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5 takeaways from Cowboys-Commanders: Cooper Rush picks up another NFC East win for Dallas

It was not the most impressive of victories, but three wins with a backup QB can’t be dismissed.

ARLINGTON — This was not the most impressive of victories.

But three straight wins with a backup quarterback can’t be dismissed.

The Cowboys’ 25-10 win over Washington at AT&T Stadium Sunday afternoon accomplished what few thought was possible the evening Dak Prescott went down with a fractured thumb. Dallas has gone 3-0 with Rush, losing no ground in the standings when most were wondering how the Cowboys would survive.

Rush has become the first quarterback in franchise history to win his first four starts. The clock is ticking on Prescott’s return, but Rush’s performance has eased all anxiety over the wait.

Timing is everything

The Cowboys offense didn’t score a lot of points Sunday afternoon. But they did a good job of picking their spots.

Dallas trailed early after Washington took a 7-6 lead. The response: Cooper Rush led the offense on a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that staked the Cowboys to a 12-7 halftime lead.

Washington kicked a field goal in the third quarter to pull within 15-10. Rush came right back with a 3-play, 75-yard scoring drive to push the lead back to 22-10.

The defense got into the act as well. The Commanders had a chance to narrow the gap and make it a game with a fourth down on the Cowboys 11-yard line in the fourth. But Trevon Diggs tipped a pass in the back of the end zone to Terry McLaurin and the ball fell incomplete.

On the Cowboys’ next offensive play from scrimmage, Michael Gallup drew a 27-yard pass interference penalty on Williams Jackson III.

Coming back strong

Gallup returned to the field after an nine-month absence.

He made his presence felt.

Gallup tore his ACL on this field in Week 17 against Arizona. He was poised to return last week, but felt he needed a little more time to be completely comfortable after suffering a practice collision.

Gallup was comfortable Sunday. His first catch went for 18 yards on a third-and-8. A few moments later, also on third down, he caught a 9-yard scoring pass at the back of the end zone to give the Cowboys a 12-7 halftime lead.

He drew a 38-yard pass interference penalty on corner Williams Jackson III late in the third quarter. Two plays later to open the fourth quarter, Rush hit CeeDee Lamb with a 30-yard scoring strike to lift Dallas to a 22-10 lead.

Gallup drew another pass interference penalty on Jackson, this one for 27 yards, in the fourth quarter one play after the Cowboys defense held on fourth down.

Dallas carried Gallup on the active roster since the start of the season because it was encouraged he would miss less than four games, which is what a player must sit out if they open the season on the injured reserve list.

The receiver finished last season with 33 catches for 445 yards and two touchdowns. He played in only nine games, missing time earlier after undergoing a scope to repair a torn meniscus. Before suffering that injury in the fourth quarter of a win over Washington in Week 2, Gallup was one of the league’s leading receivers with 13 catches for 226 yards.

The injury-plagued season didn’t keep the club from signing him to a 5-year, $62.5 million contract during the offseason the day after it agreed to trade veteran receiver Amari Cooper to Cleveland.

This was his first chance to pay a return on that investment.

Catching a break

Rush threw two interceptions in the first three quarters.

Neither counted.

On a third-and-7 in the second quarter, Rush went deep to Gallup on a Washington blitz. The ball was underthrown and picked off, but the Commanders were called for illegal contact and the turnover was negated.

Dallas scored later on that drive to take a 12-7 lead into the locker room at the half.

On the third play of the second half, Rush was picked off again. This one was overturned due to defensive holding. The Cowboys punted three plays later.

Not so special

The Cowboys have been strong on special teams this season.

Not in this game.

KaVontae Turpin gave Dallas nothing in the return game. Brett Maher had an extra point blocked when the interior of the Cowboys offense line was split. Bryan Anger, who has been outstanding from the start of last season, shanked a punt 22 yards in the fourth quarter to give Washington the ball on the Dallas 30-yard line.

The saving grace: the Dallas defense held.

Division divide

The Cowboys have picked up two NFC East wins in a span of six days to extend their winning streak in the division to eight games.

Dallas not only swept the division last season, it won those six games by an average of 22.2 points. The Cowboys have not been as dominant so far this season, but the result is the same.

The Cowboys beat the New York Giants by seven points on Monday night then followed that up with a 15-point victory over Washington on Sunday.

Catch David Moore and Robert Wilonsky as they co-host Intentional Grounding on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) every Wednesday night from 7-8 p.m. through the Super Bowl.

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