Thursday's NFL: Cowboys join Washington atop NFC East
Arlington, Texas — Ezekiel Elliott made the $21 donation after his touchdown. Amari Cooper took the freebie following the first of his two scores.
The bonus for the Dallas Cowboys: They’re all the way back in the NFC East race.
Cooper celebrated his first touchdown with a mock free throw before a 90-yard score that sent him to a Dallas Thanksgiving- record 180 yards receiving, and the Cowboys pulled even with Washington atop the division with a 31-23 win on Thursday.
Elliott ran for 121 yards with his TD and cash celebration as the Cowboys (6-5) won their third straight game since their first home loss, to Tennessee in the Dallas debut of Cooper. Dallas’ eighth win in nine Thanksgiving games against Washington, and second in three years, earned a season split.
“Everyone jumped off the bandwagon, of course, at 3-5,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “You expect that. I can tell you who didn’t doubt ourselves. As long as we locked arms, we stayed tight, we knew we could do this and we can do more. That’s the only thing that matters to us.”
Washington (6-5) lost for the third time in four games in Colt McCoy’s first start in four years coming off Alex Smith’s season-ending leg injury.
The former Texas Longhorns star threw three interceptions to offset two touchdown passes. McCoy won his two previous starts at the home of the Cowboys, one for the 2009 Big 12 championship and the other his most recent NFL victory with Washington in 2014.
“I think I’m encouraged, on a short week like that,” said McCoy, who was 24 of 38 for 268 yards. “Losing overshadows everything. But I’ll go back and watch it and try to clean up some of my mistakes that are going to help our team win.”
Cooper had 105 yards after the catch on his two touchdowns.
First, Cooper ran away from Quinton Dunbar after the Washington cornerback slipped on a short pass, turning it into a 40-yard TD for a 17-13 lead. Cooper celebrated by mimicking a free throw , shooting the football through the goal post.
On the 90-yarder, Cooper made the catch just outside the Dallas 30, spun out of the arms of Fabian Moreau and won the race to the pylon against former Alabama teammate Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who tried to shove him out of bounds around the 5.
The longest catch of Cooper’s career and longest completion in Prescott’s three seasons came exactly a month after the Cowboys gave Oakland their first-round pick in the upcoming draft for a new No. 1 receiver.
“I’ve been putting in extra time with my coaches, with Dak,” Cooper said. “For some reason, since I’ve been here, the chemistry with Dak has phenomenal.”
McCoy looked as if he hadn’t started a game in a long time early, throwing into double coverage on his first play and fumbling while trying to scramble on his third, with Washington recovering and punting.
But McCoy settled in with a couple of third-down passes to Jordan Reed to keep drives going, then hit Vernon Davis in stride on a 53-yard touchdown — the longest Washington completion of the season — for a 7-7 tie.
The Cowboys were having all the fun before Washington pulled even, with Elliott scoring on a 16-yard run and dropping $21 into a giant Salvation Army red kettle behind the end zone. The cash was handed to him by a team photographer.
As a rookie in 2016, Elliott jumped into the kettle on the same part of the field after a touchdown in a 31-26 win over Washington. That season’s NFL rushing champion, who wears No. 21, was fined for the stunt and later donated $21,000 to the Salvation Army.
After scoring on a scrambling 5-yard run for the third Dallas touchdown in less than eight minutes and a 31-13 lead, Prescott let Elliott help him into another kettle on the other end of the field, drawing the same unsportsmanlike conduct penalty Elliott did two years ago.
Elliott missed the Thanksgiving game last year on his six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.
“I didn’t have any plans to do that. Zeke did,” said Prescott, who was 22 of 31 for a season-high 289 yards in his third straight game without an interception or a lost fumble. “He showed his strength. Once he had me in the air, I said I’ve got to own it now and just figured I’d jump in there before I got hurt.”
(At) New Orleans 31, Atlanta 17: Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes to inexperienced receivers and the Saints won their 10th straight game while eliminating the Falcons from contention in the NFC South.
Tommylee Lewis and Austin Carr each caught their second career touchdown pass, and rookie tight end Dan Arnold grabbed his first, as did rookie receiver Keith Kirkwood. All four entered the NFL as undrafted free agents within the past three years and had combined for zero touchdowns this season before Carr caught the first of his career last Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Falcons (4-7) lost three fumbles inside the Saints 20 — something no team facing streaking New Orleans (10-1) can afford this season.
Atlanta’s Matt Ryan was stripped by safety Marcus Williams on a third-and-2 from the Saints 3 and Williams recovered to end Atlanta’s opening drive. Julio Jones was stripped by linebacker Alex Anzalone after a catch on the New Orleans 17, and safety Vonn Bell recovered in the final minute of the second quarter to preserve a 17-3 lead going into halftime.
The Saints’ defense, which had a season-high six sacks, continued to come up with big plays in the second half, with Anzalone breaking up a fourth-down pass in the third quarter and linebacker A.J. Klein intercepting a pass tipped by defensive tackle Tyeler Davison in the fourth. The interception gave the Saints possession on the Atlanta 22, setting up Kirkwood’s diving 4-yard TD catch.
Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold sat out team drills for a second straight day of practice, increasing the likelihood he’ll sit out against the Patriots.
... Washington left tackle Trent Williams was taken to a hospital for unspecified precautionary reasons after the loss to the Cowboys.