Cowboys snap three-game losing streak with 38-14 rout of Redskins


Cowboys snap three-game losing streak with 38-14 rout of Redskins

ARLINGTON, Texas -- 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 offense 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 on Thursday 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 said. "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 offense, 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 the 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 had already been eliminated in the division race and are virtually out of the postseason 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."

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," coach Jason Garrett said. "We got the return, 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 offense 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 offense sporadically because he was consistently 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, ending a two-game drought for the entire team and extending his career high to 13 1/2. Cousins was hit hard by David Irving on a sack in the fourth quarter.


Bryant 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 demeanor and that attitude that we carried," Prescott said. "I give him credit. He kind of brought it this week and pretty much tonight and you kind of felt it early."


Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses didn't return after injuring an ankle in the first half, forcing Ty Nsekhe to that spot after he was a fill-in starter at left guard on a patchwork line that's been dealing with injuries all season.

Left tackle Trent Williams left the field briefly in the third quarter. He's been inactive three of the past six games because a knee injury that will require surgery. Washington was already missing center Chase Roullier because of a hand injury.


Redskins: At Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 10.

Cowboys: At New York Giants on Dec. 10 to start a season-ending stretch of three of four on the road.


Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

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Don't pigeonhole me: How will Adrian Clayborn fit into the Patriots defense?

Looking for a two-word answer from Bill Belichick during a press conference? Ask him how a new addition to the roster might fit into the Patriots scheme. 

"We'll see," is Belichick's typical reply in those situations. 


We point that out here because it's hard to know exactly what any new player's role will be with the Patriots, particularly for an edge player like Adrian Clayborn. That spot in Belichick's defense can take on a variety of roles, from pass-rusher, to edge-setter, to coverage player. 

But we can take an educated guess as to how Clayborn will fit in the Patriots defense, based on what we know. That's what the Patriots did when they signed him. They saw certain skills. They saw Clayborn perform in certain situations. They made their projection. 

There's always the chance Clayborn asserts himself in a way that wasn't expected. Or maybe the way he fits with his new teammates will open his coaches' eyes in ways they weren't anticipating. But at this point, as is the case with every new addition, they're hypothesizing. So we will too. 

AGAINST THE PASS: Clayborn was, for the vast majority of his snaps, a pass-rusher for the Falcons last year. He played 631 snaps for the Falcons, which was 53.4 of their defensive snaps. Of those 631 plays, Clayborn rushed the quarterback 477 times, per Pro Football Focus (76 percent of his workload). And of those pass-rush snaps, only one came from the left side. (Clayborn was born with Erb's palsy, which means his right arm has some limitations compared to his left, which impacts the side of the field he aligns on. He played 91 percent of his snaps from the right side in 2016.)  Clayborn played over 80 percent of the snaps during each of his first three seasons in the league as a member of the Bucs so he's been a three-down player before. But recent history would suggest the 6-foot-2, 280-pounder is now more of a sub option.

Here's how Clayborn responded during a conference call on Wednesday when asked if he could chip in on first and second down for the Patriots. "I believe that’s what people have pigeon-holed me in as a third-down player, but I know I can play first, second, third down if need be," he said. "That was my role in Atlanta because that’s what they asked me to do, but I mean, I can play all three downs if you ask me."

AGAINST THE RUN: According to Pro Football Focus, Clayborn has been a negatively-graded player against the run during each of his seven seasons in the NFL. Last year he checked in as PFF's 78th-ranked run defender among edge players, which was far below the ranking Trey Flowers received (19th) but ahead of Deatrich Wise (85th) and Eric Lee (96th). During each of his last three seasons with the Falcons, he has seen his snap-counts break down similarly: about 75 percent of his work came against the pass, about 25 percent came against the run. He can defend the run. He's capable of it. He just hasn't been asked to consistently hold up on the edge on a down-in-down-out basis during the most recent phase of his career. 

THE FIT: Based on his history in Atlanta, it would make sense if the Patriots asked Clayborn to come off of the right edge in passing situations in 2018. That's where his recent experience has been. Keeping him away from the left side not only makes the most of where he's strongest, but it also keeps him from finding himself in coverage. As Belichick has explained in the past, the left end spot (Rob Ninkovich's old spot), going against right-handed quarterbacks, is typically asked to do more in coverage. The right edge has been Flowers' area in the recent past -- he played almost 65 percent of his passing-rush snaps last season off the right, per PFF -- but if the Patriots are fully-healthy up front, Flowers could kick inside to do his rushing. An ideal sub package for the Patriots, it could be argued, would have Clayborn on the right edge, Flowers and either Wise or Adam Butler on the interior, and Derek Rivers or Dont'a Hightower on the left edge. Rivers saw some work off the left side before suffering an injury in last year's training camp. Early last season, Hightower saw time on the left edge. 


Clayborn will have an opportunity to show he can do more than rush off the right side. He said on Wednesday that the Patriots have discussed multiple roles for him. (Perhaps he could rush from the interior, though he's not as long as Flowers or Wise, whose arms make them good matchups for stouter guards and tackles.) Wherever those opportunities come, Clayborn knows he'll have to make the most of them if he doesn't want to be pigeonholed. The deal for two years and $10 million he just signed in New England doesn't guarantee him myriad responsibilities.

"Whatever I can prove I can do,” he said. "I know I can rush the passer. I know I can set edge in the run. I mean, there’s a couple of different positions that they believe I can play, so it’s up to me to prove I can play them."


Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

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Ex-Patriot Ricky Jean-Francois signing with Lions

Former Patriots defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois is signing with the Lions, according to Jordan Schultz of Yahoo Sports.

The 31-year-old had six tackles in six games for the Patriots in 2017. He'll reunite with ex-Patriots defensive coordinator and now Lions head coach Matt Patricia in Detroit.