The Dallas Cowboys held their destiny in their own hands coming into this regular-season finale. Win and first place in the NFC East was theirs. The second seed and home games through at least the first two weeks of the playoffs would be secured.
Facing a lowly Washington Commanders team that truthfully benefited more by losing this one (thus maintaining a higher draft pick), the Cowboys overcame a bumpy start to simply dominate their division foes in a 38-10 victory.
With the win, the Cowboys will now head home to host the Green Bay Packers next weekend in the wild-card round of the playoffs, time and date to be determined.
Despite the offense being without both of its starting guards – Tyler Smith sidelined due to a foot injury and Zack Martin battling an illness – the Cowboys offense didn't seem to skip a beat. Dak Prescott completed 86.1 percent of his passes for 279 yards, four touchdowns and an interception for a 124.4 quarterback rating. That marked his fourth game of the season with at least four passing touchdowns, ranking first in the league, and the 11th of his career, a new team record.
CeeDee Lamb wrapped up his record-breaking regular season with another standout performance, hauling in 13 catches for a game-high 98 receiving yards. He also added two scoring catches, which extended his touchdown streak to nine consecutive games, becoming just the third NFL wideout to achieve the feat since 2000, joining A.J. Green in 2012 and Randy Moss in 2003-04.
On the ground, Tony Pollard finished with 70 yards on 17 carries, which pushed him to 1,005 rushing yards on the season. In doing so, he became just the sixth player in franchise history to post back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns.
Defensively, Dallas was just as impressive, earning three takeaways and four sacks while limiting Washington to just 180 total yards of offense. Micah Parsons posted five tackles and his 14th sack of the season, a new career high. He now has 40 sacks through his first three seasons, only the fifth NFL player since 1982 to reach that mark in his first three years.
After the Dallas defense stopped the Commanders on fourth-and-1 at the Cowboys' 31-yard line, Prescott and the offense wasted no time in reaching the end zone on their first possession. The quarterback completed all six of his pass attempts in the series, the last of which was a 3-yard loft to Jalen Tolbert in the end zone for the game's first points.
And when the Commanders' next snap saw cornerback Jourdan Lewis strip the ball from the hands of running back Brian Robinson and recover the fumble himself, the Cowboys were back in business at the Washington 31-yard line.
But Dallas couldn't get any closer than the 14 before bringing out Brandon Aubrey for a 32-yard field goal attempt. Instead, his kick was blocked and then picked up by Jace Whittaker, who returned the ball 66 yards to the Cowboys' 20-yard line.
The block was the first failed field-goal attempt for Aubrey this season, snapping his NFL record 35 consecutive field goals made to start a career.
Unfortunately, the Commanders took advantage of that turn of events. Inching their way closer to the goal line, they finally got their touchdown on the first play of the second quarter. Going for it on fourth-and-1, quarterback Sam Howell threw a quick out to Robinson, who bobbled the ball before corralling it to tie the score.
The mistakes continued. On the Cowboys' next possession, a Prescott pass intended for Michael Gallup was tipped up in the air at the line of scrimmage by defensive end Jalen Harris. That allowed safety Quan Martin to grab the interception and set the Commanders up at their own 45-yard line. That eventually led to a 36-yard field from Joey Slye and a surprising lead for the home side.
Washington's good fortunes wouldn't last long. After Prescott kicked things off with a pair of passes – an unnecessary roughness penalty providing another 15 yards as well – the Cowboys went to the ground five straight times for the final 36 yards. The touchdown came thanks to Pollard, who muscled in from the 1-yard line.
But Dallas wasn't yet done in the half. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence hit Howell's arm on an attempted throw, which caused the ball to flutter into the arms of safety Donovan Wilson.
Now at his own 35-yard line with 1:40 left on the clock, Prescott got going with a short pass to running back Rico Dowdle, who streaked down the left sideline for a 32-yard gain. Lamb then got in on the action, catching three of Prescott's next four offerings and stretching the ball over the goal line for the final 4-yard completion to give the Cowboys a 21-10 advantage at the break.
However, the news wasn't all good. Prior to Wilson's interception, cornerback Stephon Gilmore suffered a shoulder injury and would miss the remainder of the game, his status for next week still to come.
Given that since 2021 Dallas has gone 27-2 when leading at the half, the game was essentially over. And if it wasn't before then, it certainly was when Dallas came out with a pair of touchdowns on its first two possessions of the third quarter.
The first came on a 12-play, 75-yard drive that saw Lamb catch five passes for 34 yards. He also provided the 6-yard touchdown when Prescott, with plenty of time in the pocket, threw a dart to his primary target in the back of the end zone.
That was followed by a quick three-and-out by the defense that forced a Commanders punt. But Peyton Hendershot burst through the line of scrimmage to record his first career block, giving Dallas the ball at Washington's 9-yard line. Three snaps later, Prescott dropped a pass right into the arms of wideout Brandin Cooks for the 25-point lead.
Cornerback DaRon Bland kept the fun going on defense as he provided the team's third takeaway on the day, corralling a deep Howell offering for his league-leading ninth interception of the year.
The Cowboys starters stayed in for one more series after the gift, but Aubrey's bad-luck day continued when he clunked a 36-yard field goal attempt off the left upright, no good.
But he would find redemption soon enough. With Prescott and most of the other key starters taking a seat on the sidelines for the rest of the game, Cooper Rush took over behind center and led the Cowboys into enemy territory. That left it to Aubrey, whose 50-yard field goal went right down the middle to wrap up the game's scoring, 38-10.