LANDOVER, Md. — The Dallas Cowboys changed coaches this offseason in an attempt to make the Super Bowl. Now they can’t even take control of the pitiful NFC East.
The Washington Football Team dominated from start to finish in a 25-3 victory over their rivals, complete with a dominant defensive performance and a 128-yard rushing game from Antonio Gibson.
On defense, the front four lived up to the hype, with Chase Young running down Ezekiel Elliott and Montez Sweat harassing both Dallas quarterbacks.
Linebacker Cole Holcomb may have been the day’s biggest revelation, though, intercepting a pass in the red zone before halftime, then bowling over Elliott on his way to a sack later.
“I saw Andy Dalton so close,” Holcomb said. “I was like, ‘Man, I can’t get blocked by Ezekiel.’”
The get-right game was the perfect antidote after a brutal loss to the New York Giants (1-6), who now sit all alone in last place in the NFL’s worst division.
Philadelphia (2-4-1) now has a half-game lead on Washington (2-5) and Dallas (2-5), but it’s clear the Cowboys are closer to packing it in than they are to packing for Tampa.
Dallas faces fresh questions about coach Mike McCarthy, who was supposed to elevate the team to championship contender, but instead has presided over back-to-back blowout losses and reports that he’s already lost the locker room, just seven games into his tenure.
His postgame press conference Sunday didn’t assuage those fears. Instead of holding the company line, he said he wished his players had started a fight with, or at least chirped at, Washington’s Jon Bostic after he injured Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton.
“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another,” McCarthy said. “It definitely was not the response you would expect.”
Bostic was ejected from the game for the helmet-to-helmet hit. Washington coach Ron Rivera said of Bostic, “he’s got to be smarter than that.”
There were words between the teams at other times, though one such trash-talker was abruptly silenced.
Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs and Washington receiver Terry McLaurin got into a shoving match at the start of the second quarter. On the next play, McLaurin caught a 52-yard touchdown pass, blowing by Diggs for an easy score.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of talking after that,” McLaurin said with a smile.
The win sends Washington into the bye week on a high note, with Gibson establishing himself as the team’s lead back, McLaurin as the star receiver and Logan Thomas making key catches at tight end.
Washington can now plausibly claim it’s in the thick of the divisional race, with an important game on tap against the Giants when the Football Team returns.
“I’m not sure what the ceiling is,” Thomas said. “But I know we’ve been clicking the last two weeks.
“I feel like our preparation has gotten better as the season has gone on as well.”
Quarterback Kyle Allen didn’t dazzle, but once again put up a solid stat line. He finished 9-of-15 on third downs, one of them a scramble where he ran to move the chains on third-and-9.
That drive included a third-and-5 where Washington didn’t convert, but Dallas had a defensive holding penalty that moved the chains, one of a number of unforced errors by the Cowboys.
Allen’s path to success appears to be mimicking what Alex Smith did in 2018 before his injury, when he managed the game and let the defense make the big plays to win.
Even the special teams did its part, with Tress Way pinning the Cowboys deep on the two occasions he was called on while the game was still competitive.
For now, Washington remains trapped in the 2020 NFC East limbo—on the verge of a high draft pick, but also in contention to host a playoff game.
Seeing the team click in all three phases was a reward for the Washington fans who have slogged through this otherwise forgettable season, but there was also, no doubt, plenty of joy in seeing the rival Cowboys implode.
Note: Washington safety Landon Collins tore his Achilles tendon in the first half on Sunday, and will miss the remainder of the season, pending confirmation and surgery on Monday.
Collins had the game’s first big play, knocking the ball from Dalton on a sack that led to a safety for Washington.
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