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Gamebreakers: Cowboys took command vs. WAS


(Editor's note: The content provided is based on opinions and/or perspective of the editorial staff and not the Cowboys football staff or organization.)

ARLINGTON, TX — Anyone paying attention to just how fiery division matchups can be in the NFC East knew well in advance that this would be a dogfight between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Commanders on Thanksgiving.

The former was looking for payback on a Week 18 defeat in 2022 at FedEx Stadium, while the latter was hoping to stun the world by ending a league-best 12-game win streak at home, and the Commanders gave the Philadelphia Eagles a hell of a fight on two occasions so the Cowboys knew they were in for a back-alley brawl.

And so it was, but it ended with Dallas being the only one standing, thanks in large part to the players mentioned below — who really stood out as America enjoyed its stuffing:

DaRon Bland, CB: ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME?! Bland entered the game having tied the all-time NFL record for most picks sixes in a single season (4), and he was running out of time to break that record on Thanksgiving … until he wasn't. Sam Howell dropped back and targeted Dotson only to discover Bland had other intentions and, 63 yards and several broken tackles later, the second-year (!!) cornerback etched his name in the history books forever. What a weapon.

Dak Prescott, QB: It was evident early on that Dak Prescott wouldn't sit back against the Commanders, but rather take his shots downfield early and often. He'd eventually connect with Brandin Cooks in the second quarter for a 31-yard bomb to make it a 14-3 contest, then driving the Cowboys down the field on their final possession of the first half with a big play from Jalen Brooks, followed by one from Jalen Tolbert, to give Tony Pollard a shot at punching it in — doing so on an eight-yard rushing touchdown. Prescott had it all cooking in his favor on Thanksgiving, amassing 221 yards and two touchdowns …. by halftime.

Brandin Cooks, WR: It was only two games ago when Cooks destroyed the New York Giants on this very field at AT&T Stadium to the tune of 173 receiving yards and a touchdown. He's getting really comfortable in the Texas Coast offense and with quarterback Dak Prescott, and it showed again against the Commanders on the aforementioned touchdown toss. His ability to torture the secondary with his route-running made it impossible to key in on CeeDee Lamb, who didn't have an explosive day, but who also didn't have to thanks to his WR counterparts.

KaVontae Turpin, WR: More and more as the season goes along, Turpin is showing he's yet another one of the lethal weapons for the Cowboys, enough to make Danny Glover and Mel Gibson jealous. His speed was put on full display in the fourth quarter when he blew past the defender on a go-route down the middle of the field. Prescott found him for a 34-yard touchdown that all but nailed the coffin closed on any hopes the Commanders had of trying to mount a supposed comeback.

Micah Parsons, W (Weapon): For the second time in only four days, Parsons got his hands on the opposing quarterback and landed another sack. He looked as quick (and fast) as ever in hunting down Sam Howell on turkey day, and though he didn't rack up a bunch of sacks, the pressure he and the defensive line presented was routinely felt and forced Howell into premature decisions. If anyone was going to eat a meal on Thanksgiving, you had to assume one of them would be The Lion.

Dante Fowler, DE: How do you make up for a neutral zone infraction? Well, by lining up on the next play and making Sam Howell eat the turf. That's what Fowler did in the second quarter, making up for his penalty by helping Parsons for a seven-yard sack. The drive didn't end how the Cowboys would've liked, but Fowler's value to the pass rush is and has been clear for some time now. And it's one reason Dan Quinn trusts him so much in the DE rotation.

Osa Odighizuwa, DL: It's not about the stat line when it comes to Odighizuwa. It's about the impact and, boy oh boy, does he ever make one on a game. His ability to penetrate from the defensive interior is one of the best in the league, and it was on again on show against the Commanders. When he wasn't disrupting the pocket and getting into Howell's personal space, he was stopping a conversion on 4th-and-1 on a handoff to Brian Robinson on the Cowboys' side of the field (third quarter). All Odighizuwa does is make plays, even between him making plays and, yes, that makes perfect sense if you watch him closely.

Damone Clark, LB: Clark was in maniac mode against Washington, proving for yet another week that the former fourth-round pick is up to the task of being the man in the middle with Leighton Vander Esch sidelined for the season and possibly more. Clark was explosive in helping to bottle up the run whenever he saw the opportunity to do so, and he also impacted the aerial defense by limiting yards after the carry. It took only two quarters for him to rack up eight tackles, and that mostly tells the story of how his afternoon went.

Rico Dowdle, RB: It was a strong outing by Dowdle in Week 12, or rather it was another strong outing, considering how consistent he's been for most of the season. He's also resilient, not allowing a phantom holding penalty against Lamb that negated a big run deter him from taking a short pass later on in the same drive from Prescott and turning it into a receiving touchdown — the first score of the game for Dallas on an 11-play, 90-yard drive. He's a weapon both on the ground and as a receiver out of the backfield, and one opposing defenses haven't been able to do much about when he's handed the ball.

Tony Pollard, RB: While Dowdle was getting to pay dirt as a receiver, Pollard was doing it as the bulldozer with a turbo attached to it. His eight-yard rushing touchdown just before halftime gave the Cowboys a 20-10 lead and served as a quick (and I do mean quick) answer after the Commanders marched down the field on the drive prior to make it a four-point game. Pollard was a great stabilizing force on the ground, alongside Dowdle, which allowed Prescott to continue feasting in the air.

Jalen Brooks, WR: When the Cowboys needed more depth at wideout due to a KaVontae Turpin injury not long ago, it was Brooks' chance to step in and show what he could do, and that he is more than a training camp superstar. He did exactly that and, as such, hasn't been relegated to the inactives list since. On Thanksgiving, he added his best highlight of the season to his rookie reel: a pass from Prescott that was intended for Jalen Tolbert but tipped into the air, then caught by the undrafted rookie for a 24-yard gain that helped setup Pollard's rushing touchdown. Well done, rook. Well done.

Jalen Tolbert, WR: Speaking of Tolbert, not to be outdone by the other Jalen in the WR room, the second-year talent and former third-round pick got in on the action quickly after the tipped pass. On the very next play, Prescott dropped back, rolled a bit to his left to buy time and fired a shot down the left side to … you guessed it … a waiting Tolbert, who brought it in for a 31-yard chain-mover. The trust between Prescott and Tolbert has reached major levels of comfort, evidenced by Prescott targeting him immediately after the tipped pass, and being rewarded in a big way for doing so.

Jake Ferguson, TE: Anyone worried about a random drop from Ferguson isn't paying attention to just how good his hands have become over the course of this season. Early in this contest, Prescott threw an absolute dot down the right seam into a tight window that many might've dropped, but Ferguson reeled it on over his shoulder and with a defender draped all over him for a first down. It was his lone catch of the first half, but when it's of the 35-yard variety, it'll do just fine.

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