After winning back-to-back road games to pull even at 5-5 for the season the last two weeks, the Cowboys went one better by defeating the Washington Redskins 31-23 in the annual Thanksgiving Day game on Thursday at AT&T Stadium.
Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 289 yards and two touchdowns, including eight completions to Amari Cooper for 180 yards and both TDs. Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 121 yards on 26 carries, going for more than 100 for the third straight game.
Those are all signs of a rejuvenated Dallas team that was desperate for a win just a few weeks ago with a 3-5 mark. Now the Cowboys (6-5) have caught Washington and are tied for first place in the NFC East.
The Redskins, meanwhile, are faced with an uphill battle of fending off the Cowboys and the rest of the division without starting quarterback Alex Smith, who suffered a broken leg last week.
Washington backup Colt McCoy completed 24 of 38 passes for 268 yards and 2 touchdowns. But he gave up three interceptions and was sacked three times.
McCoy’s 10-yard touchdown pass to Trey Quinn gave the Redskins a 13-10 lead with 9:02 left in the third quarter. But the Cowboys responded by scoring the next 21 points.
Prescott capped a 75-yard scoring drive with a 40-yard touchdown pass to Cooper to retake the lead at 17-13.
Then Prescott’s 90-yard touchdown pass to Cooper shifted the momentum to Dallas in a game-defining way.
When Dallas took over at its own 9 midway through the third quarter, it hadn’t been able to complement a defensive stop with a score to that point.
That trend changed when Prescott threw over the middle to Cooper, who spun away from three Washington defensive backs and outran all of them to the end zone for the longest TD pass of the season in the NFL.
As if the momentum shift wasn’t apparent enough, Dallas defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence tipped, bobbled and intercepted a pass by McCoy at the Redskins’ 32 and returned it to the Washington 17 late in the third quarter.
Prescott cashed in on the takeaway by summoning his inner-John Elway on a 5-yard touchdown run that gave Dallas a 31-13 lead with 14:11 left.
McCoy and the Redskins punched back with 10 points in the fourth quarter.
However, after the officials overlooked a helmet-to-helmet hit by Cowboys defensive back Xavier Woods on Redskins tight end Jordan Reed, Washington had to settle for a Dustin Hopkins 31-yard field goal with 1:16 remaining.
Dallas recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Cowboys went to Thanksgiving dinner with smiles on their faces.