Remember, it takes a full 60 minutes. Not 50, not 55, but 60.
The Dallas Cowboys nearly found that out the hard way when after dominating for at least three and a half quarters, they let the Washington Football Team get back in the game with 12 points allowed in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
Fortunately, the Dallas defense saved the day, creating yet another turnover with just over two minutes left to assure a 27-20 victory. Of course that side of the ball was simply outstanding throughout the afternoon, allowing Washington only 224 yards of total offense and holding the home team to two third down conversions on 14 attempts.
The return of defensive end Randy Gregory and defensive tackle Neville Gallimore, combined with fellow defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence coming back last week, has suddenly given the Cowboys a formidable pass rush. Dallas recorded five sacks and nine quarterback hits overall in the game while limiting Washington's Tyler Heinicke to only 122 passing yards and a 55.8 passer rating.
Two of those sacks came courtesy of Micah Parsons, who has now recorded 9.5 sacks in his last six outings and set a record for the most multi-sack games by a rookie. With that kind of pressure, the Cowboys were able to post four takeaways in the game, upping their total to 27 for the season and already surpassing their 23 from all of last year.
As strong as the defense was, however, Dak Prescott and the offense never seemed to totally find their rhythm. The quarterback was off on many of his throws and finished with 211 passing yards, one touchdown, two interceptions and a 58.8 passer rating. The Cowboys totaled 323 total yards of offense, but were just 1 of 6 in the red zone, forced to rely on the leg of Greg Zuerlein, who was good on all four of his field goal attempts.
The Cowboys did something they hadn't done in their last three games – put up points on their opening possession. Prescott pushed his team 54 yards in 12 plays before the drive stalled, but out came Zuerlein for a 35-yard field goal. Which was a good sign considering Dallas came into this game undefeated, 6-0, when scoring first.
And by the end of the quarter, the game seemed essentially over.
The Cowboys would go on to reel off 15 more unanswered points to take a commanding lead, thanks primarily to the play of their defense. It started when Gregory, back after missing four games due to a calf injury, tipped a pass at the line and then hauled it in himself to give Dallas the ball at the Washington 41-yard line.
Five players later, the Cowboys were on the board again after Prescott threaded a pass to Amari Cooper in the back of the end zone for the score. And thanks to a roughing the passer penalty on Washington, the Cowboys were successful on their two-point conversion.
But the defense wasn't done yet. With Washington going for it on fourth-and-2 at the Dallas 46-yard line, Parsons powered his way to the quarterback, strip-sacking Heinicke. The bouncing ball was then picked up by defensive end Dorance Armstrong, who went 37 yards untouched for the touchdown and an 18-0 lead.
After the flurry of action in the first frame, things were relatively calm through the early part of the second set of 15 minutes. That, of course, didn't prevent the Cowboys from increasing their lead.
Dallas added two more field goals before the half was done. The first came after a 61-yard drive in 11 plays set Zuerlein up for a 38-yard field goal. Then with 2:14 remaining in the quarter, Prescott and company used 12 plays to march 58 yards, Zuerlein again taking care of business with a 37-yarder.
With a 24-0 advantage at the break, the Dallas defense had allowed only 29 yards of offense to Washington, which included a net minus-7 yards in its passing game.
Washington finally got on the board midway through the third quarter with a 90-yard drive that saw Heinicke connect with Cam Sims on a 43-yard bomb. Heinicke then took care of the two-point conversion himself, diving for the left pylon to give the home side eight points.
But on Washington's next series, the Dallas defense came up with its third takeaway of the game. This time it was cornerback Jourdan Lewis punching the ball out of the arms of running back Antonio Gibson and recovering the fumble himself.
Set up at Washington's 25-yard line, the Cowboys were able to get to the 10, but failed to punch it in. Instead, Zuerlein provided yet another three points with a chip-shot 29-yarder.
To say things got interesting would be an understatement. With backup quarterback Kyle Allen taking over for an injured Heinicke, Washington was able to add another touchdown with just more than five minutes remaining, marching 73 yards in 17 plays. Running back Jonathan Williams got the scoring honors on a 1-yard rush, but Allen's pass attempt to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones fell incomplete, the two-point conversion failing.
But Washington was right back in the end zone less than a minute later. Prescott tried to connect with tight end Dalton Schultz, but failed to see linebacker Cole Holcomb, who stepped in front of the pass and returned it 31 yards for the touchdown. With the extra point blocked, Washington was now just seven points behind with a little over four minutes on the clock.
And they had the ball. But that's when Gregory came streaking through the line and took down Allen. The quarterback, in a desperate attempt to throw the ball, fumbled it, and safety Jayron Kearse came up with the prize, again giving Dallas possession at the Washington 37-yard line.
When Prescott then was able to pick up the first down just before the two-minute warning, the game was sealed. The Cowboys were able to run out the clock for their ninth win of the season, taking a commanding three-game lead in the NFC East with four games remaining.