Happy Thanksgiving indeed.
Given the strength of the offenses in this holiday matchup that saw the Dallas Cowboys host the rival Washington Redskins in front of a sold-out crowd of 93,099, most expected a shootout of sorts.
But while both teams were able to move the ball, and the game definitely had a back-and-forth feel, the Cowboys held the Redskins to under 30 points, in the end pulling out a 31-26 win. With the victory, Dallas extended its franchise-record winning streak to 10 games.
Based on just the stat sheet, though, the Redskins should have had an enjoyable afternoon. Washington finished with 505 yards of total offense to the Cowboys' 353 and won the time of possession battle, 33:24 to 26:36. Five times the Redskins were able to reach the red zone, yet only twice were they able to cross the goal line.
The Cowboys defense was the very definition of "bend but don't break," although they were helped early on by the struggles of Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins, who was good on only two of his four attempts on the day. He missed a 43-yard try wide left on the visitors' first possession – this coming after Washington called a timeout right before the play clock expired – and then went wide right on a 55-yard try in the second quarter.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, were able to better take advantage of their opportunities, as they were 4-for-4 in their red zone trips. Quarterback Dak Prescott again led the way despite throwing for just 195 passing yards. But he had one touchdown toss and ran for another while again failing to turn the ball over.
For his part, fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott again was strong on the ground as well, totaling 97 rushing yards and two scores. And a good chunk of his damage came on the Cowboys' very first possession of the game.
For the seventh time in 11 outings this season, the team was able to score on its opening drive. This one, however, may have been the most impressive.
Dallas took seven plays, but never faced a third down. After Lucky Whitehead started things off with a 15-yard sweep around the right end, Elliott went on to run the ball four times for 43 yards while Prescott was good on both of his pass attempts. Elliott finished up the drive with a 4-yard power push up the middle to get the Cowboys on the board, 7-0.
The sledding was tougher after that, although Dallas did put points on the board on both of their second-quarter possessions. The first resulted in a 46-yard field goal by Dan Bailey, but the second was another masterful series put together by Prescott.
Set up at their own 45-yard line with 3:51 remaining in the second quarter after a missed Redskins field goal, the Cowboys marched 55 yards in just 2:06 to reach the end zone. Prescott found Cole Beasley for 5 yards, Dez Bryant for 10 and then ran for 18 himself. The series was then capped when the quarterback rolled out to his right before rifling a pass to Terrance Williams, who beautifully tiptoed just inside the pylon for the score.
The second of Washington's two field goals in the half, a 20-yarder came with just three seconds remaining in the second quarter, but Dallas still went into the break with a 17-6 lead.
Neither team was able to add to its total in third quarter, but beginning at the 7:49 mark of the frame, the Redskins went on a lengthy 14-play drive that didn't end until the first play of the fourth quarter. That's when quarterback Kirk Cousins found tight end Jordan Reed on the left side for a short 5-yard touchdown completion. Washington was unsuccessful on its two-point conversion attempt, Sean Lee coming down with the interception, but still narrowed the score to 17-12.
The Cowboys needed an offensive spark, needed to slow whatever momentum the Redskins seemed to be gaining. They got just what they needed.
Starting at their own 25-yard line, the Cowboys opened up the possession with a 21-yard run around the right end by Elliott, who then hauled in a short pass from Prescott and added another 19 yards.
A 12-yard pass to Beasley, a short 3-yard scamper by Prescott and a 13-yard slant to Bryant gave Dallas a first-and-goal at the Washington 6-yard line. Prescott then rolled to his right again, looking to connect with Jason Witten in the end zone. But with his tight end covered and no one in front of him, the quarterback made the dash to paydirt and the score, the Cowboys now up 24-12.
Unfortunately, they gave it right back with the Redskins needing less than two minutes to again pull to within five points. This time wide receiver DeSean Jackson got behind cornerback Anthony Brown for a wide-open 67-yard bomb, any chance for a comfortable stroll to the finish long forgotten.
But Dallas wasn't about to let off the gas pedal either. Helped by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, the Cowboys came right back and scored again. Elliott appeared to have a 21-yard score off right tackle, but the play was called back for holding. No worries. Two plays later, Prescott hit Bryant across the middle for a gain down to the Washington 1-yard line, which was followed on the very next snap by Elliott plunging in to bounce the score back up to 31-19 with 6:29 remaining in the game.
It was too much for the Redskins to overcome. Once again the visitors went on a lengthy march, adding to their total yards and time of possession stats, and they eventually reached the end zone, Cousins finding Reed again on an 8-yard completion.
After Washington's ensuing onside kick went out of bounds, the Cowboys had the ball at the Redskins 47-yard line, but with 1:53 left on the clock and the visitors still owning two timeouts, Dallas had to move the chains to keep Washington's high-powered offense off the field.
When Elliott ran for 3 yards and Prescott then threw a short bubble screen to Beasley on the left side for a gain of 8, that was all they needed to wrap things up.
With the victory, the Cowboys improved to 10-1 on the year, maintaining first place in the NFC East with the best record in the NFL. They'll be back in action next Thursday in prime time as they head to Minnesota to take on the 6-5 Vikings.