It was wet. And it certainly wasn’t pretty, especially from an offensive performance that was largely sloppy and mistake-filled.
But given the injury challenges of the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys did what they needed to do in a steady, driving rain for a 33-19 victory at FedEx Field.
It was their second consecutive win and gives them a 4-3 record and continued momentum going into next Sunday’s crucial matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (5-2) after starting the season with a disappointing 2-3 mark.
“I am proud of the way our team just hung in there and fought. We have such respect for Washington’s defense,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We knew they were struggling with their injuries on the offensive side of the ball. But their defense we have great respect for.
“To come up here and win this game was very significant for our team. I am proud of our team in every way.”
More important, the Cowboys moved to 2-0 in the NFC East as they try to keep pace with the division-leading Philadelphia Eagles (7-1, 2-0) while continuing their recent dominance of the Redskins. The Cowboys have won seven of the past nine in the series, including three consecutive victories.
Normally carried by running back Ezekiel Elliott, quarterback Dak Prescott and their star-studded offensive line, the Cowboys can thank the special teams and defense for Sunday’s victory.
The Cowboys got four field goals from the newly signed Mike Nugent, four sacks, three fumbles and a game-sealing interception return for a touchdown by safety Byron Jones.
“This game was about two things. Everybody had a piece of this. Offense, defense, kicking game. Everybody. This game was fight,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told his team in the locker room after the game. “We needed everybody for every minute of that ballgame.”
“We didn’t blink. We didn’t look left, didn’t look right, didn’t look behind us. Focused on the task.”
Consider that Prescott completed just five passes in the second half and Elliott opened the game with a fumble.
The turning point came in the second quarter with the Redskins leading 13-7 and seemingly set to make it 16-7 on a 36-yard field from Nick Rose.
But defensive end Tyrone Crawford blocked the kick. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick picked up the loose ball and started right before reversing back left down the sideline behind a convoy of blockers.
He was tackled 86 yards later, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run from Elliott.
“Not only the block. The return more than anything. It flipped the field. It was huge,” Prescott said. “That took away three points for them and gave us seven eventually, put us in the lead. It was the biggest play of the night to me.”
A 14-13 halftime lead was 17-13 early in the third quarter when Crawford caused a sack and forced fumble. Nugent then made a 36-yard kick.
Fullback Keith Smith forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, which was recovered by cornerback Bene Benwikere.
A 26-yard touchdown run by Elliott was called back for holding on tackle Tyron Smith, his second of the game.
But Nugent made it 20-13 with a 48-yard field goal.
The Cowboys offense got as close as the 9-yard line on the ensuing drive, but receiver Dez Bryant dropped a would-be touchdown, setting up a 27-yard field goal from Nugent.
It was 26-13 following another Nugent field goal before the Redskins made it close with a touchdown in the final 4 minutes.
It was fitting that the defense closed it out after Elliott and the running game couldn’t put it away.
Defensive end David Irving’s tipped pass was returned 21 yards to the end zone by Byron Jones with 21 seconds left on the clock to empty the remaining rain-soaked fans out of the stands.
“To make stops and to hold them to field goals was big,” Garrett said. “I think our defense got better as the game wore on. The offense fed off that.”
Again, it was a game the Cowboys had to win and need to win, given Washington’s limitations.
The Redskins opened without three starters on the offensive line and then lost guard Shawn Lauvao during the game. They also played without starting cornerback Bashaud Breeland.
They lost tight end Jordan Reed during the game as well as defensive end Matt Ioannidis and backup safety Montae Nicholson.
The Cowboys were frustrated on offense early.
Elliott fumbled on the opening drive that led to a Redskins field goal.
The offense had five holding penalties, including two from Pro Bowl tackle Tyron Smith.
Prescott opened 6-for-6 and completed nine of his first 10 passes for 105 yards. For the game, he completed 14 of 22 passes for 143 yards in the constant rain. It was his second career game with fewer than 150 passing yards.
Elliott had a career-high 33 carries for 150 yards in what was his third consecutive game of more than 100 yards and third career game of 150 or more.
But it started it with a fumble on his first carry.
Now the question is whether the Cowboys can get another victory in a New York court on Monday where Elliott, who remains in a legal battle with the NFL over a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, is hoping to get a preliminary injunction to keep him on the field for the rest of the season.
“You can see he’s a valued member, is almost trite to say, we need him,” Jerry Jones said. “What is important is that he gets a fair shake. Zeke has in no way by any standard in this country done anything wrong. The league has tried to say that he’s done something that we disagree with; we all don’t agree with that. I want him to get a fair shot. He deserves that.”
Elliott is confident in getting the desired outcome that will allow him to continue to play with the rest of his teammates.
“It’s really out of my hands. There’s nothing really more I can control, just trust my legal team, trust that they’re going to do their job, and make sure I’m on the field next week,” Elliott. “We’re confident in our argument.”
Clarence Hill: 817-390-7760, @clarencehilljr
Was—FG Rose 38, 13:13.
Dal—Elliott 13 run (Nugent kick), 10:32.
Was—Kelley 1 run (Rose kick), 6:36.
Was—FG Rose 42, 10:04.
Dal—Elliott 1 run (Nugent kick), 2:20.
Dal—FG Nugent 36, 8:39.
Dal—FG Nugent 48, 6:23.
Dal—FG Nugent 27, :38.
Dal—FG Nugent 37, 8:43.
Was—Doctson 1 pass from Cousins (kick failed), 4:35.
Dal—B.Jones 21 interception return (Nugent kick), :21.
Total Net Yards
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Dallas, Elliott 33-150, Prescott 3-16, Morris 3-3. Washington, Kelley 8-19, Thompson 4-18, Crowder 2-12, Cousins 1-0.
PASSING—Dallas, Prescott 14-22-0-143. Washington, Cousins 26-39-1-263.
RECEIVING—Dallas, Bryant 4-39, Witten 3-31, Te.Williams 2-36, Beasley 2-8, Swaim 1-18, Switzer 1-7, Elliott 1-4. Washington, Crowder 9-123, Thompson 8-76, Grant 5-38, Davis 2-20, Reed 1-5, Doctson 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—Dallas, Nugent 49.