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Studs and duds in Cowboys’ NFC East clinching 38-10 Week 18 win

The Dallas Cowboys had one mission in Week 18, to leave Washington D.C. with a win and the NFC East title. Mission accomplished as the Cowboys routed the Washington Commanders in a 38-10 win that secured the team’s second division title in the last three years.

They took a little bit of time to get going, but a barrage that started late in the second quarter saw the Cowboys assert their dominance and blow out the Commanders behind a complete team effort. In a rivalry matchup, Mike McCarthy had to know his team would get everything the Commanders had in what was likely Ron Rivera’s last game with the team, and Dallas withstood the aggressive approach to pull away for the victory.

It was another great performance for the offense, while the defense got three more turnovers to guide the Cowboys. Here are the studs and duds from an NFC East clinching win for the Cowboys in Week 18.

Stud: Dak Prescott

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It was a stellar game from Prescott in his final bid to convince MVP voters he deserves the award. Prescott threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns, while completing over 86% of his passes in the win. His only mistake came on a tipped ball that was intercepted, but nothing should take away from the veteran signal callers’ brilliance.

The efficiency of Prescott was seen on each of his scoring throws, which included another perfectly thrown corner route to wide receiver Brandin Cooks for a five-yard touchdown. But it was his first touchdown pass of the game that might have been the most impressive.

On their first possession of the game, the Cowboys easily moved down the field and had a first-and-goal at the Washington three-yard line. The play fake and roll out didn’t fool the Commanders’ defense, yet Prescott threw a perfect pass to wide receiver Jalen Tolbert with a defender bearing down on him, and falling backwards.

Prescott ended the season with 36 touchdown passes on the year, one off his career best, and he will end up the most passing scores in the NFL for the 2023 season.

Dud: Brandon Aubrey

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Usually, the rookie kicker winds up in the stud section, but it was his first off game. Aubrey had one field goal attempt blocked and banged another off the upright for his first two misses of the season.

The blocked kick occurred in the first quarter after the defense gave the Cowboys great field position and the opportunity to take a 10-0 lead early. Instead, Aubrey had his 32-yard attempt blocked and the Commanders returned it deep into Dallas territory in route to a short touchdown drive to tie the game.

In the fourth quarter, Aubrey hit the left upright on a 36-yard kick.

Missing two short attempts is something that no one expected from the rookie who made every field goal try through the first 17 games. Aubrey did redeem himself by nailing a 50-yard kick later in the fourth quarter, but it was the first time he struggled all season.

Stud: CeeDee Lamb

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In a year where he’s been as dominant as any wide receiver in the league, Lamb had another standout game. The fourth-year wideout caught all 13 of his targets for 98 yards and had two touchdowns.

The two scores extended Lamb’s consecutive games with a touchdown to nine, which is the longest streak in the NFL since 2012. It was Lamb’s seventh game with double-digit catches, and he joined some exclusive company in the win.

Lamb’s first score came late in the first half where he was open on a crossing pattern and wouldn’t be denied, fighting for the end zone and reaching over the goal line. The second touchdown was the result of his uncanny connection with Prescott, who directed Lamb mid-play and found his receiver in the end zone for the score.

Dud: Markquese Bell

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Bell has been a revelation this season, but this wasn’t his best outing. The undrafted free agent missed some tackles early and was responsible for the only Commanders touchdown.

The safety turned linebacker was tasked to follow Washington running back Brian Robinson out of the backfield and got lost in the mix, bumping into Commanders wide receiver Jahan Dotson trying to cover Robinson on the play that resulted in a score.

Bell couldn’t avoid the traffic and it left Robinson wide open to tie the game on the fourth down attempt.

Stud: DeMarcus Lawrence

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys were struggling to handle the 4-12 Commanders and leading by just four points near the end of the second quarter. Washington was driving and in Dallas territory when Lawrence turned the game around.

On third down with 1:40 to go in the half, Sam Howell dropped back to pass when the veteran defensive end came through to hit the quarterback’s arm, causing a floating pass to be intercepted by Cowboys safety Donovan Wilson.

Six plays later, the Cowboys scored to take an 11-point lead into halftime and the Commanders never recovered. From that play on, the Cowboys outscored their rivals 24-0.

Lawrence’s play changed the momentum and helped put the game away. Dallas was struggling to take control, but Lawrence made sure the Cowboys wouldn’t give the Commanders any hope of pulling off the upset.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire