All the Dallas Cowboys had to do on Sunday was show up against the Washington Football Team, and they would claim the NFC East title.
The Cowboys not only took the title, but they also silenced weeks of criticism about the team’s lack of offense with a 56-14 beatdown. They demonstrated on national television how potent this team can be on both sides of the ball.
It took Washington all of six seconds to see the writing on the wall on Sunday. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke’s first pass of the game was intended for Terry McLaurin, who was matched against Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Trevon Diggs.
Diggs made his eleventh interception of the season. The pick led to the Cowboys’ first of five touchdowns in the first half.
The Cowboys’ performance was record-setting on all fronts. The 56 point score was the highest of the season by any team, and the Cowboys became the first team in NFL history to complete touchdowns to a running back, wide receiver, tight end, and offensive lineman all in the same game.
It was the first time in team history that both an offensive and defensive lineman scored in a game.
The first lineman to score was DeMarcus Lawrence, whose dominating performance over the last several weeks belies how strong the defense can be. Lawrence tipped a first-quarter pass from Heinicke, caught the interception, then powered his way through the Washington offense for the third touchdown of the first quarter.
It was the first pick-six in Lawrence’s career. Dallas has a franchise-record six touchdowns on defense this season.
Then, in the second quarter, with Dallas already up by 21 points, QB Dak Prescott threw a floater to tackle Terence Steele. The 300-plus pound offensive lineman found himself standing alone in the endzone as the Washington defense discounted the player who had just reported in as eligible.
It was the first touchdown of his career, and the play essentially put the game on ice with it not even halfway over.
Much has been made in recent weeks about the Cowboys’ lack of production on offense, particularly regarding running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has dealt with a knee injury since early in the season. Elliott had only 37 yards rushing on Sunday but scored a touchdown on the ground and another on a reception for the Cowboys’ first TD of the day.
The Cowboys’ receivers were the stars of the day, collecting a total of 30 passes from Prescott and backup QB Cooper Rush, who got playing time when the game was well over.
Wide receivers Amari Cooper and Malik Turner both had 80+ yard days and touchdowns, while tight end Dalton Schultz also hauled in a touchdown reception. CeeDee Lamb had four catches on five targets and was instrumental in moving the offense down the field.
Perhaps the best highlight tape of the day from any game -and arguably one of the best yards-after-catch performances of the season- Turner’s 61-yard reception in the fourth quarter looked like something from a video game.
Turner took a five-yard reception from Rush, then weaved and bobbed his way through the entire Washington defense. At least nine players had opportunities to tackle the speedy receiver. Two plays later, Rush hit Turner for a nine-yard score.
The special teams’ score came in the third quarter. Punting from their own ten-yard line, Washington failed to stop Corey Clement as he broke around the edge. The blocked punt bounced into the open arms of Chauncey Golston in the endzone.
Despite knowing that the NFC East was in hand before the game, the Cowboys showed that they have the ability to dominate in all aspects of the game as they get set to finish out the season with games against the Arizona Cardinals, who are fighting for their playoff lives, then a final division game against Philadelphia.