Week 4: Three keys for a Commanders triumph over division rival Cowboys on Sunday

Washington+needs+to+clean+up+glaring+holes+on+both+sides+of+the+ball+if+they+want+to+end+the+day+with+a+victory+over+Dallas.+

Vassili Prokopenko

Washington needs to clean up glaring holes on both sides of the ball if they want to end the day with a victory over Dallas.

By Waleed Aslam

After a dreadful Week 3 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Commanders (1–2) will look to get back to .500 against a banged up Dallas Cowboys (2–1). Though Dallas is without its star quarterback Dak Prescott, they are on a two-game winning streak with contributions from their ferocious defense and impressive play from backup quarterback Cooper Rush. The Commanders are the better team on paper but cannot play down to their opponent’s level. Washington must avoid their recurring mistakes in Dallas to emerge victorious.

Here are three keys for the Commanders to defeat the Cowboys on Sunday:

Score early

In the first game of the season, the Commanders scored touchdowns on their opening two drives, taking a 14–3 lead into the half. Since then, the Commanders have yet to score a single point in the first half and have allowed opposing offenses to score a total of 46 points. Washington cannot afford to play catch up the entire game if they want to take down Dallas. Scott Turner, the offensive coordinator, must call plays that keep the chains moving and won’t leave the offense in third and long situations. Since Ron Rivera took over as head coach of the team, the Commanders have trailed at any point in 91% of games, the second worst in the NFL. A must-fix issue, the Commanders will not see success if this trend continues. 

Avoid costly sacks

In the past two games, the Commanders have given up 14 sacks to opposing defenses, including a staggering nine to the Eagles last Sunday. After only allowing a single sack against Jacksonville, the offensive line collapsed, not allowing the offense to move down the field. The offensive line is not the only area of fault, however. Carson Wentz noticeably held on to the ball for far too long against Philadelphia last weekend, giving the Eagles defensive line a plethora of time in the backfield. Against a ferocious Dallas pass rush that leads the league in sacks, the offense will be up for a real test. Wentz must have better awareness to find his targets faster or throw away the ball if he cannot. The offensive line must protect him against imposing players like Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence. If both sides of the offense can execute, Washington may finally start seeing consistent ball movement downfield.

Prevent big plays on defense

Although they were blown out, the Commanders defense shut out Philadelphia for three quarters last week. Unfortunately, the Eagles scored an unthinkable 24 points in the second quarter after Washington’s defense was unable to prevent huge chunk plays. At the end of the second quarter, Eagles wide receiver DeVonta Smith made two incredible catches over Washington cornerback Kendall Fuller to increase Philadelphia’s lead to 24. Despite solid initial coverage, the defense crumbled when it mattered most. The Commanders made the same mistake in Week 2 against the Lions leading to a loss as Detroit scored 36 points. Facing a backup quarterback and a non-threatening offense, the Washington defense must return to form if they want to beat the Cowboys.

After an exciting win over the Jaguars in Week 1, the Commandes have looked awful in their past two losses. Meanwhile, the Cowboys have surprised many with back-to-back wins despite missing several key players. Washington needs to clean up glaring holes on both sides of the ball if they want to end the day with a victory over Dallas.