The Dallas Cowboys are one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Having won three straight games (competition be damned) in convincing fashion. Led by Dak Prescott, the Cowboys, and their fans have a lot to be thankful for these days. Playing host to the Washington Commanders, the Cowboys dominated the game in all phases.
The Cowboys’ ferocious front hounded Sam Howell, and the Cowboys’ offense took a big lead in the second half and trotted their way to another blowout win. The Cowboys have not trailed at home at any point this season, and Thursday was the same. Let’s recap the Cowboys stuffing the Commanders. Here are your stars of the game.
It’s a good sign to see Tony Pollard and the success he had last week. This could be presumptuous, but is it possible we’re seeing the Tony Pollard of old? On Thursday, he was showing more burst, exploding through holes and running through arm tackles on his way to chunk yardage runs that we had grown accustomed to seeing from him over the years.
Pollard went over 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time since Week 6 against the Los Angeles Chargers and scored a touchdown for the second time in as many weeks. He got more involvement in the passing game, catching all six targets. If Pollard and the running game can continue to produce performances like this, the Cowboys will be formidable down the stretch of the regular season against some challenging defenses.
Forget what any national media member, rival fan, or anyone else tells you about Dak Prescott. He is playing like an MVP. In front of the Cowboys home crowd on Thanksgiving, Prescott was sensational. He carved up the Commanders’ defense for 331 yards and four touchdowns.
Sure, Prescott missed a few throws early in the game, as the offense didn’t score until the closing seconds of the first quarter. However, once Prescott and the offense found its footing, there was no looking back. The play that kickstarted things was a throw from Prescott to Jake Ferguson, backed up against their own goal line. Prescott threaded a perfect pass down the seam into Ferguson’s hands to flip the position, and before long, the Cowboys were on the board after a 15-yard screen pass to Rico Dowdle.
Dak Prescott completed 7 of 12 passes for 189 yards and 3 TDs targeting vertical routes tonight against the Commanders.— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 24, 2023
Prescott has now thrown 16 TDs targeting vertical routes this season, 14 of which have come since Week 8 (both the most in the NFL).
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Prescott’s four touchdowns are the most on Thanksgiving since Tony Romo threw five against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2006. The way Prescott took advantage of matchups was spectacular. He didn’t lock in on one target and completed a pass to 10 different receivers. His mobility was once again a factor in the team’s success, and when Prescott is creating outside of the framework of the offense, he’s truly at his best.
The coup de grace was Prescott’s touchdown celebration after connecting with KaVontae Turpin on a 34-yard strike for a touchdown. Prescott raced over to the Salvation Army Kettle bucket as many players have done at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving, pulled out a turkey leg, and started his dinner festivities early. It was symbolic of how Prescott has feasted on the Commanders throughout his career and NFL secondaries since the Cowboys’ bye week.
DaRon Bland, in just his second year, is playing like a seasoned veteran and is becoming a player that opposing offenses may want to avoid testing in the passing game. Though the Commanders did have some success in throwing his direction, Bland limited the gains of receptions he allowed to modest gains and a few first downs. However, the fun for the Commanders was short-lived, as Bland did what he does best.
First off, that was a legendary call on the broadcast by the great Jim Nantz. His understanding of the magnitude of what that interception by Bland meant in the context of NFL history allowed all of us to grasp the landmark moment we all witnessed fully. That was a John Madden-like moment. Hats off to Jim Nantz.
As for the play itself, Bland’s fifth returned interception for a touchdown is an NFL record with six games left to play, and here’s how it happened.
Sam Howell thought he had Bland beat, with Bland taking inside leverage. However, once Howell threw the ball outside the numbers, Bland caught the pass with his exceptional closing speed and went in the other direction. Bland had to have been aware of what a touchdown meant also. The determination he ran with to get to the end zone was outstanding. Making not one, not two, but three Commanders miss on his way to the end zone was special.
To say Bland has been superb this season is an understatement. Let’s recap Bland’s number so far this season. A 51.1 completion percentage allowed on 45 targets, a passer rating of 33.8 when targeted, and seven interceptions with five returned for a touchdown. Bland has entered All-Pro territory and is a dark horse contender to win Defensive Player of the Year.
The Offensive line
The entire unit deserves a star for their performance. On Thanksgiving, we have to give a seat at the table to the big boys up front, the offensive linemen. It could be the classic Cowboys jerseys, but Thursday was a callback to the old days. Nate Newton and the Cowboys offensive line digging in on a turducken courtesy of John Madden. The offensive line was exceptional, keeping Prescott upright and clean throughout the contest. The unit did not allow a single sack for the third consecutive week.
Also, the Cowboys’ running game is improving. Routinely, the offensive line was able to capture the edge against the Commanders and provide the Cowboys with success running the ball to the outside. Healthy and well-rested, Tyron Smith was an anchor in pass protection and held down Prescott’s blind side, putting up a fantastic game.
Terence Steele once again made big plays happen for the Cowboys on the move. Let’s also credit Tyler Biadasz and Zack Martin for their blocks in the open field to spring Rico Dowdle loose on his touchdown. Lastly, Tyler Smith working to the second level on Tony Pollard’s touchdown run created a big hole for the score. The offensive line ate.