After routing Panthers, Cowboys' focus turns to Commanders

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- By the time coach Mike McCarthy got onto the Dallas Cowboys' American Airlines charter flight back to Dallas early Sunday evening, he was no longer thinking about the 33-10 win against the Carolina Panthers.

The coach's mind was on the Cowboys' next opponent for a Thursday showdown on Thanksgiving, the Washington Commanders.

"A lot of good to come out of this and, frankly, we're not going to spend a whole lot of time [on it]," McCarthy said after the game. "We'll be watching Washington on the way home. Sorry, I'm not here to go ticky-tack with you on stats today. I apologize because my mind's already on the next one."

The coaches actually started looking at Washington late last week, but that is something normal, considering the quick turnaround for the annual holiday game. McCarthy has altered the practice schedule, as the Cowboys play three games in a 12-day period, moving to walkthroughs for Wednesday practices and cutting some reps out of Thursday's practice.

"I feel like we came here and did what we needed to do," McCarthy said.

It wasn't always pretty, but DaRon Bland's pick-six, seven sacks from the defense (including 2.5 from Micah Parsons) and Tony Pollard's 21-yard touchdown run in which he ran over former Cowboys safety Xavier Woods at the 5-yard line were the highlights.

If there was a tight moment Sunday, it came after the Panthers cut the gap to 17-10 on a 17-play, 70-yard drive that ate up 8 minutes and 58 seconds. But then the Cowboys answered with a 75-yard scoring drive that ended with Pollard's first touchdown since the season opener.

Ten seconds later, Bland had his NFL-record tying fourth pick-six.

"To say it was clean and it was exactly what we wanted to do, I can't say that," quarterback Dak Prescott said.

But it was a win, and Prescott's attention will turn to Washington on Monday. He watched the Panthers' game on the plane ride home to see the good and the bad.

"It's a factor of needing to clear my head," Prescott said. "When you're watching film, you want to make sure that you're really into it."

While the Commanders (4-7) are coming off a 31-19 loss to a New York Giants team the Cowboys obliterated 42-17 two week ago, there is a bigger picture the Cowboys keep in mind: the Philadelphia Eagles.

A loss on "Monday Night Football" to the Kansas City Chiefs would mean the Eagles would have just a one-game lead on the Cowboys. The Eagles beat Dallas 28-23 in Philadelphia, and the rematch at AT&T Stadium comes Dec. 10.

"Always paying attention to something like that," wide receiver CeeDee Lamb said. "I mean, it's just part of the NFL, right? It's all a race to the end."

The Commanders travel to Dallas for the Week 12 matchup (4:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Despite their struggling record, three of their four wins have come on the road. Before Sunday's three-interception performance against the Giants, Sam Howell was one of the hotter quarterbacks in the NFL (three straight 300-yard passing games). Even in the loss Sunday, Washington managed to run for 174 yards, and the run defense has been the one hiccup the Cowboys have had this season.

"Division opponent, had beat us the last time we played them, so focus will be high," Prescott said. "Damn sure from my part. I know, the rest of the guys, that will be my job as a leader is making sure guys understand that. Once again, looking on paper, their record, lesser opponent, but we've got to come in, division opponent, be who we are. Take care of business on Thanksgiving, and then we can enjoy our holidays the right way."

The Cowboys are just 4-6 in their past 10 Thanksgiving Day games, but they are also in the midst of a 12-game winning streak at AT&T Stadium, their longest at home since winning 18 straight from 1979 to 1981.

After the Commanders' game, the Cowboys play the Seattle Seahawks at home on Nov. 30 for "Thursday Night Football," then comes the rematch against the Eagles.

Being 9-3 is almost a must.

"Having a little bit of an odd schedule, it's going to help being at home, and taking the travel out of it," Prescott said. "It's about us winning and about us focusing on our job, what we've got to do and just continuing to build off of the last couple of games."