It was another big win for the Dallas Cowboys as they blew out the Washington Commanders in the annual Thanksgiving Day game at AT&T Stadium, 45-10. After things stayed within ten points through three quarters, the Cowboys just exploded in the fourth, racking up 25 points and capping the scoring with a historical moment at DaRon Bland picked off a pass and nimbly raced into the end zone to set the all-time record for pick-sixes in a season with five. And there are still six left to play. He may not be done yet, and this win means his team is headed toward a playoff berth with a full head of steam.
The table was set for this game by the earlier game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, where the underdog Pack upset the home team. If Dallas was in any way overlooking their opponent, 45-10 should have sure they were not trying to take an early Thanksgiving nap.
It took a while for the Cowboys to get things going, but after punting on their first possession, they mounted a 95-yard drive for their first touchdown. They had to overcome three different penalties and at one point faced a second and 25, but got into the red zone where Dak Prescott found Rico Dowdle on a perfect screen play from the 15. The 7-0 score meant that Dallas had not trailed all year at AT&T Stadium. Things were off to a solid start for the offense as Tony Pollard already had 25 yards rushing and Prescott had found six different receivers.
The Commanders responded to that with a 50-yard drive that culminated in a Joey Slye 43-yard field goal to narrow the margin to 7-3. Sam Howell was taking a lot of pressure and was sacked once in the first quarter, but he made several good plays, including a long completion on third and ten to keep their scoring drive alive. However, Markquese Bell left the field, causing some momentary concern. But Damone Clark would pick up the slack by blowing up a screen play for a loss of eight yards to help limit Washington to just three, and Bell would return later. With the absence of Jayron Kearse, the defense needed Bell on the field.
Luke Schoonmaker became the seventh different pass catcher for Dallas on the next drive, and Prescott would find CeeDee Lamb for 16 before throwing a beautiful 31-yard touchdown strike to a wide open Brandin Cooks. With more than half of the second quarter still to play, the Cowboys had a two-score lead, 14-3.
Still, the Commanders kept coming back with their passing game, getting nice chunk plays to move the sticks. Further, yellow flags kept raining down on Dallas, although not all are equal. Lamb was called on for a hold that was pretty invisible on replay, and Donovan Wilson got caught on a pass interference call that may well have saved a touchdown. But an offsides play would also show up. The defense negated that with the second sack of Howell, this one by a combination of Dante Fowler and Micah Parsons. It was the second of the game as Johnathan Hankins had already notched one. The problem, however, was that Howell kept converting third and long to extend the drive. Curtis Samuel, having a very good game, got them inside the one, and Howell would run it in himself to make it a 14-10 game with 1:51 left in the first half.
Jalen Brooks would get in on the pass receiving by tracking down a ball that was intended for Jalen Tolbert, but was deflected up.
Cowboys rookie Jalen Brooks comes up big on the tip for the crazy catch.
The seventh-round pick out of South Carolina had four catches last week and now does this on Thanksgiving. pic.twitter.com/BivB26nrLj
— Seven Rounds in Heaven (@7RoundsInHeaven) November 23, 2023
Prescott would give Tolbert another chance on the next play with a 31-yard pass that got Dallas to the Washington seven, and Pollard would get into the end zone to cap a great two-minute drill, although it was marred by Brandon Aubrey clanging the extra point off the upright. It still staked the Cowboys to a 20-10 halftime lead.
The Cowboys received the kickoff after halftime, having deferred to start the game, and just like they did on their opening possession, they had to punt. There have been a lot of games they have started slow in both halves. That has not been a terrible issue against less imposing teams, but with things getting much tougher over the coming weeks, that is a potential problem they need to work on.
Howell has been by far the most sacked quarterback in the league, but he was often very elusive in this game, including on the next possession of the game as he evaded pressure from Parsons to scramble for a first down. It was part of another good looking drive for the Commanders as they continued to pick up yards in bunches. That was part of Washington dominating time of possession in this game as they mounted multiple long drives, where Dallas, in this game at least, was striking quickly on their scoring drives. But Dallas would get off the field with a Stephon Gilmore pass breakup on third and one at the Cowboys’ 39 followed by a tackle for a two-yard loss on fourth and one.
A failed screen play would cause the first three and out of the game for Dallas next. The Commanders would have to punt the ball back. It looked like the Cowboys would have to punt it right back as they faced a third and eleven, the third time in the quarter they had according to the announcers, but Prescott found Cooks for 25 yards. Another penalty, a false start, would be overcome by a third-down completion to Lamb on the last play of the third stanza. That had Dallas sitting first and ten at the Washington 41 to start the final quarter. With neither team scoring in the third, things were still a bit too close for comfort. The Cowboys would finally add some more points, settling for an Aubrey 52-yard field goal at the 13:36 mark of the fourth to make it 23-10. The kicker may be having his issues with points after, but he was still perfect on field goals for his entire NFL career.
On the first play after the ensuing kickoff, Parsons would sack Howell to set up second and 17, and after an incomplete pass, the Commanders would get sixteen yards to set up fourth and one. They went for it, and the pressure got to Howell, with Hankins getting his second sack of the game to give Dallas the ball at the Washington 24. Three plays later Prescott would find Lamb in the end zone to push the score to 31-10 after a two-point conversion, and things finally started to feel comfortable with just over ten and a half minutes left to play.
The Commanders did not go down without putting up a bit of a fight, but this was another game where the superior talent of the Cowboys just won out. After the third failed fourth down try for Washington, it was just a matter of running the clock out, and Pollard would do a big part of that with his longest run of the day for 27 yards to get his team well across the midfield stripe. Often Dallas has been accused of padding the stats in garbage time, and that may well be argued as Prescott would wind up his day with a 34-yard strike to KaVontae Turpin with a tick under six minutes left to play. The 38-10 score was another completely dominant result even though early on this felt like a much closer type of game. Prescott’s stat line of 22 completions on 32 attempts for 331 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions showed he was fully back to form.
But things were not over, as DaRon Bland would provide those late-minute fireworks with his pick-six to make this a game that will go down in Cowboys history. Most importantly, they are now in very good shape to get into the playoffs, and are not yet dead in the race for the number one seed.