Three weeks after a disastrous season opener, the Cowboys are now 3-1 thanks to a comfortable 25-10 win over the Washington Commanders. Here’s what got accomplished Sunday:
Served expected fare ✔
Washington entered this matchup allowing the most sacks and quarterback hits in the NFL, along with the second-most quarterback pressures. Meanwhile, Dallas’ indomitable pass rush had recorded the most sacks in the league, along with the third-most quarterback hits and pressures.
You’ll never guess what happened next!
With all due respect to Cooper Rush, CeeDee Lamb, and Michael Gallup, the Cowboys won this game by doing precisely what we imagined they’d do. While they tallied only a pair of sacks, the pressure up front yielded 11 quarterback hits and several other moments that forced the mistake-prone Carson Wentz into his usual array of errors, such as the pair of intentional grounding penalties and Trevon Diggs’ interception at the end of the first half, in which he effectively played a better wide receiver than Commanders first-round pick Jahan Dotson.
So there was no reinventing the wheel Sunday. Dallas won the only way it really can so long as Dak Prescott remains out. But it is a testament to how well they play this style—unleash hell up front, be opportunistic in the passing game, make kicks, and don’t screw it up on offense—that the Commanders surely knew what was coming and were unable to counter it.
Los Angeles is the acid test. You can “well, actually” Dallas’ success when it comes against these Commanders, a Giants team much worse than its 3-1 record, and the Bengals team at what should be their nadir this season. There are no such caveats if they defeat the best team in the NFL in their building.
Treated us to the CeeDee Lamb Drive, The Sequel ✔
It wasn’t as impactful as Monday’s game-altering effort. Nor did it feature a moment as stylish as Lamb’s go-ahead one-handed touchdown catch. But for the second week in a row, the Cowboys’ best receiver dominated a series, ripping off three consecutive catches for a total of 56 yards. It took Rush connecting with Noah Brown for a game-high 45 yards for another receiver’s overall yardage total to eclipse what Lamb did in that trio of plays.
The point isn’t that Lamb was the best pass catcher on the field. We knew that already.
Nor is it to take this as a sign of Lamb finally breaking out. As the great Bob Sturm pointed out, he’s been a difference maker since the moment he stepped into the league:
What you should take from these two drives—as well as Lamb finding the end zone for the second time in two games after being held without a touchdown in his previous nine—is he’s settling into a groove, and by virtue of Amari Cooper no longer being on the roster, he’ll have more opportunities to leverage those hot streaks than ever. What happens when he does? Those two drives tell the whole story.
Inspired bold fashion statements ✔
Behold, the rarely seen Double Deion:
Not be outdone, here’s Mike McCarthy livening up his hat game:
Needless to say, both are leagues better than whatever the hell these Commanders uniforms were supposed to be:
Found another difference-maker in the pass rush ✔
Against Tampa Bay, it was Micah Parsons. Versus Cincinnati, it was Dorance Armstrong. Monday night was the Tank Lawrence show.
Sunday, for the fourth game in a row, a different Cowboy edge rusher stood out.
Dante Fowler’s performance shouldn’t surprise you. History told us that someone would inevitably emerge after Lawrence and Parsons, and Fowler’s pedigree—he was the third overall pick in 2015 and came into the year with 35 career sacks plus 10 forced fumbles—made him the best bet heading into the season.
In the second half, he delivered everything asked for by sabotaging a pair of Washington drives. Midway through the third quarter, with Dallas up five, he forced the Commanders into a three-and-out by drawing a holding penalty on first down before stuffing J.D. McIssic for a loss on third.
One quarter later, he pushed Washington out of the red zone by pouncing on Carson Wentz:
Fowler was well behind the Lawrence-Parsons-Armstrong triumvirate in sacks heading into this game, and it would be presumptuous to declare this a breakout game. But it doesn’t need to be. The first quarter of the season has shown that any one of them can do the heavy lifting on a given week. And at the rate the Cowboys are going, who are we to rule out a fifth player emerging in time, too?
Welcomed back an old friend ✔
Sunday marked eight months to the day since Michael Gallup tore his ACL. Getting in the end zone is a pretty good way to celebrate his first NFL game since.
As ESPN’s Todd Archer reminds us, Gallup has a knack for scoring touchdowns against Washington. But an even better signal of what the 26-year-old brings to this offense came on a pair of big chain-moving pass interference penalties he drew on Rush YOLO balls downfield.
With the possible exception of the otherwise limited James Washington, nobody in this receiving corps approaches Gallup’s threat level vertically. The more he gets reintegrated into Dallas’ offense, the easier things will become underneath for Lamb, Dalton Schultz, and the running backs. That’s when the points should start coming a little more freely.
Got an alumnus talking smack ✔
Gonna work “To 450!” into my vocabulary every time I write a killer lede.
Made history ✔
Anyone paying a modicum of attention to the FOX broadcast heard it early and often. During pregame. In the first half. The fourth quarter, certainly, as Rush closed in on winning the first four starts of his career: a Dallas Cowboys record after Rush entered the game tied with Roger Staubach and Jason Garrett at three apiece.
As had been the case in each of the past two weeks, Rush was more solid than spectacular. He once again failed to crack 250 passing yards, with this week’s 223 sandwiched almost perfectly between his totals against New York (215) and Cincinnati (235). Two of his three biggest pass plays—one to Lamb, another to Ezekiel Elliott—were heavily padded by runs after the catch. A major part of his success came down to penalties: the two that negated would-be interceptions and the flags drawn by Gallup downfield.
Even Jerry Jones, a week and a half removed from engineering an imaginary quarterback controversy, spent his postgame media availability cramming the genie back into the bottle ahead of a possible Dak Prescott return next week. “[Cooper] Rush gives us a chance,” the Cowboys’ owner and general manager said, “but as we look to the future, Dak is an ingredient to our success that is a must.”
All of which is to say that when you one day look back on the truncated Cooper Rush era, you will do so with amusement more than awe.
The key, however, is you won’t forget it. In just four games, Cooper Rush has distinguished himself from the scores of depth-chart bodies who have filed in and out of this team. Last year’s debut victory at Minnesota gave him a moment. But today’s milestone gives him has a calling card. An identity.
Remember when that guy who languished on the practice squad for four years found his way into winning more starts out of the chute than every quarterback in the history of the franchise?
Yes. You will.
Perhaps he stretches his streak to five next week in Los Angeles, against the Super Bowl champion Rams. Given the above, I’m skeptical he does. I’m even more skeptical of Rush being a catalyst in a possible upset victory versus the capable steward he has been for the past three weeks.
But at this point, it doesn’t really matter. Rush’s story is a win for anybody who aspires to make a name for himself in the NFL and especially those somebodies who stubbornly cling to that dream when everything—his circumstances, his paycheck, perhaps the people in his life—screams that it will never happen. Players like him rarely rewrite their legacies.
But Rush has. It’s why we care about sports. And it’s why, well after this run concludes, you’ll still care a little bit about him, too.