ARLINGTON, Texas – Bit by bit, you could see Ryan Switzer's breakout performance building.
A 33-yard kick return in Week 10 against Atlanta, followed by a 61-yard effort in Week 11 against Philadelphia. It always seemed like the rookie return man was one block or one step away from hitting the jackpot.
Whatever might have been missing, it all came together Thursday night. In a 10-0 game midway through the second quarter, Washington punter Tress Way boomed a punt 56 yards to the Dallas 16-yard line.
Switzer fielded it, took a half-step back, then raced right down the middle of the field, through the heart of the Washington defense, shed two tackles and then beat long snapper Nick Sundberg to the corner.
By the time he somersaulted into the end zone, 11 seconds later, he had gone 83 yards to give Dallas a 17-0 lead.
"I don't feel more comfortable back there, I just feel like the game is slowing down for me," Switzer said. "I feel like I'm making good decisions. I feel like the guys in front of me are doing a hell of a job blocking."
The play completely swung what had been an ugly game to that point. The Cowboys and Redskins combined for zero first downs in the first quarter, and the game had seen six punts and two turnovers.
Having already scored 10 points on offense, the punt return put the Cowboys up by three possessions and helped give them the cushion necessary to dictate the game.
"The Switzer return was a big-time play for us," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "It allowed us to get some momentum going early on in this ballgame and start feeling good about ourselves, and I think it just fed off that."
[embeddedad0]The touchdown has got to feel like a long time coming for one of the most heavily scrutinized members of the Cowboys' rookie class. Although he's shown flashes in recent weeks, Switzer's biggest impression to this point in the season might have been his muffed punt in Week 4 against the Los Angeles Rams.
Following this convincing win, it's safe to say that's no longer the case – and it's readily apparent why the Cowboys drafted such a capable return man when they did.
"We're starting to make some noise in the return game," Switzer said. "Hopefully we can continue that moving forward."