The Dallas Cowboys galloped into the playoffs on Sunday, trampling the Washington Commanders 38-10 to clinch the NFC East division title. Led by quarterback Dak Prescott’s four touchdown passes, the Cowboys left no doubt about their dominance in the division and playoff readiness.
In front of thousands of jubilant Dallas fans who flooded FedEx Field, Prescott expertly picked apart the hapless Commanders defense. He completed 31 of 36 passes for 279 yards, efficiently distributing the ball to his playmakers. Prescott connected with wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for two scores, including a beautiful pass in the back of the end zone late in the first half.
After that touchdown, Prescott celebrated with a triumphant fist pump and met Lamb for a hearty handshake and embrace. The Cowboys fans in attendance drowned out the Washington faithful with chants of “Let’s go Cowboys!” It was a scene of joy and excitement, a marked departure from last year’s regular season finale where Dallas stumbled to the Commanders in the same stadium.
“Look at last year – the way we came into this place and didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to – to where we are now,” Prescott reflected. “The growth. The coaching staff. The players. The accountability. The communication. The transparency. And both sides of the ball holding their own.”
With the division-clinching win, the Cowboys finished the regular season 12-5 for the third straight year. More importantly, they earned the NFC’s number two seed and a coveted first-round playoff bye. Dallas will host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday in what should be a raucous environment at AT&T Stadium.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy will face his former team in Green Bay, where he won a Super Bowl title over a decade ago. It adds an extra layer of drama and intrigue to an already enticing playoff showdown.
“The drama of it – I’m sure you guys will love that,” McCarthy said wryly to reporters.
While the Cowboys gear up for a deep playoff run, the Commanders limp to the finish line after a disastrous 4-13 campaign. They tied a franchise record for most losses in a season, going winless in their final eight games. In a sweep of their NFC East rivals, Washington was outscored by Dallas 65-33 this season.
Commanders head coach Ron Rivera looks to be on his way out after two mediocre years at the helm. Rivera figures to meet with owner Dan Snyder on Monday to assess his future, simply stating “We’ll have a conversation and go from there.”
Rivera’s seat got hotter as the losing streak mounted. He took over defensive play-calling six weeks ago after firing coordinator Jack Del Rio, but the results barely improved. The Commanders defense surrendered 27.5 points per game during the skid.
While the Commanders lose morale, fans, and possibly their head coach, the Cowboys enter the playoffs brimming with confidence. Led by Prescott’s career year, a stacked offense, and a ball-hawking defense, Dallas looks to have the pieces for a deep January run.
Prescott buried memories of last year’s clunker in Washington, where he struggled mightily in a potential division-clinching game. He tossed a costly interception and completed less than 40% of his passes in the deflating loss.
This time Prescott was precise, composed and in complete control. He topped the NFL with 37 touchdown passes against just 10 interceptions, a stark improvement from his league-leading 15 picks last season.
“He’s playing better than I’ve ever seen him play,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones beamed.
Prescott’s on-field connection with Lamb has clearly reached an elite level. Lamb’s 13 catches on Sunday – all on targets from Prescott – gave him a league-best 135 receptions this year.
“I don’t think there’s another quarterback and receiver that has put in much time as me and CeeDee have, going back into the offseason,” Prescott commented. “Understanding what I expect of him. Him understanding where I’m going to put the ball. Him understanding the belief that I have in him. I’ve told you I think he’s the best receiver in the game.”
The Cowboys did endure a few hiccups along the way to the division title. Midway through the second quarter, Commanders defensive lineman Jalen Harris deflected a Prescott pass into the arms of rookie defensive back Quan Martin for an interception. Washington capitalized with a field goal to take a 10-7 advantage.
“When we had the turnover, you just saw all kinds of ghosts, Darth Vader, all that kind of stuff. Grim Reaper. Whatever you want to call it,” Jones said of the sudden swing in momentum. “The main thing is how proud I am of these guys for enduring.”
Endure they did, as Dallas ripped off 31 straight points after that early mistake. Prescott and the offense got right back on track, displaying the resilience of a championship contender.
“Just staying locked in,” Lamb said about the key to overcoming adversity.
The Cowboys concluded their division-winning effort in fitting fashion. Prescott perfectly lofted a 35-yard touchdown to Lamb late in the fourth quarter, their second scoring connection of the day.
Next up for the NFC East champs is a chance to validate their Super Bowl aspirations in the playoffs. But first, Prescott and his teammates will savor the division crown.
As Lamb addressed reporters in the locker room, the star wideout wore a black baseball hat with a Dallas Cowboys star logo patch and “NFC East Champions” embroidered on the front. Meanwhile, Prescott sported a more understated black wool winter hat, joking that it better shielded him from the chilly temperatures.
“Focus is ahead. Simple as that,” Prescott stated plainly. “I want something better.”
Something better as in the Lombardi Trophy. With the deepest Cowboys team in years, Prescott is laser-focused on finally delivering Dallas’ first Super Bowl appearance since the 1990s glory days.
While the Cowboys get ready to gallop into the playoffs, the Commanders head home to yet another offseason of uncertainty. They clinched the second overall pick in April’s draft, where they could potentially target a new franchise quarterback.
Rookie Sam Howell struggled mightily in limited action, leading the league with 11 interceptions despite only playing in five games. With Carson Wentz breaking his finger, Howell was thrust into the starting role down the stretch. The results were not pretty, as Howell tossed multiple interceptions in four of his five starts.
The Commanders defense also leaves much to be desired after an embarrassing 2022 campaign. They allowed the fifth-most points in the NFL and rarely got stops when needed most. Rivera’s decision to fire Del Rio and take over defensive play-calling backfired.
So while the Cowboys are on the warpath to Super Bowl LVII, the Commanders head into major introspection. Jones and company hope this is the year the Cowboys stars finally align for that elusive sixth championship. Meanwhile in Washington, it’s back to the drawing board after another lost season mired in mediocrity and instability.