Posted on December 1, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Fans of the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins were looking forward to Thursday Night Football this week. Not only could their team get a much-needed win, but it would come at the expense of their hated rival. With how both teams have played of late, the expectation was that Kirk Cousins would blow up on the Dallas defense in the second half and cruise to victory.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys did something they haven’t done since they played the Kansas City Chiefs. They played a complete game.
For the last three weeks, the Dallas offense has shown signs of life in the first half only to implode in the second. Their defense would play very well for two quarters before laying down for the final two.
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At first, the offense looked like it might struggle once again. The Cowboys went three and out on the first four drives and didn’t record a first down until the end of the first quarter. But then something started to happen that hasn’t happened the last three weeks.
A few balls started to bounce their way.
There was the interception in the red zone that killed a very promising Washington drive after being deflected by the intended receiver into the arms of Jeff Heath. That was followed by a pair of fumbles in the second quarter, one of which led to a Dallas field goal. To top the first half off for the Cowboys, rookie Ryan Switzer returned a punt 83-yards for a touchdown.
Switzer’s score gave Dallas a 17-0 lead, but Kirk Cousins was able to get the ball in the end zone before the end of the half to close the gap to 17-7.
At this point, if history were to repeat itself, the Dallas offense would be completely inept in the second half, and the defense would make Kirk Cousins look like an All-Pro. But that didn’t happen because certain players decided not to let it.
This time the pass rush didn’t disappear in the second half, and the secondary didn’t let everyone run free. Cousins did record another touchdown pass but also threw a second interception.
With Dak Prescott injuring his hand late in the first half, the Cowboys leaned on the run, and it worked. But it only worked because the offensive line lived up to their reputation. Alfred Morris looked like the guy Redskins fans loved a few years ago. He carried the ball 27 times for 127 yards (both highs for him as a Cowboy) and a touchdown.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever broken my hand,” Prescott said after the game (ESPN). “I couldn’t grip initially right after because the (hand) swelled up on me so bad. As I said, they wrapped it up, got the swelling down and I was fine.”
“If we didn’t have the return by Switz, Cooper Rush would have got in the ballgame at that point,” Dallas head coach Jason Garrett said following the game (ESPN). “We got the return, Dak was able to come back out.”
Rod Smith ended the scoring on the day with a one-yard plunge for a touchdown with 2:37 left to play. After getting blown out and scoring less than ten points a game for three consecutive games, Dallas got a much-needed win with a blowout of their own, 38-14.
Dallas is still a long shot to make the playoffs this year. But the win keeps them in the hunt for now. They’ll have to win each of their next two games. If they do, they’ll still be in the playoff picture when Ezekiel Elliot makes his return. If they can replicate Thursday night’s effort the next two weeks, they can beat the Giants (next week) and Raiders.
Washington’s playoff chances are all but down. It does not appear that a team with seven losses will be able to get into the playoffs this year. That means it will be time for the Redskins to answer some hard questions. Primarily, do they like what they see in Cousins? Do they like him enough to finally make him an offer he’ll be willing to take?
The Redskins will face the Los Angeles Chargers next week.