Thinking inside the (press) box: Bobby Belt’s game journal for Commanders vs. Cowboys

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ARLINGTON (105.3 The Fan) - Cooper Rush has become the first Cowboys quarterback to win the first four starts of his career, following Sunday’s victory over the last-place Washington Commanders.

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Here is our Cowboys insider Bobby Belt’s thoughts from his quarter-by-quarter game journal.

FIRST QUARTER

14:20 Fantastic protection from the offensive line on 3rd down. Tyler Smith did a great job at left tackle anchoring. Zeke is able to take a pass in the flat for a big gain of 31.

12:18 A rather conservative gameplan to open the game. Cowboys get to 3rd down again and opt for another short pass to a back. Tony Pollard only picks up 2 yards on 3rd and 7. Maher comes in and knocks home a 53-yard field goal to give Dallas a 3-0 lead.

10:12 Washington clearly looking to get Antonio Gibson going early on today. He touches the ball on each of the first three plays. A run of 4, followed by a run of 8, and a reception for 4. Moving the ball efficiently to open things up.

9:44 The first of what are sure to be many screen passes today for Washington. Terry McLaurin picks up 8 and a first down. Washington should have some success with those.

8:00 Looks like the chatter about Dallas generating a lot of pressure today is proving correct early on. Neville Gallimore with a big 9-yard takedown of Carson Wentz on 2nd down put Washington in 3rd and 21. DeMarcus Lawrence came right back on 3rd down and forced Carson Wentz to get rid of it quickly. Cowboys defense does a nice job tightening up after the Commanders crossed midfield.

5:45 Uninspiring second drive for the Cowboys on offense, with this one ending after Cooper Rush can’t find anyone open on 3rd and 3. Jonathan Allen looked to be a handful for Connor McGovern inside and got a shoe-string sack of Rush. Some pretty conservative play-calling from Kellen Moore so far. Curious why we aren’t seeing more aggression. Cowboys forced to punt.

4:58 Really nice job from Dorance Armstrong to shed his block on the edge and cut back to the middle of the field to wrap up Antonio Gibson after a gain of 4.

4:18 Nick Martin gets flagged for holding Quinton Bohanna on the interior. It’s the first flag, but there’s been a lot of grabbing inside by Washington early on. They’re going to have trouble blocking Dallas’ tackles today.

3:50 Trysten Hill with a big boy play on 2nd down. Manhandles Trai Turner to wrap-up JD McKissic after only a 1-yard gain. Great start for the defensive tackles of the Cowboys.

3:02 Donovan Wilson might have gotten away with interference on 3rd and 15, but kudos to him for saving a big gain from Terry McLaurin. Anthony Brown got beat down the right sideline, but Wilson was there with the help coverage.

1:38 CeeDee Lamb with a dominant start to this drive. 23-yard catch and run on the first play of the drive with Jamin Davis in coverage, followed by another catch and run for 16 yards, and then 17 yards up the seam. He’s been on a tear since the second half of the Giants game.

0:12 Another sloppy end to a drive for the Cowboys. Tony Pollard gets blown up for a 2-yard loss on first down, followed by good coverage from Washington on the next two plays. A promising drive fizzles, and the Cowboys are forced to kick a 45-yard field goal. Brett Maher puts them up 6-0.

SECOND QUARTER

14:56 Really nice open field tackle by Donovan Wilson. Antonio Gibson had some space on a swing pass, but Wilson did a great job wrapping him up in the open field for no gain.

14:23 Antonio Gibson showing that zip he has on a handoff to the left end. Picked up 11 and a first down in a hurry. Gibson is the best weapon the Commanders have to pressure Dallas in this game.

13:12 Washington finding some success on the left end. Jonathan Williams gets around the edge for 18 yards. Opponents were averaging 6.8 yards per carry running to the left edge against Dallas coming into today.

11:47 The M.O. of this Cowboys defense has been when they bend, they don’t usually break. Dallas gets gashed for a couple of big plays to start the drive, but generates some pressure and tightens things up as soon as Washington crossed midfield. Carson Wentz sails a throw to JD McKissic in the flat on 3rd and 11 to end the drive at the Dallas 45. Cowboys get a shot with the ball back.

10:53 Cowboys with a quick three and out. Outside of what CeeDee Lamb has done in space, the Cowboys haven’t found a lot of success in the passing game. Everything has been underneath. Cooper Rush finding trouble getting anything down the field.

8:56 Nice job by Washington blocking things up for JD McKissic on the right side. He finds a crease and goes for 33. You’d like to see better pursuit from Anthony Barr there. Washington has found success running the ball today.

7:11 Really nice pass from Carson Wentz to Jahan Dotson at the back pylon for a 10-yard touchdown on 3rd and 3. Dotson did a nice job releasing at the stem and got just enough separation from Anthony Brown for Wentz to drop it over his head. Washington up 7-6 after the PAT.

7:05 Cowboys try to get the passing game going with a comfort call on first down, drawing up a PA boot in 22 personnel (2 tight ends, 2 running backs). It’s a staple for the Cowboys that they use to get an easy target to the tight end. Commanders safety Darrick Forrest did a great job staying with Dalton Schultz, however, and got his hand in between the pass.

Dallas catches a major break on 3rd and 7 following an interception by Commanders CB Benjamin St.-Juste. Rush was under intense pressure after Ezekiel Elliott had trouble picking up the blitz, forcing him to throw it short of Noah Brown. But St.-Juste was flagged for illegal contact before the pass, which erased the turnover and gave the Cowboys a first down. Huge sequence of events there.

5:26 Connor McGovern is having a hell of a time with Jonathan Allen. Allen is in the backfield again as Cooper Rush has his pass batted at the line of scrimmage by Daron Payne.

5:22 A Michael Gallup sighting! Gallup makes a big 15-yard catch on 3rd and 8 to extend the drive. That’s Gallup’s first catch since tearing his ACL on a touchdown reception against Arizona late last season.

2:12 With the Cowboys struggling here with the passing attack in the 2nd quarter, Kellen Moore leaning on the run game to try to finish this drive. Moore draws up Elliott for 7, Elliott for 6, Pollard for 5, Pollard for 4, and then a QB sneak by Rush to pick up a 3rd and 1. The ground game hasn’t been very efficient for the Cowboys so far today, so it’s good to see them establish some movement.

2:00 Cooper Rush hopefully finding a bit of a rhythm here. He finds Noah Brown on 1st down for an 11-yard gain down to the Commanders 13. Rush has completed his last three passes for 29 yards. Cowboys in the red zone for the first time today.

1:23 Tyler Biadasz with a bad false start penalty as soon as the Cowboys get into the red zone. Can’t have negative plays like that this close to the end zone with the struggles they’ve had on offense. Pollard gets a big chunk of it right back, however, with a tough draw that sees him pick up 9.

1:15 Montez Sweat gives Tyler Smith some trouble on 2nd down and forces Cooper Rush to get rid of it before he’s ready, setting up 3rd and 6. Nice job by Sweat.

1:10 Nice improvisation by Michael Gallup and Cooper Rush on 3rd and 6 leading to a touchdown. Gallup initially ran a slant, but coverage by the Commanders was solid, and pressure forced Cooper Rush to roll to the right. Gallup reversed course to the back pylon and Rush did a great job threading it to the back of the end zone for a touchdown. The extra point is blocked, but Brett Maher does a good job wrapping up Efe Obada on the scoop and preventing two points the other way. Cowboys up 12-7.

0:17 Commanders try to steal a couple of points before half, knowing they get the ball to open the 3rd quarter. Carson Wentz tried to hit Jahan Dotson deep down the left sideline, but Trevon Diggs was with him every step of the way and picks it off to end the half. It honestly looked like an interception from the moment Wentz released it.

THIRD QUARTER

14:12 Micah Parsons with a great start to the 2nd half. He opens with a tackle for loss on Antonio Gibson, followed by good coverage on Terry McLaurin in the slot. Micah hasn’t been able to get home for a sack yet, but he’s having an impact on the game.

14:09 Curtis Samuel makes a big 14-yard catch on 3rd and 12 to keep the drive alive for Washington, but that’s only after the officials miss a false start on Commanders right guard Saahdiq Charles. Commanders catch a big break to extend their opening drive of the 2nd half.

12:02 Great sequence for the Cowboys defense after the missed false start led to a first down for the Commanders. Micah Parsons quickly wraps up JD McKissic on first down for a gain of 1, followed by Neville Gallimore doing an excellent job penetrating and bringing down McKissic for a loss of 2, and finally it’s Donovan Wilson doing a great job quickly bringing down Jahan Dotson in space on a 3rd and 11 screen. Washington forced to punt.

10:44 Cooper Rush is picked off as he tries to hit Tony Pollard on the right sideline, but for the second time today a Commanders interception is undone by a penalty. It was Benjamin St.-Juste earlier, and this time it’s William Jackson getting flagged for holding Michael Gallup. Cowboys pick up the automatic first down.

10:37 Cowboys have tried to get Tony Pollard going, but it’s just not working out today. Pollard is dropped for a loss on 1st down for the second time on this drive. Pollard has just 7 yards on 6 carries, and just 1 reception for 2 yards on 3 targets today. Commanders clearly made Pollard a point of emphasis.

9:59 Not a pretty drive for Cooper Rush, who was bailed out by the holding penalty that erased an interception. Rush seeing a lot of pressure close to his own end zone and not able to find a rhythm. Cowboys kick it away.

8:02 Cowboys defense playing with a ton of confidence here to open the half. Between plays from Malik Hooker, Dante Fowler, and penalties on the Commanders, Washington found themselves in 3rd and 27. Neville Gallimore and DeMarcus Lawrence bring a ton of quick pressure and force Carson Wentz to throw it away. Dallas getting the ball back.

7:48 Noah Brown with another big play, which has become a weekly occurrence. He gets behind the defense for a big 45-yard gain to open the drive. Nice job by Rush to drop the ball between the safety and the corner.

6:49 Zack Martin limps off the field after a fluky collision with Tyler Smith at the end of a 1-yard loss by Ezekiel Elliott. Appeared to injure his right ankle. He goes to the sideline with trainers, and Matt Farniok comes in at right guard with Connor McGovern still rotating with Jason Peters at left guard.

5:00 Cowboys stall out following the big catch from Noah Brown. Dallas has missed opportunities in Washington territory all afternoon. Brett Maher adds his third field goal, this one from 28 yards out, extending Dallas’ lead to 15-7.

4:05 Commanders get a big 3rd down conversion. Carson Wentz did a good job staying patient in the pocket and finding a soft spot in the zone between Anthony Brown and DaRon Bland. 31-yard catch by Jahan Dotson gets them into Cowboys territory.

3:25 Commanders suddenly go from a potential three-and-out to inside the red zone following a 23-yard run by Jonathan Williams. Washington has had some success today with their rushing trio.

1:24 Nice to see Zack Martin back on the field after missing a couple of snaps. He’s heavily taped up as he returns on offense.

2:10 What a disastrous way for Washington to end the drive after getting in the red zone. Donovan Wilson makes a big stop in the run game on 1st down, followed by a ferocious blitz on 2nd down that forced Carson Wentz into an intentional grounding. An additional penalty and a quick screen on 3rd and 27 puts an end to the touchdown threat from Washington. Joey Slye knocks through a 45-yard field goal to cut Dallas’ lead to 15-10.

0:52 Dallas takes their first shot of the game to Michael Gallup, who is heavily interfered with by William Jackson. That’s a 38-yard penalty that puts them in Washington territory.

FOURTH QUARTER

15:00 CeeDee Lamb essentially runs free up the seam of Washington’s zone coverage and extends Dallas’ lead with a 30-yard touchdown catch. Lamb has had a strong bounce back over the last six quarters or so. Maher knocks through the PAT, and Dallas goes up 22-10.

13:21 Cowboys defensive tackles have done a great job winning the interior today and we just saw it again with Osa Odighizuwa. He stuffs Antonio GIbson on a key 3rd and 3 opportunity to force a punt. Somewhat surprised Washington didn’t attempt to go for it.

11:28 A bad punt from Bryan Anger has given a little bit of life to the Commanders. Shanked it to the right, going just 22 yards and setting up Washington at the Dallas 30. Still some time.

8:45 Big time 3rd down sack from Dante Fowler. He hasn't played a ton this season, but he's been really good for the Cowboys this year when he's gotten opportunities.

8:02 Trevon Diggs breaks up Carson Wentz's 4th down attempt in the end zone as he was looking for McLaurin. Great showing from Diggs today. This one is just about over.

5:36 DaRon Bland caps off a great day in place of Jourdan Lewis with an interception that would seem to seal the deal.

0:00 Cowboys add a field goal in the final five minutes and come away with a strong 25-10 victory.

Featured Image Photo Credit: USA Today Images