ARLINGTON, Texas –The Cowboys had been getting killed by opposing quarterbacks for three weeks, so of course the natural response was to return the favor.
Thursday's 38-14 demolition of Washington looked unfamiliar in a lot of ways to the Cowboys' three-game losing streak. But perhaps the most notable was their ability to get to the quarterback.
Facing a banged-up Washington offensive line, the Cowboys left no doubt in establishing their dominance, as they terrorized Kirk Cousins into four sacks and two interceptions on the night.
"I think that they had a really good pass rush tonight," Cousins said. "There's a reason why pass rushers are highly paid, and I think it can wreck a game and make a difference."
Who would know better than Cousins, who watched first-hand as the Dallas pass rush wrecked his game plan for the first half. The Washington quarterback was pressured on his first play from scrimmage. Five minutes into the second quarter, with the Cowboys holding a 7-0 lead, he was sacked for the first time, with the ensuing fumble leading to a Dallas field goal.
"It wasn't just the pass rush if you ask me. It was rush and covering," said David Irving. "Our DBs were doing a great job, making him hold the ball, he wasn't able to get it out as quick. And it paid off."
It certainly looked like a combined effort. Cousins finished the night with just 251 passing yards. If he wasn't getting sacked, he was having his passes tipped – by Irving, for example – and intercepted by the likes of Anthony Brown and Jeff Heath.
"We feed off of each other," said Taco Charlton. "The secondary does a great job and it helps the defensive line, the defensive line does a great job and it helps the secondary."
DeMarcus Lawrence is the story of the night, as his two sacks pushed him into the NFL lead with 13.5 on the season. But Charlton deserves plenty of recognition in his own right. In the second quarter, the rookie blew past right tackle Ty Nsekhe and pancaked Cousins for his second career sack.
Three plays later, the Redskins punted to Ryan Switzer – who put the Cowboys up, 17-0, with an 83-yard touchdown return.
"No matter who's in the lineup, we kind of keep working," Charlton said. "That was something we were able to do tonight."
It shouldn't be a surprise that this is a season-long trend. The Cowboys typically win when they have success getting to the quarterback. They've notched 24 of their 32 team sacks in winning efforts.
They've managed just eight sacks in their six losses – and they managed just one total sack during the three-game losing streak that bogged them down in November.
If they can keep the pressure on going forward, they'll have every opportunity to string some wins together in December.
"We're just taking it each week at a time," Irving said. "We got this one down and now we have to focus on next week and try to come out and win again."