Sunday should have been different. Sunday should have been a showcase of the Dallas Cowboys being infinitely better than the Washington Commanders. A demonstration of two teams going opposite directions. One to the postseason and one to go fishing. Alas, it’s the Cowboys who baited us before a terrible performance during a 26-6 loss at Washington. Use whatever term you like for how that game made you feel. Upset, angry, maybe even vindicated, if you somehow saw this coming.
Yet remember, regardless of how this game made you feel, they live to fight another day as a team. Also, while they didn’t play as one at Washington to complement each other in all three phases, a select few did have solid performances. Before the team and Cowboys nation pushes forward to the postseason, let’s look back at the key contributors in Sunday’s game, and for the final time of the regular season, here are your stars of the game.
If the Cowboys had a most improved player award, the top candidate might be Dorance Armstrong. His improved play as a defender helped this defense reach the heights it did earlier this season and he has provided a viable option as another edge rusher behind the likes of Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence.
Against the Commanders, Armstrong was involved in impacting the running and passing game. Take for example an early key drive. The Commanders had just taken a 7-0 and following a muffed punt by KaVontae Turpin were down in the red zone. On a 3rd and 5 play quarterback, Sam Howell was sacked by Armstrong with an assist from Micah Parsons. The Commanders would miss the ensuing field goal and try to keep it a 7-0 score.
Then, once again, with the Commanders knocking on the door of the end zone, Armstrong stepped up. Still leading 7-0, Washington had a first and goal from the 2-yard line. Armstrong drove the tight end Logan Thomas into the backfield and took down the running back Jonathan Williams for a 2-yard loss. The very next play Sam Howell threw an interception to Malik Hooker to end the drive. Armstrong ends the regular season with 8.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss, all of which are career highs.
As many expected, the Washington offensive attack was very simple. Control the line of scrimmage and time of possession to ultimately outlast the Cowboys. Unfortunately for Dallas, Washington never had to deviate from that plan thanks to several miscues throughout the game. That meant the run defense needed to be prepared for a high-volume rushing threat. Osa Odighuzuwa met the challenge.
Odighizuwa was one of the most active defenders on Sunday, fighting off blocks and stopping runs to minimal gains. The second-year defensive tackle was second on the team in tackles with seven, six of which were solo along with two tackles for a loss.
In addition to that, he recorded a sack on the day after knifing into the backfield for a sack on Sam Howell. The Cowboys will likely be tested similarly next week against Tampa Bay and games like this from your interior players give you hope to contain the running game.
There’s no getting around it, the Dallas offense against the Commanders was awful. They struggled to sustain drives against mostly backups and were inefficient on third down, with a practically non-existent running game. The lone bright spot of the offense was CeeDee Lamb. The Commanders made sure to keep him in their sights, but Lamb seemed like one of the few Cowboys to fight hard on every play. On one play had three defenders rolling his way on a deep pass and still managed to get behind them for a chance at a big play. Had Prescott connected on the pass, it would have been a huge shift in momentum.
Lamb did manage to find the end zone for the ninth time this season on the final drive of the first half. He set up the corner Bobby McCain from the slot with a slant, before making the catch in the end zone. Lamb ended the game with five catches for 53 yards and a score to add to his lofty season totals. But his stats don’t tell the story of how hard he worked in the game after the catch to pick up a few more yards.
Lamb ended the regular-season campaign with 107 receptions for 1,359 yards. You’d have to imagine that his seven targets would increase with a game against the Buccaneers next Monday, and that’s something to look forward to as Lamb continues to grow as a player.