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After further review: Cowboys offense had Washington turned around, defense was a little Bland

What would you say was the biggest thing you learned about the Cowboys on Thanksgiving?

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

The Dallas Cowboys toyed with the Washington Commanders for three quarters after unleashing the Kraken in the fourth quarter with 25 unanswered points. There were great things to see on both sides of the ball and we have highlight some of the key findings after re-watching the game film.

DEEP SHOTS

The Cowboys came out firing against Washington’s secondary and for good reason. The Commanders are third-worst in the league in total passing yards allowed and passing yards per play. Their 28 receiving touchdowns given up is the most in the NFL.

The deep shots weren’t working out early on as Dak Prescott had a little too much air on the ball on a couple of them and CeeDee Lamb wasn’t able to haul in another amazing one-handed catch when a defender grabbed a hold of his left arm. However, just taking shots down the field opened things up underneath and eventually, the Commanders had to adjust. And when they did, Prescott took full advantage.

FINDING MISMATCHES

Credit the coaching staff for using every morsel of talent they had on offense. Ten different Cowboys players caught a pass in this one. The team did a good job getting the Commanders’ defense to lean one way, only to free up a wide-open receiver in the other direction. There was a lot of motion which seems to be a thing now for Mike McCarthy’s after-the-bye offense. In the end, the Commanders just didn’t have the ability to hang with Cowboys offense.

OUTSIDE RUNS

Speaking of creating mismatches, the Cowboys have found something with their outside runs. Hitting the B gap between Tyler Smith and Tyron Smith is a new strength of the team’s rushing attack, but on Thursday, they brought back an old favorite, running behind Terence Steele.

The young right tackle is slowly starting to look like his old self. The Cowboys had success with outside runs to the right side when Steele and Jake Ferguson secured their blocks down the field. The offense has a high level of success when they attack the outside and they were doing it more in this game. It will be interesting to see if this continues to be a go-to play. If Steele returns to form, look out.

GETTING DIGGY WITH IT

Osa Odighizuwa started strong this season, but he’s been relatively quiet as of late. On Thursday, he was back out there flashing that Pro Bowl level play by constantly winning his matchup in the trenches. Odighizuwa was flying out of his stance of the snap, hitting his blocker's outside shoulder, and blowing through him as if he wasn’t even there. He also used those long arms to throw would-be blockers aside and latch on to any ball carriers before they could get going. He was the Cowboys' best defense player on Thursday.

A LITTLE DANTE LOVE

The veteran Dante Fowler is often overlooked because the Cowboys pass-rushing group is so loaded with talent. But on this day, he could be found making plays. Everyone will remember his incredible tackle for a loss turned QB sack when Sam Howell quickly changed his mind and decided to not hand off the ball to the running back. It didn’t matter though as Fowler was going to tackle someone, one way or another.

ONE AMAZING PLAY ERASES IT ALL

DaRon Bland had AT&T erupt in cheers when he jumped the route and had his record-breaking fifth pick-six of the year. What an amazing play from an amazing guy. What may not be so apparent, however, is that up until that play, Bland wasn’t having himself that great of a game. The Commanders repeatedly went after him. If you look closely at the amount of separation allowed between him and Stephon Gilmore, it’s easy to understand why.

Curtis Samuel put together the first 100-yard game from any Cowboys opponent this season, but it didn’t matter who he was covering, there were just times he allowed too much space. Credit the Commanders for attacking Bland right out of the receiver’s break before he can settle in and start playing downhill. Of course, that extra cushion can lead to a false sense of security which can be costly as Howell eventually learned.

It’s not our favorite thing to do to highlight the negatives on his special day, but the Cowboys’ defense surrendered a season-high in passing yards and it wasn’t from garbage time. And this is coming off of two straight games where they allowed less than 80 yards passing, so it merits an investigation. Make no mistake about it though, Bland is a playmaker having a special season.

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