At first glance, you'd probably look at the stat line for Dak Prescott and assume he and the Dallas Cowboys offense definitely woke up to throttle the Washington Football Team, and you'd be right, but let's provide some context to show you exactly how lethal they were at AT&T Stadium in Week 16. Prescott finished the throttling with 330 passing yards and four touchdowns, impressive numbers by any measure, but the two-time Pro Bowler produced 307 of those yards and all four of his touchdowns in the first half.
That's right, Prescott had already hung 28 points on Washington's defense before halftime, and All-Pro defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence added a pick-six (yes, you read that correctly) to the mix to make for a blistering 35-7 lead before the clock ever started on the third quarter -- when Prescott was eventually pulled for backup Cooper Rush (who threw a touchdown of his own to wideout Malik Turner, for good measure).
Everyone expected the Cowboys defense, which pummeled quarterback Taylor Heinicke only two weeks prior, to again find ways to be electric, and they did/were, but all were still waiting for the usually-prolific Dallas offense to finally wake up and match serve.
They did, in spades, and Prescott isn't the least bit surprised.
"I never said we were in a slump," he told media following the 56-14 blowout victory. "Those were your words, so I think it would be hard for you to say that now. Tonight was great -- great performance by the offense, great performance by the team. We scored in all three phases, all the ways we scored on offense.
"Great team win and great team effort."
By the time running back Corey Clement delivered the Cowboys' third blocked punt of the season, followed by rookie defensive end Chauncey Golston securing the team's second blocked punt touchdown, it was all Washington could do to not ask the pilot of the team's plane to land on the field to take them and their heated benches home. It caps a 2021 sweep of WFT by the Cowboys that Heinicke himself describes succinctly, noting the .
It was the most complete game of the season for the Cowboys, and it came after they had already clinched both a playoff berth on Thursday and the NFC East title on Sunday ahead of kickoff. It helped that Prescott and Co. are still chasing the No. 1 seed in the NFC and can't afford to lose any games in the pursuit -- remaining at No. 2 after their Week 16 win -- but also in the fact Prescott didn't know the division crown was already theirs.
Instead, Prescott played it as if they still needed to defeat Washington to take the NFC East throne.
"I don't know if many people knew we clinched [the division championship] before the game -- I didn't," he said. "That's kind of what my message was to the guys in the circle, was about going out to win this division. I don't know if we are in the world or in the business of trying to send messages more than just trying to get better day in and day out, game after game and make sure we're playing our best ball and peaking at the right time heading into this tournament."
The Cowboys got everyone involved in the offensive onslaught -- to the point you probably thought their mascot Rowdy would run onto the field for a deep fade to the end zone -- on a night that saw four-time Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper send a message that was tied to one from CeeDee Lamb (who did away with the dropsies on Sunday), Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Cooper Rush, Malik Turner and even left tackle Terence Steele.
Wait, did I just say Terence Steele? Yes, I did, thanks for asking.
Steele grabbed one of Prescott's four touchdowns in the first half on a masterful play design from offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, one that was executed to perfection. It marked the first time a Cowboys lineman has scored a touchdown since Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright did it in 1968, in a game that .
"Kellen does a great job dialing up some things and [Steele] was the first read, honestly the only read, and that's why I give credit to Kellen," said Prescott of the call. "Great play call, great to scheme that up after the first time we played these guys -- to call that one up."
Prescott is referencing the chance the Cowboys had to give offensive lineman Connor McGovern the honor in Week 14, but Prescott didn't go with that read. Two weeks later, Moore knew there'd be another opportunity to get an offensive lineman a touchdown against WFT, and so he dialed it up and Steele answered the call when Prescott put the call through. Add that creativity to a trick play that very nearly delivered a first down on the first offensive drive of the game and getting a frustrated Cooper heavily involved (and, and, and) and it was finally a near-perfect marriage of execution and play calling -- something the Cowboys haven't seen in weeks.
"Maybe the Schultz [touchdown was the easiest]," said Prescott. "I give credit to Kellen on those -- dialing all those up at the right time. Obviously great looks on all those situations, even right before half when it went to Amari. Those were just great play calls at the right time, knowing what the defense was doing and it just made my job easy to get the ball to the open guy.
And with that, the Cowboys went from a 1-3 November to a 4-0 December, moving to 11-4 overall with a red-hot conference record of 9-1 and they remain undefeated in their division with a 5-0 record. They sit just one game behind the Green Bay Packers in the chase for the top seed, and are now looking to build momentum for January after having not lost a game in the month prior.
So, is a 42-point shellacking fueled by offense, defense and special teams the ceiling to expect going forward?
"There is no ceiling," Prescott noted. "As you said, it doesn't matter who we are playing. We are playing our best ball and we are going to be a tough group to stop on all three phases. When you see that tonight -- special teams getting a score, defense getting a score and offense doing it in the different ways that we did -- we are going to be tough.
"We have to make sure we just continue trending in the right direction and playing our best ball moving forward."