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Mere minutes after the Dallas Cowboys completed a thorough (and expected) beating of the New Orleans Saints Thursday night, quarterback Dak Prescott was seemingly already moving on to what awaits.
And what awaits seems much more palatable following this 27-17 victory over the battered, bruised and limping Saints.
“We’ve got to win this division,” Prescott announced. “We have to continue to establish who we are and who we are in this division. We’ve got every team coming up and Washington twice so it’s important for us to get healthy, get rested, make sure we hit this the right way.”
Well, the Cowboys have been getting healthy. Left tackle Tyron Smith came back from an ankle injury recently and is mostly playing like his old Pro Bowl self. Receiver Amari Cooper came back from a bout with COVID-19 and factored in the game, and defensive lineman Demarcus Lawrence played for the first time since the regular-season opener and batted a couple of passes while providing good pass rush snaps.
“It was electric,” Lawrence said in his postgame press conference. “Just to play with the guys, at the level they’re playing with, and to be out there and have a little impact on the game, is amazing. I’m just glad to be back. Thankful I can play this game of football that I love. Glad we came home with the win.”
The Cowboys are in a good place now. They put a stop to a two-game losing skid. They have a comfortable lead in the NFC East and are 6-1 in the conference.
And they’re getting contributions from key players — at least they did against New Orleans.
The receiver corps, for example, came up big Thursday night.
Cooper turned in the longest pass play of the game on a 41-yard reception. Michael Gallup scored a touchdown pass with an acrobatic catch. And CeeDee Lamb led all Dallas receivers with seven catches for 89 yards.
“Those three made huge plays,” Prescott said. “Obviously Amari getting us going on third down, CeeDee getting the ball in his hands, making a guy miss and then going and getting more yards. And then MG making a great catch and putting two feet down. Three talented guys, and I’ve got to do a better job of getting those three involved. And we get those three involved in a drive like that, that’s what happens.”
The Cowboys’ running game was a mixed bag because Tony Pollard had a 58-yard touchdown run and the team averaged 6.1 yards per carry, but starter Ezekiel Elliott is obviously not right as he battles a knee issue. Elliott gained 45 yards on 13 carries.
Defensively? It was something of a blowout in that regard.
The Cowboys intercepted Saints quarterback (fullback) Taysom Hill four times. The four picks were the most by the Cowboys in a single game since 2010.
Rookie Micah Parsons continue to make his case for defensive rookie of the year honors as he collected a sack and five tackles.
It simply wasn’t much of a contest and wouldn’t have been if the Dallas offense had been better, with better defined as converting more than 2 of 13 third downs.
Bottom line: this game leaves the Cowboys in a good place.
“It means a lot,” Prescott said. “The adversity we’ve had. We’ve had the last two weeks and then coming in this week and being hit with the COVID. Losing the head coach this week and so many people stepped up.
“Credit to Dan Quinn, the coordinators, all the leaders on this team of doing what was necessary to be ready for this game and through the ups and downs in this game — playing complementary football when the offense wasn’t doing its job, the defense was creating turnovers. Tough to come in a place like this and win, and we were able to do that.”
Oh, yeah, Dan Quinn.
He took over for coach Mike McCarthy, who was forced to sit this one out due to COVID-19 protocols.
But this game was never 28-3, so the Cowboys were in a good spot.
McCarthy watched from a nearby hotel room and sent Prescott a congratulatory text afterward.
“Saying he’s proud, to make sure I let the guys know that,” Prescott said. “I just told him we missed him, got it done and at 8-4, we’ll get rested, recovered, and hit this stretch the right way.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero