FRISCO, Texas – In some ways, the 20-17 road loss to Washington brought change to the Cowboys' offense.
But the key to Thursday's Thanksgiving rematch is no different than the division rivals' first meeting on Oct. 21:
Which team can control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball?
"This is a bone-on-bone game," guard Zack Martin said.
The Cowboys' defense held Washington to 305 yards and one touchdown in Week 7, but offensively Dallas couldn't establish any momentum. Quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked four times and lost a fumble returned for a touchdown. Running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for a season-low 33 yards averaged 2.2 yards per carry, the second-lowest of his career.
The club evaluated the offense's season-long performance on the bye week and made two significant changes: trading its 2019 first-round draft pick for wide receiver Amari Cooper and replacing offensive line coach Paul Alexander with assistant Marc Colombo, who has emphasized more of the group's previous philosophy.
The results have improved, particularly during this two-game winning streak. Elliott is back in second place among all NFL rushers (953 yards) after gaining 273 yards against Philadelphia and Atlanta.
"We've definitely made a lot of strides in our run game since then," Elliott said.
As Garrett said, everything starts up front. Colombo's coaching has energized the offensive line, and Xavier Su'a-Filo has played well at left guard since rookie Connor Williams underwent a knee scope two weeks ago.
The line is prideful group that wasn't proud of their performance against a talented Washington defensive front.
"You never want to have a game like that, but you are what you put on tape," Martin said. "We've got to get back to what we do well, and I think we've done that over the last few weeks. And it's a big challenge for us. But that's not who we want to be, what we showed last time in Washington.
"There are still some things we need to clean up in protection, but we're getting better every week and I think guys have bought in. I think there's still a lot to get better at, but it's been trending in the right direction."
The Redskins (6-4) have remained in first place in the NFC East with a stout defense that ranks sixth against the run, allowing only 95.7 yards per game. Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith are experienced edge rushers. Washington's last two first-round picks, former Alabama stars Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, anchor the interior defensive line.
"They put a lot of picks into their front on defense. We put a lot of picks into our front on offense," Martin said. It's a huge game for us and we're just looking forward to Thursday."