Cooper, Cowboys join Redskins atop NFC East with 31-23 win
By Schuyler Dixon
AP Pro Football Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — 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 had a 90-yard touchdown after celebrating with a free throw following his first scoring catch, Elliott ran for 121 yards with his TD and the Cowboys pulled even with Washington atop the division with a 31-23 Thanksgiving win over the Redskins on Thursday.
The Cowboys (6-5) won their third straight game since the first home loss, to Tennessee in the Dallas debut of Cooper following a trade dropped them two games under .500.
Dallas’ eighth win in nine Thanksgiving games against Washington, and second in three seasons, earned a season split.
The Redskins (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 the Redskins in 2014.
Cooper, the former Oakland receiver had much more fun in his second home game, finishing with a Dallas Thanksgiving-best 180 yards receiving — 105 of those coming 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 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who tried to shove him out of bounds around the 5. It was his longest career catch and the longest completion in Dak Prescott’s three seasons.
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 the Redskins 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 the Redskins 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 the Redskins. 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.
MISSING PRO BOWLER
Redskins defensive end Preston Smith had seven QB pressures before halftime, the most in the NFL in the first half this season. All of them came against Cameron Fleming, who was filling in for Tyron Smith. The five-time Pro Bowler Smith was active but didn’t play after saying he experienced a stinger in the previous game against Atlanta. Smith was listed as questionable with a neck injury coming in.
Smith finished with 1½ of the four sacks of Prescott — all in the first half — and had four QB hits.
Washington receiver Trey Quinn, the final pick of this year’s draft at the home of the Cowboys and a former player at nearby SMU, set up his own 14-yard touchdown catch for Washington’s only lead at 13-10 in the third quarter with a 30-yard punt return to the Dallas 25.
Redskins running back Adrian Peterson left briefly in the first quarter with a shoulder injury but returned. Still, he wasn’t nearly as effective as he was in Washington’s 20-17 win in the first meeting. The four-time All-Pro finished with 35 yards on 12 carries after going for 99 yards at home.
Redskins: First of two meetings in the final five games against the defending champion Eagles, at Philadelphia on Monday, Dec. 3.
Cowboys: Face New Orleans in the second of three straight home games next Thursday.