Brian Mitchell says stopping Ezekiel Elliott key to Washington beating Dallas

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Kevin Brown
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Brian Mitchell says stopping Ezekiel Elliott key to Washington beating Dallas originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

The running game on both sides of the ball will likely be what determines the outcome of Washington's Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys, according to NBC Sports Washington analyst Brian Mitchell. 

While getting Antonio Gibson and J.K. McKissic going will be paramount for the Burgundy and Gold, the focus should also start on stopping Dallas' dangerous rushing attack. 

"First of all, I think they need to stop Zeke Elliott," Mitchell said. "He's started to run the ball effectively, which allows Andy Dalton to throw the ball down the field. So, you stop the run and it gives you a chance because Andy Dalton isn't going to beat you throwing the ball down the football field."

Dalton is coming off an inspired performance in which the Cowboys upset the Vikings on Sunday. In the Week 11 showdown, Dalton threw for three touchdowns and recorded his best quarterback rating (104.0) since their Week 5 win against the Giants. To make sure Dalton doesn't find similar success on Thursday, Chase Young and company are going to have to plug holes so Elliot doesn't get going first. 

RELATED: Washington wide receiver Cam Sims dreamed of playing on Thanksgiving Day

Luckily for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Washington fields one of the league's best rushing defenses. On the other side of the ball, however, the offense ranks closer to the middle of the pack in that department. 

"I think also as an offense, as I say every week, we need to establish the run," Mitchell said. "This team is better when they run the football a lot and you look at it and when we run the ball for 30 times or more, we win the football game."

While winning the running battle will be important in ultimately winning the war against Dallas, Mitchell believes his third key will be the most important factor. 

"I think you need to manage your emotions. This is a Thanksgiving Day game, just like a Monday Night Football game. Ok, everybody wants to be home with their family," said Mitchell. "There are all sorts of things going on. You have to manage that. The team that goes into the game a lot more calm and comfortable is probably going to win it. And the team that's worried about too much outside the actual football game is probably going to lose it."

While it's certainly easier said than done, these three keys could give Washington the season sweep over Dallas and what could prove to be a valuable third divisional win this season. 

"Do those three things and we'll win the football game," Mitchell said, "and my turkey will taste even better."