowboys welcomed the Washington Commanders into AT&T Stadium for the first time and promptly pummeled them to the tune of a 25-10 final score. Cooper Rush became the first quarterback in franchise history to win his first four career starts and propelled the Cowboys to a 3-1 record.
Dallas won this game in much the same manner as their last two: stifling defense. With the exception of one drive, the Commanders offense was unable to get anything going in the game, and it was never really as close as the score indicated. But these five plays loomed large in the end result.
Cooper Rush throws a costly pick, but a penalty negates it
Cooper Rush hadn’t thrown an interception yet this year, which was a big part of why he was able to guide the Cowboys to success since taking over under center. The quarterback tested that on Sunday though.
After the Commanders scored a touchdown to go up 7-6, Rush let it rip to Noah Brown on third and long. The ball was picked off by Benjamin St-Juste, who returned it to the Dallas 45-yard line. Rush got lucky, though, as St-Juste had been flagged for illegal contact, thus negating the turnover.
Had it stood, though, Washington would have been set up with prime field position and a golden opportunity to go up by multiple scores. The entire course of the game could’ve been drastically changed on this play.
Cooper Rush throws another interception that gets overturned
That didn’t stop Rush from taking chances, though. Coming out of halftime with a 12-7 lead, Rush and the Cowboys were looking to build on their lead. But they were set up in poor field position, and a stuffed run on first down gave Rush a second and 17.
This time, Rush took a shot for Tony Pollard. Again, it was picked off, this time by safety Kamren Curl. The ball was downed at the Dallas 30, but more flags were on the ground. A holding penalty from William Jackson negated the turnover for the second time on the day. Rush has played well through his three starts this year, but this may have been his worst game. These two plays alone could have been backbreakers if they stood, but penalties bailed Rush out.
Trevon Diggs deflects a shot to the endzone on fourth down
Later in the game, the Commanders offense started to figure out how to move the ball, but scoring was a taller task. Down 22-10 about halfway through the fourth quarter, Washington still had a window for a comeback, but the margin for error was getting slimmer and slimmer.
When a Dante Fowler sack brought up fourth and 15 at the Dallas 16-yard line, Washington opted to go for it. Carson Wentz took a shot to the endzone, where Terry McLaurin was trying to evade Trevon Diggs. But Diggs, who had already recorded an interception earlier in the game, managed to get a hand on the ball and knock it incomplete.
It may not have been a pick for Diggs, but this was just as meaningful. Diggs played the pass perfectly and broke it up to not only save a touchdown, but also create a turnover on downs.
Rookie DaRon Bland gets a game-sealing pick
About two minutes later, the Commanders had the ball again and were trying one last effort at a comeback. They quickly brought up a third and eight on their own 13-yard line, and Dallas had a chance to get another big stop.
They did more than that. As Wentz tried to throw for the first down, rookie DaRon Bland made a great break on the ball to record his first career interception:
Bland played the whole game because Jourdan Lewis suffered an injury during pregame warmups, thrusting Bland into the starting role unexpectedly. That he came up with such a big play was a huge moment for him, and it also effectively killed any hopes of a Commanders comeback.
Diggs comes up with another clutch stop on fourth down
After the interception, the Cowboys added a field goal but were still technically only up by two scores. While Washington’s chances were incredibly small, they were not zero. So began another offensive drive aimed at pulling off a miracle.
As had been the case most of the day, the drive stalled out and Wentz needed to make a play on fourth and two at the Washington 44. Once again, he targeted his top wideout, McLaurin. And once again, Diggs made a perfect play to deflect the pass and bring up another turnover on downs.
It was an exclamation point for Diggs, who has showcased some dramatically improved coverage skills this year. It also marked his third straight week with a big play late in the fourth quarter to bring up a stop for the defense. Have a day, Trevon Diggs.