Coming into Sunday, Washington Commanders quarterback Carson Wentz had a two-game winning streak against the Dallas Cowboys. Both starts came with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he had the advantage of the Philadelphia defense holding Dallas to just nine points in both matchups.
Life comes at you fast in the National Football League. In this week four meeting, it was Wentz and the Commanders being held to ten points, as the Cowboys offense found explosive plays in the pass game with Cooper Rush. Rush won his third start in a row this season, and fourth dating back to last year, putting him in a class of his own as he’s done more than enough to set the stage for Dak Prescott’s return.
That return for Prescott could be as soon as this week at the Rams or the following week at the Eagles, with the Cowboys defense in prime position to take advantage of the boost in QB play. Sunday versus the Commanders was far from the prettiest game for the Cowboys offense, but with Rush finding Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb for touchdowns along with a 45-yard strike to Noah Brown, these big plays kept the Cowboys in the win column 25-10.
Here are a few notes on how this team took another step towards proving they’re still in contention for the NFC East.
- Without Prescott in the lineup, the Cowboys best formations have been heavy sets with dual-threat tight ends Dalton Schultz, Jake Ferguson, and Peyton Hendershot. Defenses having to respect the downhill run game this look presents for Ezekiel Elliott have been caught off guard by Rush throwing out of it, and it should remain one of the Cowboys best looks with the mobility of Prescott.
Rush hit Lamb on three straight completions out of this look late in the first quarter, but with Lamb off the field on a Tony Pollard carry the Commanders tackled him for a loss. The Cowboys having to settle for a field goal briefly kept Washington in this game, on a day where Dan Quinn’s defense was prepared to make any points hold up.
Entering Monday night when the Rams and 49ers face off, the Cowboys remain the only team that has yet to allow 20 points this season.
- Michael Gallup’s best plays have usually come on scramble drills, but entering this season as the true WR2 there was more of an emphasis on scripting him into the offense. Gallup’s 15-yard catch to convert a third down in the second quarter was a great example of this, but his touchdown was a vintage Gallup play that shows he came back at the perfect time.
With Rush out of the pocket, Gallup opened up in the back of the end zone and gave his quarterback an easy target. With the Cowboys offensive line gelling together as Connor McGovern made his return at left guard, these are the type of throws we can expect Prescott to find Gallup on.
- Donovan Wilson was used more as a true safety in this game against a Commanders offense that can stretch the field, and it helped Dan Quinn dial up the pressure looks that have made this defense elite so far. Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Anthony Barr continued to have their struggles in the run game, but this defense has found the perfect times to send extra rushers and make up for big plays allowed with sacks and takeaways.
Part of the confidence Quinn has in calling these aggressive plays is the way Dallas has tackled in the secondary. Daron Bland saw his first action of the season and came away with an interception, while Malik Hooker and Wilson consistently limited big plays with open field stops.
If there is any sense the Cowboys defense is holding back a bit because their own offense is limited, the possibility they can play with the lead and get after the QB even more is imminent with Prescott.
The Cowboys may not have completely put the Tampa Bay loss behind them in the last three weeks, as it left questions only a full strength offense with Prescott under center can answer. Extending their divisional win streak to eight games and finding momentum under Rush has been a pleasant surprise though, and has kept this team aligned with the lofty expectations they set for themselves this offseason.