Jan 8, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) scrambles as Washington Commanders defensive end Chase Young (99) rushes during the first half at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Despite career-low game from Dak, Cowboys lock up 5-seed in the NFC with ugly loss to Washington 26-6

In what was their ugliest game of the season, the Cowboys suffered a 26-6 loss in Washington to the Commanders to close the regular season. The loss caps off a rough end to the season for Dallas, where even the wins came in unattractive fashion.

Coming into the game, the Cowboys had an opportunity to overtake the Eagles for the top spot in the division with a win and an Eagles loss. However, neither of those happened. Dallas locked themselves into the five-seed with the loss setting up a matchup with Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who took the first matchup between the two clubs in Week 1.

The Cowboys, who came into the game as the league’s top offense, put up 182 total yards with just 64 of those on the ground. They were dominated in time of possession and were 4-of-18 on third down. Dallas punted 10 times and lost the penalty and turnover battles. It was as bad as it could look for them.

Dak Prescott had a career-low completion percentage completing just 14-of-37 pass attempts for 128 yards with a touchdown and a pick. This could make a case for the worst performance of his career, as it seemed every throw was off-target.

Tony Pollard and Malik Davis were tied for the team lead in rushing yards with 19. Ezekiel Elliott carried the ball eight times for just 10 yards. Washington’s defensive front, which was absent Jonathan Allen, shut down Dallas’ running game, which usually spells trouble for their offense.

As for Washington, rookie fifth-round pick Sam Howell made his debut and played an all-around solid game. He finished 11-of-19 for 169 yards with a touchdown and a pick. He also ran for a touchdown.

Dallas would get off to a rough start, setting up Washington in phenomenal field position. After failing to convert on third down, punter Bryan Anger would drop the snap and be tackled at the Dallas 20-yard line giving the Commanders a layup on their first drive. Washington would follow up two plays later with a 16-yard touchdown pass from rookie Sam Howell to Terry McLaurin, giving them a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.

It would take only a few minutes for the Cowboys to make another mistake on special teams when KaVontae Turpin muffed a punt giving Washington a chance to score at the Dallas 15-yard line. However, the Commanders would relieve Dallas of their mistake as kicker Joey Slye missed wide left on a 31-yard field goal attempt keeping the score 7-0 with just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter.

Dallas would find something capable of kick-starting a potential turnaround on the defensive side of the ball. With Washington threatening deep in Dallas territory, Malik Hooker would intercept Sam Howell in the end zone giving Dallas the ball back at their own 20-yard line.

The momentum would immediately wither away as Dak Prescott threw an ugly pick-six tailor-made for Kendall Fuller, giving Washington a 13-0 lead. This came after Dak threw a ball that clearly should have been intercepted in the same direction. Joey Slye missed the extra point keeping the score 13-0 early in the second quarter. This would not be the last kick that Slye would miss in the half. Midway through the second quarter, Slye would miss a 52-yard try making him 1-3 on attempts in the half.

After a mess of a first half, the Dallas offense would finally find something to build on as they found the end zone for the first time. A 14-play drive would result in a 15-yard touchdown pass from Dak to CeeDee Lamb, cutting the Washington lead to 13-6. Brett Maher missed the extra point, officially ending the half without a kick made by either team.

Dak Prescott ended the half 9-of-21 for 80 yards with a touchdown and an interception in one of the sloppiest halves he has had this season. The Cowboys were just 2-of-9 on third down and accumulated just 98 total yards. With two significant mistakes on special teams and terrible play offensively, Dallas was left with the tough decision of whether to leave its starters in the game or not down a touchdown, and with the Eagles likely taking the division.

Dallas would ultimately decide to leave the starters in to start the third quarter; however, they still could not figure it out. Both teams would trade six straight punts before Washington found the scoreboard again late in the third. A seven-play drive would result in a 9-yard rushing touchdown from Sam Howell, as the scramble gave them a 20-6 lead.

On Washington’s next possession, they would expand their lead after another Dallas three-and-out. A 52-yard completion to Terry McLaurin would set up a 29-yard field goal giving the Commanders a 23-6 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Washington would tack on another field goal with just over five minutes to play in the game. Joey Slye would hit a 22-yard field goal extending the Commanders’ lead to 26-6.

After that Washington score, Dallas finally decided to pull the starters and ride the rest of the way with the backups. Cooper Rush saw some time but only threw one pass. They would not catch any speed late in the game, as it ended with Washington taking a 20-point victory over the Cowboys 26-6.

With the loss, the Cowboys have locked up the No. 5 seed in the playoffs, where they will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the first round. The Philadelphia Eagles locked up the top seed in the NFC with their win over the New York Giants, so this game meant little for Dallas as far as standings are concerned.

With that said, Dallas looked ugly to close the season and will need to pick it up fast before taking on Tom Brady and the Bucs, who beat Dallas in Week 1.

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