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Commanders surprise Cowboys with strong debut for Sam Howell

Jan 8, 2023; Landover, Maryland, USA; Washington Commanders quarterback Sam Howell (14) runs with the ball as Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) chases during the second quarter at FedExField. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

In his NFL debut, rookie Sam Howell threw for a touchdown on his first career pass and ran for another score as the Washington Commanders rolled to a 26-6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in Landover, Md.

On a day when Washington honored Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen by retiring his jersey, Howell finished with 11 completions in 19 attempts for 169 yards and one interception as the Commanders (8-8-1) notched their first win since Nov. 27.

With five defensive starters sidelined by injuries, Washington limited Dallas (12-5) to 182 total yards and 10 first downs. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott completed 14 of 37 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown. He also suffered a pick-6.

Kendall Fuller intercepted the pass in the flat and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put Washington up 13-0.

The Cowboys appeared poised for a comeback as Prescott fired a 15-yard touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb with six seconds left in the first half to cut the Commanders’ lead to 13-6.

But in the third quarter, Howell directed a 59-yard drive, completing two first-down passes and capping the march with a 9-yard touchdown run.

On Washington’s next possession, Howell lofted a bomb that Terry McLaurin hauled in for 52 yards, setting up the first of two field goals by Joey Slye in the second half.

Dallas entered hoping for a loss by Philadelphia, which would have given the Cowboys a chance to win their second straight NFC East title. But the Eagles got past the Giants 22-16 to clinch first place in the division and the top seed in the NFC. The Cowboys will be the No. 5 seed.

In the opening minutes, Washington struck first, taking advantage of a special teams mistake as Dallas punter Bryan Anger muffed a snap and was tackled by Milo Eifler.

Two plays later, Howell threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to McLaurin, giving the Commanders a 7-0 lead.

Washington reached the red zone twice more in the first quarter but Slye’s 31-yard field goal was wide left and Malik Hooker made an end zone interception against Howell.

But Prescott returned the favor three plays later with his pick-6.

Dallas didn’t cross midfield until its final possession of the first half, when it drove 77 yards for its lone touchdown.

Jaret Patterson, who spent most of the season on the Washington practice squad, rushed 17 times for a game-high 78 yards.

–Field Level Media