Cowboys keep slim playoff hopes alive with win over ‘Skins

The Associated Press
Schuyler Dixon

ARLINGTON, Tex.–Dak Prescott was getting X-rays on his swollen right hand when rookie Ryan Switzer scored his first career touchdown on an 83-yard punt return.
The extra time with the Dallas offence on the sideline kept Prescott from missing any plays, and last year’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year led the Cowboys to their first win after three-straight losses without suspended star running back Ezekiel Elliott.
Prescott threw two touchdown passes, including a franchise record-breaker to Dez Bryant , in the Cowboys’ 38-14 victory over the Washington Redskins last night.
The injury happened in the second quarter when Prescott’s right hand was hit by linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons just as he made an option pitch to Rod Smith.
Thanks to Switzer’s dash to the end zone, Prescott didn’t miss a snap. He said the X-rays came back negative.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever broken my hand,” Prescott noted. “I couldn’t grip initially right after because the [hand] swelled up on me so bad.
“As I said, they wrapped it up, got the swelling down, and I was fine.”
Bryant’s leaping 13-yard catch in the end zone was the 2014 All-Pro’s first score in six games and 72nd of his career–one more than Hall-of-Famer Bob Hayes.
The Cowboys (6-6) never trailed despite a sluggish start to the offence, thanks to three first-half turnovers and four overall by the Redskins (5-7).
Dallas kept it going after halftime with a 21-7 scoring edge after getting outscored 72-6 in the second half during its three-game skid.
Alfred Morris, Elliott’s replacement during the six-game suspension for alleged domestic violence, had 127 yards rushing and a clinching touchdown.
The Cowboys forced NFL-leading Philadelphia to wait until at least Sunday to clinch the division title.
But Dallas still faces a steep climb to playoff contention–and two more games without Elliott.
The Redskins already had been eliminated in the division race and virtually are out of the post-season picture after Kirk Cousins threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while throwing two touchdown passes.
Jamison Crowder let the pass go through his hands on Cousins’ first interception and fumbled on a Dallas punt a few plays later in the Redskins’ fourth-straight loss to the Cowboys, the longest such streak in the series since 2003-04.
“It was just miscues,” Cousins said. “A dropped ball here, we had a nice drive down the field the second drive, just a tough turnover, and then it was one thing after another that were just mistakes.
“They happen, and we have to correct them,” he stressed.
By the time the Redskins answered Switzer’s punt return with a 75-yard drive that ended with Cousins’ 20-yard scoring pass to Ryan Grant, Prescott was ready to return.
He had been holding his right hand in his helmet once he returned to the sideline.
Rookie backup Cooper Rush had his helmet on when the Redskins punted.
“If we didn’t have the return by ‘Switz,’ Cooper Rush would have got in the ballgame at that point,” noted Cowboys’ coach Jason Garrett.
“We got the return [and] Dak was able to come back out.”
Prescott only threw for 102 yards but didn’t have a turnover after throwing five interceptions and losing three fumbles without a touchdown pass during the losing streak.
And the Cowboys looked more like the offence they have when Elliott is around, with Morris picking up big yardage on clock-killing drives with the Cowboys in front.
Cousins moved the Washington offence sporadically because he consistently was harassed behind a patchwork offensive line that had to shuffle some more because of injuries.
Cousins, who was 26-of-37 for 251 yards, was replaced by Colt McCoy late in the fourth quarter.
DeMarcus Lawrence, the NFL sacks leader most of the first half of the season, had two of Dallas’ four sacks last night, ending a two-game drought for the entire team and extending his career high to 13-and-a-half.
Cousins was hit hard by David Irving on a sack in the fourth quarter.
Bryant, meanwhile, still hasn’t had a 100-yard game–his longest drought to start a season since his second year in 2011.
But the 61-yard effort included a 24-yarder that set up his record-setting TD on the first play of the fourth quarter.
“I was talking about that demeanour and that attitude that we carried,” Prescott said.
“I give him credit,” he added. “He [Bryant] kind of brought it this week and pretty much tonight, and you kind of felt it early.”