The Cowboys did the thing! They went into Washington and emerged with a 38-10 victory to notch their third straight 12-win season. In the process, they also clinched the NFC East title, winning the division for the second time in three years and guaranteeing at least two home playoff games if they advance.
Things may have started out rough for the Cowboys in this one, but they quickly got it together and managed to more or less put it away by halftime. These five plays, all coming in the first half, were a big part of how that happened.
Brian Robinson comes up short on fourth down
The Commanders got the ball to start and their offense took off as if they were shot out of a cannon. An end around on the first play, a successful fourth-down conversion, and suddenly Washington was in scoring position. But a run stuff on third down set up another fourth-down attempt.
The Commanders went for it on fourth and one at the Dallas 31-yard line, and Sam Howell threw a quick pass out to Brian Robinson. Safeties Jayron Kearse and Donovan Wilson were right there, though, and tackled Robinson for a loss of two.
Just like that, a promising drive for the Commanders had yielded zero points. Rather than go up 3-0, the Commanders chose to be aggressive. All that accomplished was giving the Cowboys defense a shot to atone for their poor defensive start to this game.
Jourdan Lewis strips and recovers the ball
The Cowboys scored a touchdown almost seamlessly on their first offensive drive of the game, never even drawing a third down, and quickly went up 7-0. It was then the defense’s turn to make their mark, and they wasted little time in doing so.
The Commanders turned around and handed it off to Robinson, who barreled forward for five yards. However, Jourdan Lewis came flying in to make the tackle and did much more than that:
Not only did Lewis rip the ball right out of Robinson’s hands, but he then had the wherewithal to recover it as well. The Cowboys didn’t get any points off this takeaway, as it led to a blocked field goal, but this play was a big moment for the defense after largely getting walked over on the first drive of the game.
Unnecessary roughness adds on to big catch
Dak Prescott’s tipped interception led to a field goal from the Commanders, which put them up 10-7. Trailing to an inferior team must have woken up the Cowboys, because they roared back to life on the next drive, starting with the very first play.
Prescott dropped back and hit CeeDee Lamb, who picked up a few extra yards to total eight on first down. At the end of the play, a flag flew and the Commanders were quickly called for unnecessary roughness after a late hit against Lamb.
That tacked on 15 yards to Lamb’s already impressive catch and, in just one play, took the Cowboys from their own 29 to the Washington 48. From there, it took seven plays - again without seeing a single third down - before Tony Pollard got into the endzone to give the Cowboys a lead that they never gave back.
Donovan Wilson’s impressive interception
After taking back the lead, the Cowboys were looking to pull away. In order to do that, they needed a stop from their defense. At first, it didn’t look like that would happen, as the Commanders moved the ball well and had just crossed midfield when they drew a third and 10.
Of course, the Dallas defense chose that moment to make their stand:
The pass rush got into Howell’s face, forcing an uneven throw, but Wilson did the rest. His positioning and ability to secure the ball managed to get the ball right back to the Cowboys offense, giving them the perfect chance to build a lead before halftime.
Rico Dowdle flips the field
Immediately after the interception, the Cowboys knew they had a golden opportunity with 100 seconds left in the first half. Prescott’s first pass fell incomplete, but the next one proved to be a big one.
Prescott hit Rico Dowdle on a quick pass, and the feisty running back quickly took off down the field. Before long, Dowdle had picked up 32 yards and completely flipped the field from the Dallas 35 to the Washington 33. It was only a matter of time - four plays, to be exact - before the Cowboys scored again and went up 21-10 at halftime.
Dowdle’s huge play made it possible, and the Cowboys scored on the first possession of the third quarter to hit the double double that Mike McCarthy covets so much, effectively ending this game. But Dowdle’s big play set it all up.