3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 14 Win

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistDecember 13, 2021

3 Takeaways from Cowboys' Week 14 Win

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    Terrance Williams/Associated Press

    The Dallas Cowboys survived a late rally by the Washington Football Team on Sunday. By doing so, they have nearly locked up the NFC East.

    Washington is the closest team to Dallas in the division, but it is now three games back with a head-to-head loss. The Cowboys haven't won it yet, but it would take a monumental collapse over the final month for Dallas to blow the East.

    It was far from a perfect performance by Dallas. The Cowboys were outscored 20-3 in the second half, while Dak Prescott had one of his worst games of the season. The team will have a couple of things to clean up before the postseason.

    Here's what we learned during Dallas' 27-20 win in Week 14.

Dak Prescott Has to Be Better

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    This game shouldn't have been close late, but it was because of Prescott. With fewer than five minutes remaining, he completely missed Washington linebacker Cole Holcomb, who snagged Prescott's pass and returned it for six points.

    It wasn't Prescott's first mistake of the game. He also threw an interception in the first quarter on an ill-advised pass to CeeDee Lamb in coverage. He was bailed out by the Dallas defense three plays later when Randy Gregory got an interception of his own.

    This was largely the theme of the day for Prescott, who made a few clutch plays but also had an underwhelming game overall.

    Prescott finished 22-of-39 for 211 yards with one touchdown, two interceptions and a 58.8 passer rating.

    The Washington defense has played better in recent weeks, but it came in ranked 28th in yards per attempt allowed and 28th in passing yards per game surrendered.

    It's all well and good that Dallas has a defense capable of offsetting a poor quarterback performance, but it's not something the Cowboys should count on in the postseason.

The Pass Rush Is Back

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    "This defense is great," Prescott said after the game, per Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "I practice against them every day."

    Dallas' defense was great for most of Sunday, due in no small part to a ferocious pass rush. With Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence now healthy and in the lineup, we may see more of that over the final month.

    Coming into Week 14, rookie linebacker Micah Parsons had 10 of the team's 26 sacks. There's nothing wrong with a rookie leading the way, but Parsons was drafted to be more of an all-around defender than an edge-rusher.

    The defense is a different proposition with Gregory and Lawrence on the field, though. Parsons, Lawrence and Gregory all notched sacks, with the Dallas defense amassing five in total.

    Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke was under constant pressure and eventually left in the fourth quarter with a knee injury after being sacked for the fourth time. He finished just 11-of-25 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

    This performance from the pass rush is one the Cowboys should hope to repeat come playoff time.

Micah Parsons Is Likely the 2021 Defensive Rookie of the Year

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    The Cowboys are likely more concerned with their championship chances than individual accolades. However, they'll rightfully be thrilled to see Parsons win Defensive Rookie of the Year—and he may have already locked up the award.

    With another two sacks on Sunday, Parsons is at 12 on the season. He's now on the heels of Jevon Kearse's rookie record of 14.5. Again, though, Parsons isn't only a sack artist. He's an all-around defender who shows up in all facets of the game.

    To go with those two sacks, Parsons logged three tackles and a tackle for loss. His first-quarter strip-sack of Heinicke led to Dorance Armstrong Jr.'s touchdown return.

    "He's not only the best rookie PERIOD, but he's the best defensive player in the league," former NFL safety and current ESPN analyst Ryan Clark tweeted. "He'd have 20 sacks if he just rushed, or 130 tackles if he only played middle! He might be the best at both."

    Parsons now has 75 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles on the season.

    It's getting harder by the week to make a case that anyone other than Parsons should be Defensive Rookie of the Year.