By the time the Dallas Cowboys took the field for their Sunday night showdown against the Washington Football Team, they had already clinched the NFC East title thanks to needed tiebreakers materializing in the early slate of games.
But that didn't stop them from playing like champions. In one of the most dominating performances in franchise history, the Cowboys steamrolled their division rivals, exploding for 42 points in the first half on their way to an easy 56-14 victory.
In doing so, the Cowboys became the first team in the NFL to score 56 points in a game this season. The point total also tied the third-highest mark in club history, originally set with a 56-7 win over Philadelphia on Oct. 9, 1966.
Need more examples of just how dominating Dallas was? This game marked the first time in Cowboys record books that both an offensive lineman and a defensive lineman scored in the same game. They also earned touchdowns on offense, defense and special teams, the first time accomplishing that feat since Nov. 11, 2012 at Philadelphia.
The real story of this night, though, was perhaps the rejuvenized play of Dak Prescott. Having admittedly struggled through his last few games, the quarterback could do no wrong against an overmatched Washington defense. Throwing with confidence, he completed 71.8 percent of his passes for 330 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions, earning an impressive passer rating of 131.4.
And according to ESPN Stats, Prescott became the first quarterback in NFL history to complete touchdown throws to a running back, wide receiver, tight end and offensive lineman all in the same game.
Five different players finished with at least 50 receiving yards, Amari Cooper, after admitting earlier in the week that he had been frustrated, led the team with 85 receiving yards off of seven catches with one touchdown.
Just for good measure, Ezekiel Elliott scored both rushing and receiving touchdowns, the ninth time in his career he's turned the trick. That's tied for the most in the NFL since he came into the league in 2016.
But don't forget the other side of the ball. Not to be overlooked is this franchise's latest embodiment of the Doomsday Defense, which seems to only be getting stronger. The Cowboys recorded five sacks from six different players with 10 quarterback hits in all, six passes defensed and two interceptions.
One of those sacks came courtesy of Micah Parsons, who now has 13 for the season and needs only two more to set the NFL record for most by a rookie.
And all of this came with many of the Cowboys starters playing only three quarters.
The Dallas defense dominated from the get-go as on Washington's very first offensive snap of the game, quarterback Taylor Heinicke tried to test cornerback Trevon Diggs with a long bomb to wideout Terry McLaurin. Bad decision.
Recently named to his first Pro Bowl, Diggs instead hauled in his 11th interception of the year, tying the Cowboys' all-time record for a season, originally set by Everson Walls in 1981. Diggs is now just one of seven NFL players since 1970 to tally at least 11 picks in a single campaign.
Given the spark, the Cowboys offense then quickly drove 71 yards in nine plays to pay dirt. Prescott connected with Cooper twice during the series before the quarterback capped things off with a dump-off to Elliott, who ran to the pylon untouched for the game's first touchdown.
Which was soon followed by the game's second touchdown. This time Prescott picked apart the Washington defense, completing 5 of 6 passes for 59 yards, the last a 9-yarder to tight end Dalton Schultz for the score.
But the Cowboys were don't yet in the opening frame. Again the defense provided another incredible highlight. This time it was defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence tipping a pass at the line of scrimmage, hauling in the interception himself and then rumbling through Washington's would-be tacklers for a 40-yard touchdown, the first of his career.
And with that, Dallas has now produced six defensive touchdowns for the year, a new franchise record. They have also earned five pick-sixes this season, a new team record as well and the most in the NFL since Chicago also posted five in 2018.
In addition, Lawrence became the 17th Cowboys player to score this season, another new club mark.
Despite the game already well in hand, 21-0, Washington wasn't ready to roll over and play dead just yet. Heinicke again went deep, but this time connected with Dyami Brown for a 48-yard completion to the Dallas 27. That eventually led to a swing pass to running back Antonio Gibson, who scampered the final 8 yards for the touchdown.
But the Cowboys came right back with their fourth score of the night. Prescott did most of the damage himself, rolling to his right and finding Michael Gallup for a big 41-yard gain and then scrambling left for 13 more. Elliott again got the honors, though, rushing around the left end and diving into the end zone for the 11-yard touchdown.
Before the half was done, the offense would make it five straight possessions with a touchdown as the Washington defense simply had no answer for Prescott and company. The fourth came courtesy of a nine-play, 80-yard drive with the quarterback completing passes of 9, 25, 16, 9 and 13 yards to help get his team down to the 1-yard line.
There is where the unlikeliest of players scored the touchdown, right tackle Terence Steele breaking free and then corralling the Prescott pass for his first career score. According to NBC's research, he became the first Cowboys offensive lineman to haul in a touchdown pass since Rayfield Wright caught a Don Meredith offering way back in 1968. And of course, Steele became the 18th player on the season to reach the end zone, extending the team record.
Just for good measure, the Cowboys then added one more touchdown before the break. Taking possession with 1:42 left in the second quarter, Prescott worked the two-minute offense to perfection, threading his final toss to Cooper who tip-toed backward inside the pylon for the score.
The Cowboys' 42 points scored through the opening two quarters tied the team record for most points tallied in a first half, equaling the club's effort against Philadelphia on Oct. 19, 1969.
For Prescott, he threw for 321 yards in the half, the most in the first half of his career, and the second most in any half of his career. He totaled 329 in the second half against Green Bay on Oct. 6, 2019.
Prescott's four passing touchdowns were also the most ever by a Cowboys quarterback in a first half and tied for the most passing scores in either half. Tony Romo threw four in the second half vs. Denver on Oct. 6, 2013.
While the outcome was decided, there was of course 30 minutes of football left to be played, the goal at this point being to really just finish the night with no injuries.
But then the Cowboys' special teams decided to get in on the point party. With Washington punting from its own 10-yard line, special teams ace Corey Clement came around the right end and leaped over a defender to get a hand on Tress Way's punt attempt.
The blocked ball then bounced right into the arms of rookie Chauncey Golston in the end zone for the Cowboys' ninth return touchdown of the season. It was also the third blocked punt of the season for Dallas, tying the 1991 squad for the most in franchise annals.
With that, the night was over for Prescott and many of the other starters on both sides of the ball.
Backups, starters, it didn't really matter. Cooper Rush took his place behind center and promptly drove the Cowboys to yet another score. Receiver Malik Turner turned what appeared to be a short gain into 61 yards and then finished off the series with a dive into the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown.
Washington managed to reach the end zone one more time, second-string quarterback Kyle Allen completing a pass to tight end John Bates, who recovered his own fumble in the end zone. All that really meant was instead of the Cowboys tying the team record for margin of victory (49 points), they instead posted the sixth-highest margin of victory in club history.