It was a very happy Thanksgiving in Dallas, as the Cowboys feasted on the Commanders to the tune of a 45-10 victory. Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns, Tony Pollard scored another touchdown, and DaRon Bland broke the NFL record for most pick-sixes in a single season.
However, this wasn’t the easiest win of the year for the Cowboys. Washington kept things relatively close early on, but Dallas had built a comfortable lead by halftime before blowing the doors off their opponent with a 25-0 fourth quarter. These five plays were a big part of the Cowboys sealing things up by halftime.
Ron Rivera punts in Dallas territory
After both teams punted on their opening drives, the Commanders had an opportunity to score and draw first blood. Their offense had moved the ball into Dallas territory to start the game, but punted on fourth and long.
Once again, Sam Howell helped orchestrate a great drive, frequently using his legs to extend plays and elude a feisty Cowboys pass rush. Before long, Washington reached the Dallas 43, but Howell’s pass fell incomplete on third down. Needing just two yards to convert, most expected Washington to go for it. Instead, head coach Ron Rivera sent out the punt team.
The Commanders entered this game as 13.5 point underdogs and desperately needed a win to stop the freefall. With this early decision to punt, Rivera established an overly conservative approach that ultimately doomed his team right from the start against a Cowboys team known for their aggression.
Dak Prescott hits Jake Ferguson for huge gain
The Commanders’ decision to punt resulted in the Cowboys being pinned back at their own 10-yard line. A false start from Zack Martin on the first play backed them up even further. In order to score the first points of the game, Dallas would need to drive 95 yards.
Dak Prescott got about a third of that in just one play. Taking the snap out of the shotgun, Prescott stepped up and delivered a strike to Jake Ferguson down the seam.
Ferguson made the catch, as he always does, and the Cowboys picked up 35 yards on just one play. That chunk play was crucial in giving this drive any sort of life, and they wound up scoring a touchdown several plays later. This dime from Prescott was big, if only because it saved Dallas from playing in the shadow of their own goalpost.
Dak Prescott hits Jalen Tolbert on free play
Even after the big strike to Ferguson, the Cowboys had plenty of work to do on this drive. A phantom holding call against CeeDee Lamb erased a big run from Rico Dowdle, and the receiver followed it up with a false start. Just like that, the Cowboys were looking at second and 25 from their own 39-yard line, one yard behind where Ferguson made his initial catch.
That’s when Prescott used his cadence - “Here we goooooo” may become his new trademark - to draw Daron Payne offsides. The Cowboys quickly snapped the ball, and Prescott fired a deep shot over the middle of the field to Jalen Tolbert, who hauled it in for a gain of 18 yards.
The Cowboys declined the penalty, setting up a third down that was easily converted. There’s no telling what play the Cowboys would’ve run on second and a mile, but Prescott’s cadence offered a free play to take a shot. That gave this offense all the freedom they needed to take advantage, and they scored a touchdown five plays later.
Damone Clark drops Brian Robinson for a loss
The final score doesn’t reflect it, but the Dallas defense struggled for much of the night. After the Cowboys went up 7-0, the Commanders offense was moving the ball again and driving deep, reaching the red zone.
That’s when the defense stiffened up. They stuffed Brian Robinson on first down, and then Damone Clark lit up Robinson on a dump-off pass on second down. Just like that, the Commanders were looking at third and 18, and they only managed two more yards.
Washington kicked a field goal, cutting the lead to 7-3, but they were building up steam before that. For a moment, it looked like they were getting ready to tie the game up. The big tackle for loss from Clark completely altered that plan, though.
Jalen Brooks catches tipped pass for big gain
The Cowboys followed that field goal up with a very quick drive that ended with a 31-yard touchdown heave from Prescott to Brandin Cooks. Then, the Commanders responded with a touchdown drive of their own, one that ate up six and a half minutes. The Cowboys got the ball back, only up 14-10, with just under two minutes to go.
After moving the chains once, Prescott threw incomplete on first down. With second and 10 at the Dallas 38, Prescott was flushed out of the pocket and threw on the run to Tolbert. When the defender’s helmet got in the way, though, the other wide receiver named Jalen made a play:
Cowboys rookie Jalen Brooks comes up big on the tip for the crazy catch.— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 23, 2023
The seventh-round pick out of South Carolina had four catches last week and now does this on Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/BivB26nrLj
Jalen Brooks, who’s seen more and more action each of the last few weeks, came out of nowhere to catch the tipped pass. In total, it was a gain of 24 yards that flipped the field. Had that pass fallen incomplete, Dallas would’ve had a third and 10 in their own territory, but Brooks’ heads-up play completely changed the drive. Two plays later, Pollard ran in for a touchdown, and the Cowboys took a two-score lead into the break.