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Three keys to beating the Cowboys on Thanksgiving


The Washington Commanders will take on the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving for their fifth NFC East matchup. Here are three keys to getting a win, presented by KIA.

1. Run the ball.

There aren't many holes in the Cowboys' defense. They're second in yards allowed, fifth in points allowed and have one of the best secondaries in the league. Few teams have had success against them, particularly at AT&T Stadium, where they've held opponents to 50 combined points.

Those who did manage to find those weaknesses -- the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers -- ran the ball and leaned on that philosophy for the entire game.

The Cardinals started fast in the 28-16 upset of the Cowboys back in Week 3, and that was a credit to them running the ball 30 times for 222 yards and two touchdowns. James Connor was the lead back with 98 yards, but the Cardinals got several players involved with the ground attack. Rondale More, for example, gashed the Cowboys with a 45-yard run to the end zone that put the Cardinals up by two scores.

The same can be said about the 49ers, who had five different players carry the ball on the way to 170 yards and two touchdowns, and the Eagles, who had 33 carries but chipped away at the Cowboys' defense on an average of 3.3 yards per rush.

The Commanders haven't employed the run that much this season and are in the bottom half of the league with 114.3 yards per game, which was boosted because of their 174 yards against the Giants. In order to hand Dallas its first home loss of the season, they might need to go against the grain of their offensive philosophy.

2. Have an answer for Micah Parsons.

Whether the Commanders decide to run the ball more often or continue to pass the ball at a league-leading rate, nothing is going to work if they don't have an answer for Micah Parsons.

The two-time Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro is putting together another exceptional season. His tackle numbers are down, but he's still a ferocious pass-rusher with 10 sacks. Pro Football Focus has given him the second highest pass-rush grade among EDGE defenders. He's also projected to have 17 sacks in 2023, which would shatter his current career-high of 13.5.

But Parsons value also comes from his versatility. He's at his best on the edge, but he can line up at any position on the defensive front. He's also a solid coverage player, although he isn't put in that situation much because of how potent he is rushing the passer.

The Commanders' offensive line has improved from where they were earlier in the season but is still a work in progress. The group showed as much against the Giants last week, when Kayvon Thibodeaux led his defense to four sacks on Sam Howell. The Cowboys will present a similar task, as they are tied for sixth with 33 sacks.

The Commanders have used more players in protection schemes in the last few games to give Howell more time to work. It will be a priority for them to do the same against one of the league's best pass-rushers this week.

3. Contain CeeDee Lamb.

The Commanders have had problems with No. 1 receivers this season. They'll see one of this year's best pass-catchers on Thanksgiving in CeeDee Lamb.

Lamb has been the catalyst for the Cowboys' fifth-ranked passing offense. With a catch rate of 77.9%, he's on a tear unlike any other point in his professional career with 74 catches on 95 targets. He's hit the 100-yard mark in four of his last five games, including 191 on 11 catches against the Eagles. He's on pace to hit career highs in every major statistical category for a receiver.

Lamb is going to be a problem for the Commanders that they desperately need to solve. They lead the league in explosive plays, and they have allowed a receiver to eclipse 100 yards in six of 11 games.

If the Commanders, who have the third worst passing defense in the league, want to stop Lamb from carving them up on Thanksgiving, improving communication in the secondary will be paramount. Lapses in that area have been one of group's biggest issues with examples being the 40-yard touchdown by Darius Slayton last week and several others that won't get mentioned here to prevent driving that point home even further. At this point, we get it.

Of course, Lamb isn't the Cowboys' only weapon. Tony Pollard is dynamic with the ball in his hands, and Michael Gallup has the size to work against any defensive back. But if the Commanders can stop Lamb from hitting the home run, it will take away arguably the Cowboys' best tool.

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