It was wet, it was sloppy, it was a win. In other words, it was a good day.
On a rainy afternoon in Washington D.C., the Dallas Cowboys earned a division win on the road, always a tough task, with a 33-19 victory over the rival Redskins.
Given the conditions, the Cowboys relied heavily on their run game, as Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball a career-high 31 times for 150 rushing yards and two touchdowns, an average of 4.5 yards per carry. That led to 307 yards of total offense and a 33:19 to 26:41 advantage in time of possession.
Perhaps even more importantly, though, the Cowboys defense came up big, limiting the Redskins to only 49 yards rushing and 285 yards of total offense. The team also recovered two fumbles and recorded its first interception since Week 2.
The first half, though, was largely an exercise in frustration for the Cowboys. A fumble, a missed field goal, five penalties for 50 yards – it wasn’t pretty. Making matters worse, Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins was seemingly having his way with the Dallas secondary.
All of that had put the Cowboys in a 13-7 hole and the Redskins looking at third-and-6 from the Dallas 14-yard line with just over four minutes left in the second quarter.
Washington had taken an early 3-0 lead when Elliot fumbled on the Cowboys’ very first play of the game, which set up a 38-yard field goal. Dallas then responded with a quick and easy five-play, 75-yard series that saw Prescott find Jason Witten for a 16-yard gain, Geoff Swaim on an 18-yard connection and Terrance Williams for a 25-yard completion. That set up Elliott for a 13-yard dash off left guard for the touchdown and a 7-3 tally.
But Washington snapped right back with a seven-play, 75-yard drive of its own that led to a score. The Redskins then put up points on their third straight possession after new Cowboys kicker Mike Nugent pushed his own 49-yard attempt to the left. That turned into an eventual 42-yard field goal for Washington to bring us to that 13-7 advantage. And the Redskins appeared ready to add to their total when they lined up for that third down deep in Cowboys territory.
That’s when the tide turned. David Irving proceeded to chase down Cousins for a sack, which brought another attempted field goal for the Redskins. However, Nick Rose’s kick was blocked by Tyrone Crawford, the bouncing prize then being scooped up by Orlando Scandrick, who returned the ball 86 yards down the left sideline. With a low block by Washington tacked on, the Cowboys were in business at the Redskins’ 2-yard line.
After Elliott plowed up the middle on consecutive 1-yard rushes, Dallas was in the end zone, the visitors taking a 14-13 lead into the half.
The momentum swing continued for the Cowboys as the third quarter got underway as the team came up with a pair of turnovers. On the first one, Crawford continued his dominating game with a strip-sack of Cousins that DeMarcus Lawrence recovered. That ended in a 36-yard field goal by Nugent.
Then on the ensuing kickoff, Keith Smith laid a huge hit on return man Chris Thompson, which caused yet another fumble. This time Bené Benwikere fell on the ball to set the Cowboys up at the Redskins’ 26-yard line. And although a touchdown run by Elliott was nullified because of a holding call on Tyron Smith, Nugent was able to up the lead to 20-13 with a 48-yard field goal.
In making his debut for Dallas, Nugent was a busy man as for the third consecutive series he split the uprights for three points. The biggest play on this series was the one that actually didn’t happen. Washington’s Tress Way cut loose with a 63-yard punt that would have had Dallas pinned at its own 13-yard line.
But instead, a penalty forced the Redskins to kick again and this time Way’s effort resulted in the Cowboys starting at their own 43-yard line, a 30-yard gain. Given the gift, the Cowboys worked their way down to the Washington 9-yard line before Nugent’s 27-yard field goal made it a two-possession game, 23-13, heading into the fourth quarter.
At this point, the Cowboys had the deteriorating conditions on their side, limiting the Redskins passing attack. In turn, the Dallas ground game continued to churn out yardage. And likewise, Nugent continued to do his part as he finished out the team’s next drive by adding another three points, this time from 37 yards.
Unfortunately, the Redskins then went on a drive that the Cowboys would just as soon forget. Both Taco Charlton and Jaylon Smith were unable to haul in diving interceptions, Xavier Woods missed a tackle on a fourth-and-5 that resulted in a first down and Anthony Brown was flagged for pass interference in the end zone that set up Washington at the Dallas 1-yard line.
All of that resulted in a Cousins pass to Josh Doctson for the six points, although the Redskins missed the extra point, the score now 26-19 with 4:30 remaining in the game.
The Cowboys did their best to run out the clock, but were unable to move the ball past midfield. Still, they forced the Redskins to burn all three of their timeouts and by the time Washington took over at its own 12-yard line, there was only 54 seconds remaining.
Soon enough, it no longer mattered. On second down, Cousins tried to connect with Thompson, only to have Irving bat the pass into the air. Byron Jones then came down with the interception and raced untouched into the end zone, capping the 33-19 victory.
With the win, the Cowboys moved their record to 4-3 on the season and jumped into second place in the NFC East. They’ll now return home to host the Kansas City Chiefs at 3:25 p.m. next Sunday.