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Cowboys gobble up Commanders in second half as DaRon Bland makes NFL history

Winning at home is nothing new for the Cowboys this year, but feasting on Thanksgiving made a statement against the Commanders.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

It’s always great to be home for Thanksgiving. Or, for the Dallas Cowboys, anytime at home at AT&T Stadium will do this year. The Cowboys remained undefeated at home on Turkey Day with another blowout win, the type of 45-10 effort home fans have been treated to all year, complete with Dak Prescott running off the field with a turkey leg in hand and DaRon Bland making NFL history versus the Commanders.

Not only have the Cowboys been dominant at home, and against the NFC East (except for the Eagles), but they’ve yet to trail in a home game this season. Two Washington punts from inside their territory early on helped keep this streak alive while the Dallas offense took some time to find its footing, and by halftime there was some sense that Sam Howell was keeping his team in the game. Three turnovers on downs in the second half, an interception, and four total sacks against Howell was all the Dallas defense needed to take matters into their own hands though, helped along by an offense that dialed up explosive plays, led for the third straight week in receiving yards by Brandin Cooks.

Prescott completed over 65% of his passes for the eight time this season to move the Cowboys to 8-3, and did so with an average yards per attempt of 10.3, connecting with Cooks for a 31-yard touchdown, CeeDee Lamb for 15 yards, and Kavontae Turpin for 34 yards. It was just the second time all season Prescott has had over 10 yards per attempt on a game, the other being a similar home blowout win against division rival New York. This Cowboys team is not only winning right now, they are taking teams apart in all three phases, so if Thanksgiving leftovers were calling your name already by the time this game was in hand, think about sending a Christmas card to Mike McCarthy, Dan Quinn, and John Fassel for the effort.

With that, here are a few notes on a win that sends the Cowboys into an important week 13 matchup with the Seattle Seahawks next Thursday night.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images
  • One of the deciding factors in this game for both sides was how these offenses performed against man coverage. The Cowboys came out aggressive and looked to give Prescott time to take shots down the field, which paid off big in the second half. The Commanders had some success early on with man-beating crossing routes and short throws that mitigated the Cowboys pass rush, but it was Dan Quinn’s defense that remained a step ahead all afternoon. Dallas’ defensive tackles have been a not-so-quiet strength on this defense for weeks now, but unlike the Panthers game where they were spread out and given matchups to win on the edge, the Cowboys had to commit numbers to coverage against the Commanders - making it all the more important that these tackles stepped up again.

Pass rush can be the great equalizer in any game, making up for lapses in the secondary or poor run defense, and there simply weren’t enough moving pocket or play-action throws Howell could execute to avoid the likes of Micah Parsons, Osa Odighizuwa, and Johnathan Hankins. Odighizuwa and Hankins were also strong against the run, with Odighizuwa shutting down a fourth and short on Washington’s first drive of the second half after Dallas punted, and Hankins coming up with a fourth down sack later in the game. The Cowboys speed at cornerback, led by none other than DaRon Bland who set an NFL record with his fifth interception returned for a touchdown, paired with hybrid linebackers like Markquese Bell dropping underneath throws made this a long game for the Commanders offense.

  • Brandin Cooks scoring deep touchdowns in the corner of the end zone has become a home tradition as reliable as Thanksgiving turkey, but what made this play impressive wasn’t just the throw and catch from Prescott. The Cowboys had their chances early on to take the top off this defense without safety help, but it was a single-high look that Cooks had to run away from to score his third touchdown of the season. Doing so with a great route that gave him leverage into open space, Prescott trusted the veteran receiver to get to the spot and dropped in a perfect pass to make the score 14-3. The touchdown came at an important point in the game, after Washington showed signs of life driving for a field goal, and on the next drive it was the Cowboys run game answering a Commanders touchdown to slowly start putting this game on ice.
  • For the second straight week, a Tony Pollard touchdown up the middle proved to be the decisive moment in a Cowboys win. Dallas scored the next 25 points in this game following Pollard’s score, and shut out the Commanders to earn their most lopsided Thanksgiving win since 1980 (51-7 vs the Seahawks). As December football inches closer, high-flying offenses around the league will be tested on the ground more, and as pretty as the deep passing game is for the Cowboys right now, they’re showing a real emphasis on merging it with a run game that’s gotten more physical as the weeks go by. Few things seemingly fire this team up more than Pollard running for tough yards, doing so in tandem with Rico Dowdle who scored the first touchdown of the game on a screen pass. The Cowboys overcame a second and 25 on this drive after back-to-back penalties on Lamb, showing there’s virtually nothing defenses can do to contain them when everything is in sync, and a league MVP candidate is calling the shots under center.

Pollard and Dowdle becoming more interchangeable for the plays McCarthy can call is similar to how any given receiver or tight end can step up at a moment’s notice, while this game featured vintage performances from Tyron Smith, Terence Steele, and Zack Martin moving defenders in the run game all day.

Washington Commanders v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images
  • There were a lot of amazing reactions to DaRon Bland running back his fifth interception of the year for six points, perhaps none better than Dan Quinn’s up in the coaching box, and Jim Nantz’s iconic call on CBS, but don’t lose sight of the importance Al Harris has had to this defense as well. With Quinn since 2020 as the defensive backs coach, Harris was right in the mix of the sideline celebration for Bland, and is a fiery, players-first type of presence on game day that this turnover-fueled defense responds to. McCarthy, Quinn, and Fassel certainly deserve a ton of credit, but when going a layer deeper to these positional coaches that have nearly every unit across the Dallas roster playing at a high level, Harris has done a brilliant job even with the loss of Trevon Diggs for the season.

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