While up 24-0 in the third quarter, it seemed like McCarthy would have no reason to break a sweat. The final score had to have put quite a scare in the head coach, though. Dallas won, 27-20, and though the Cowboys have what appears to be an elite defense and are 3-0 in the NFC East, Dak Prescott and the Dallas offense still have some major kinks to iron out before the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys couldn’t put Washington away on offense
Up 27-8 after a Greg Zuerlein field goal with 1:35 to go in the third, the Cowboys had just over 16 minutes to burn and churn to pick up an easy win on the road. To make matters even better for Dallas, Washington got the ball back on the very next possession and proceeded to go three-and-out.
The Cowboys’ defense, which flashed signs of being absolutely elite in Washington, had gifted Prescott and the offense an opportunity that good teams cherish. It was an opportunity to put a dagger into the heart of the Washington Football team with a long drive and score.
It was an opportunity to make a statement.
Instead, the Cowboys went on a three-and-out drive of their own and then did so again the next time the offense got the ball back.
Washington scored another touchdown with 5:09 to go in the fourth and then not even a minute of game time later; Cole Holcomb picked off Prescott for a 31-yard pix six to bring the score to 27-20 after a blocked PAT.
Even still, the Cowboys got the football back with 4:07 to go and up to seven points. Surely, now Dallas would milk the clock and end the game, right? Dallas ran three plays, gained seven yards, and had to punt the ball back to their surging opponent after taking just 1:09 off the clock.
Dallas went three-and-out three times in the fourth quarter for those not paying attention, and Prescott also gifted Washington six easy points on the interception.
Washington didn’t have enough in the tank to complete the comeback, but Prescott and the offense sure gave their opponent every opportunity to do so.
The Cowboys’ defense looks Super Bowl-worthy
The one saving grace for Prescott and the Dallas offense was the fact that their defense made life miserable for the Washington Football Team. They forced four turnovers, including an interception from Randy Gregory and a strip-sack by Micah Parsons that Dorance Armstrong picked up for a 37-yard scoop-and-score.
Parsons, already a defensive player of the year candidate as a rookie heading into his game, looks like he’s getting better and better each game. He followed his strip-sack of Taylor Heinicke up with a sack on third down on the very next drive. On that play, he blew by Washington’s lineman, fought through a hold, and threw Heinicke down to the ground like he was competing for the WWE World Championship.
It was impressive. It was intimidating.
Parsons finished with three tackles, two sacks, one tackle for loss, and one quarterback hit. He now has 12 sacks on the season and has recorded 9.5 sacks in his last six games. He’s one of five NFL rookies ever to have a six-game sack streak, and he’s quickly established himself as one of the best defenders in the NFL…not just one of the best rookie defenders.
After the game, Parsons received MVP chants from the many Dallas fans at FedExField. He may not be in the same league as Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers yet, but the rookie is quickly proving to be one of the NFL’s most exciting players on either side of the ball.
All told, Dallas notched three fumble recoveries, one interception, and five sacks against Washington. The defense certainly looks good enough to compete for a Super Bowl in the NFC, but can the offense get back on that track?
That’s a huge question for the Cowboys here at the end of the season.
Dallas’ most significant liability right now is Dak Prescott and the offense
Frankly, the Cowboys’ defense won them the game. Yes, Washington came back on offense to put a scare into them, but Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense had just as much to do with that as anything else. Even the best defenses get gassed, and Dallas had to play most of the fourth quarter on that side of the ball because the offense just couldn’t get anything going.
Frankly, the Cowboys were pathetic on offense in the second half, and had they blown the game, the blame would have fallen directly on the shoulders of Prescott.
In all, the Cowboys were an abysmal 7-of-18 in third-down efficiency, and though they won the time-of-possession battle, they almost gave it all back in the fourth quarter. Prescott was once again unimpressive, if not straight-up bad. He completed 22-of-39 passes for just 211 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted twice, sacked four times, and averaged just 5.4 yards per throw.
He finished with an abysmal QBR of 9.9%.
Now at 9-4 and with a strong lead in the NFC East, Dallas can start at least peaking ahead to the playoffs. The Cowboys still have to play the Giants, Washington (again), Cardinals, and Eagles, but if their defense plays the way it did in Week 14, there’s a chance they finish this season very strong. The Cardinals will present a massive test, but Parsons and the defense have a great shot to slow down Kyler Murray and his offense.
It’s easy to see Dallas entering the playoffs at 12-5 if not 13-4, which would make the Cowboys one of the favorites to come out of the NFC. It can’t be stated enough: They’ve got a defense that will keep them in any game, even against elite quarterbacks like Brady and Rodgers and their respective teams.
Can Prescott win a duel with one of the aforementioned quarterbacks, though? Because that’s ultimately what it’s going to take.
The $40 million a year quarterback has now thrown 10 interceptions this season, including five in the last four games. Dallas’ defense can win a game against Heinicke, Kyle Allen, and Washington, but any Super Bowl hopes the Cowboys ultimately have come down to whether or not Prescott can play like an elite quarterback in big spots.
Right now, that’s a big question mark for Dallas.