10 truths from Cowboys’ 25-10 win over Commanders...
1. Trevon Diggs was sensational with an interception and three pass deflections, including two on fourth down.
We just might be watching the evolution of a good player morphing into a great player.
Last year, he tied the 41-year franchise record of 11 interceptions, but he also gave up the most receiving yards in the league.
This year, he’s intercepting passes, breaking up others and not giving up the big plays that plagued him last year.
He made a nice over-the-shoulder catch late in the first half for his second interception.
But it was a pass deflection in the end zone on fourth-and-15 from the Dallas 15 with 8:02 left that essentially wrapped up this win.
He was beaten initially on a corner route but leaped high to deflect the ball at its apex.
With 2:45 left, he made another nifty deflection on a pass to Terry McLaurin to seal the win.
If he’s going to play like this at some point teams will stop throwing at him, and he’ll become a shut-down cornerback.
2. Cooper Rush and play-caller Kellen Moore respected Washington’s commitment to stopping the Cowboys’ running game, so they attacked deep with play-action passes.
The strategy worked well.
Rush had downfield completions of 30 yards to CeeDee Lamb and 45 yards to Noah Brown. Michael Gallup drew interference penalties of 27 and 38 yards.
Those plays led to only 10 points. That’s not enough and against a better team it might lead to a loss instead of a win.
The reality, however, is Washington is one of the league’s worst teams.
This is an element of the Cowboys’ offense that’s going to be of importance all season because they’ve decided to build their offense around the running game.
3. The running game did nothing and the Cowboys won.
That’s a positive.
The Cowboys ran 29 times for 62 yards with a long big nine yards.
Ezekiel Elliott had 19 carries for 49 yards, while Pollard gained just six yards on eight carries.
At least they remained committed to it.
Now, you’ll have a bunch of folks complaining about Pollard’s eight carries this week but when you struggle on third down (5-of-15) as Dallas did, you don’t have a lot of plays. The Cowboys ran just 57 plays and kept the ball for only 26:54.
It’s also a reminder that teams can simply decide to take away one aspect of your offense. When that happens, teams have to make them pay in other ways. That’s what Dallas did with its deep passing on Sunday.
4. CeeDee Lamb has been more productive each of the last three games.
He caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown on a beautiful post route that pushed the lead to 22-10 in the fourth quarter.
Lamb’s 30-yard touchdown was a the result of a route that created five yards of separation.
In the last three games, Lamb has had 75, 87 and 97 yards receiving.
But a No.1 isn’t just about stats, it’s about making plays at winning time.
It’s about making contested catches, converting third or fourth downs and drawing enough attention that other players thrive.
He’s done that the last two weeks.
5. We don’t normally spend much time talking about kickers, but Brett Maher has been outstanding.
He made field goals of 28, 29, 45 and 53 yards. This season, he’s made 10 of 11 field goals, including four from beyond 50 yards. His only miss was a 59-yard attempt.
And his kickoffs have been consistently good. He had three touchbacks against Washington.
For a team trying to win with defense and special teams this is a huge development, especially considering he wasn’t on the roster when training camp began.
6. Michael Gallup returned to the lineup in a big way after missing the first three games as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered last January against Arizona.
He caught just two passes for 24 yards, but scored a touchdown on a nice catch along the back of the end zone. He also drew pass interference penalties of 27 and 38 yards.
The Cowboys need his big-play ability to help this offense that managed just 279 yards and 15 first downs.
7. DaRon Bland did a nice job in training camp and filled in admirably when Jourdan Lewis strained a groin in pregame warmups.
He made a nice interception in zone coverage that set up a field goal and finished with three tackles.
He also had a pass deflection. The fifth-round pick looks like he’s eventually going to be a key contributor for the Cowboys.
8. The pass defense was nice, even though they recorded just two sacks.
They pressured Carson Wentz most of game, hitting him 11 times. Twice, he was penalized for grounding.
Wentz completed 25 of 42 passes for 170 yards with a 56.6 passer rating.
He’s a shell of his former self, which is why he’s on his third team in three years and headed quickly toward becoming a backup.
The Cowboys allowed just one completion of more than 20 yards. And allowed just one receiver to average more than 10.0 per catch.
McLaurin, one of the league’s best, caught two passes for 15 yards on six targets.
9. We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time talking about the Cowboys’ propensity for penalties this season.
Well, they only had four for 20 yards against Washington.
Still, the penalties hurt.
There were two pre-snap penalties against Dallas. Each occurred inside the Washington 15.
This offense isn’t good enough to overcome those types of mistakes on a regular basis.
Dallas scored a touchdown on one of those drives and settled for a field goal on the other.
10. Micah Parsons had a relatively quiet night for him — four tackles, including one tackle for loss — but he’s always a factor.
He also created an intentional grounding penalty.
The attention Washington paid to Parsons allowed eight other players to hit Wentz at least once.
Dante Fowler was a menace with a sack, two tackles for loss and two hits on Wentz.
Jean-Jacques Taylor, a former SportsDay columnist, is the host of JaM Session Podcast which can be heard Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.