There is a reason the Dallas Cowboys traded a first-round pick for Amari Cooper back on Oct. 22.
And in front of a sold-out AT&T Stadium crowd and a nationally televised audience, he showed just why, as the team’s newest receiver electrified the Cowboys offense in the second half, leading the team to a 31-23 victory over the rival Washington Redskins. In doing so, Dallas extended its current winning streak to three games and moved into a tie for first place in the NFC East with momentum clearly behind them.
Cooper brought speed, speed and more speed, hauling in eight catches for 180 receiving yards, the second-highest total of his career, with two long touchdowns. Helped by that effort, Dak Prescott totaled a season-best 289 yards passing, completing 71 percent of his attempts with two touchdown throws, no interceptions and a 121.6 passer rating.
Even Ezekiel Elliott got into the act. For the third straight game, and sixth time this season, he topped 100 yards rushing, finishing with 121 on 26 carries and a score. He also chipped in 22 yards receiving for 143 total yards from scrimmage. In all, Dallas finished with 404 yards of total offense, its third time cracking the 400 mark and second time in three games.
On the other side of the ball, the defense held Washington’s banged-up offense to 331 yards, including shutting down Adrian Peterson to the tune of only 35 yards rushing. Quarterback Colt McCoy, making his first start for the injured Alex Smith, had 268 passing yards with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 68.8 passer rating.
Despite Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith sidelined with a neck issue, the Cowboys offense came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. They took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 10 plays, as Prescott connected on five of six passes for 44 yards with Elliott rushing four times for another 31. The last of those saw him dart up the middle and then outrace the defense to the left pylon for a 16-yard touchdown run and an early 7-0 lead.
Elliott finished the first quarter with more yards (41) than he had in the entire game in the Cowboys’ first meeting with the Redskins (33). And midway through the second quarter he topped 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
But even though it felt like the Cowboys were largely in control, it was still just a one score game. And when the Redskins flipped the field, taking possession at their own 47-yard line on their fourth series of the game, they soon enough had indeed tied the game.
On Washington’s first play from scrimmage, tight end Vernon Davis got behind Cowboys linebacker Damien Wilson and McCoy hit him in stride for a 53-yard touchdown, everything evened up, 7-7.
Dallas bounced right back with Prescott orchestrating an impressive drive that reached a first-and-goal at the Redskins’ 4-yard line. But Elliott wasn’t asked to run the ball once from that short distance, and instead, the Cowboys lost 13 yards on a sack. With that, they eventually had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Brett Maher, their 10-7 advantage at the half feeling like somewhat of a let-down.
And while Meghan Trainor was able to provide some excitement during the break when she kicked off The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign with her halftime performance, once play began in the third quarter, the seemingly downward trend for the Cowboys continued.
The sequence started when the Redskins punted after their first possession of the second half, which pinned the Cowboys down at their own 8-yard line. Three quick plays and the team was punting away, only to allow Washington’s Trey Quinn to return it 30 yards to the Dallas 25-yard line.
Quinn then went on to provide the points, catching a 10-yard pass from McCoy in the end zone. And although the Redskins missed the extra point, they had their first lead of the game, 13-10.
That’s when Cooper took over.
On the Cowboys’ next series, Prescott connected with him for 11 yards to get things going, and then five plays later, threw a short pass to Cooper, who proceeded to race past a falling-down defender and all the way to the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown.
That was nothing. Two plays into Dallas’ next possession, Prescott again went to Cooper. This time, the wideout shook off a would-be tackler and then outran all comers for a 90-yard touchdown, the longest in the NFL season. With that, the Cowboys all of a sudden had an 11-point lead, 24-13.
As the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter, the feast continued. Following an interception by defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who read McCoy’s intentions on a short pass perfectly, the Cowboys went the final 17 yards needed in just five plays. But wow, was that fifth play a beauty.
Under heavy pressure on third-and-5 at the Washington 5-yard line, Prescott escaped one tackler, then wove his way through the remaining defense before somersaulting into the end zone, the game now seemingly in hand.
The Redskins tried to make it interesting. They tacked on another touchdown, Kapri Bibbs plunging in from the 1, and then added a 31-yard field goal 1:13 remaining to narrow the score to 31-23. But Washington’s ensuing onside kick bounced into the hands of Allen Hurns, the Cowboys taking the possession and the game.
With that, the Cowboys sent the fans home happy, improving to 6-5 on the season, their first time above .500 this season. They’ll be back in action next Thursday night at AT&T Stadium when they’ll host the New Orleans Saints.