The Washington Football Team is in first place in the NFC East.
With four wins.
Washington completed its season sweep of the Dallas Cowboys with a 41-16 victory in Thursday's divisional showdown at AT&T Stadium and improved to 4-7. Antonio Gibson and the defense led the way for the visitors, who have now won two straight and could be rounding into form in the lackluster NFC East race.
A solid showing from Amari Cooper was nowhere near enough for Dallas, which fell to 3-8 with another loss.
Notable Player Stats
- Alex Smith, QB, WAS: 19-of-26 for 149 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Antonio Gibson, RB, WAS: 20 carries for 115 yards, 3 TDs; 5 catches for 21 yards
- Terry McLaurin, WR, WAS: 7 catches for 92 yards
- Andy Dalton, QB, DAL: 25-of-35 for 215 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Amari Cooper, WR, DAL: 6 catches for 112 yards, 1 TD
Dallas Offense Disappears Against Washington Defense
This clearly isn't the season the Cowboys envisioned, but there was some reason for optimism entering Thursday.
Andy Dalton returned for the first time in nearly a month on Sunday and led them to a victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and the offensive line was as healthy as it's been in weeks at the opening kickoff.
In perfect 2020 fashion, that lasted less than a quarter until they lost Zack Martin (calf) and Cam Erving (knee) to injuries in the offensive front.
While Dallas struggled to block Chase Young for stretches with the attrition along the line and set up Washington for a short-field touchdown with a failed fourth-down attempt, Dalton at least provided a bright spot in the second quarter with a touchdown strike to Amari Cooper on a perfectly placed deep ball.
Any momentum from that quickly faded when Ezekiel Elliott lost his fifth fumble of the year on the first possession of the second half to set up a Washington field goal. What's more, Dallas was unable to convert its own 1st-and-goal opportunity following Jaylon Smith's interception and settled for a field goal.
With Dalton under constant pressure and the running game struggling to generate anything, the high-flying Cowboys offense so many expected this year was nowhere to be found.
A fake punt that failed miserably only added insult to injury, and Dalton's pick-six to Montez Sweat just seemed downright cruel in the final minutes.
Antonio Gibson Leads Washington Offense That Flashes Potential
Washington destroyed the Cowboys by 22 points in their first meeting in October, but that was a completely different team with Kyle Allen under center instead of Alex Smith.
The good news for the visitors is they still got to face the abysmal Dallas defense that entered play dead last in points allowed (31.8) and 24th in yards allowed (386.4) per game. It looked like it would be more of the same when Gibson scored the first touchdown in the opening quarter on a drive that also featured a trick play with Logan Thomas finding Terry McLaurin downfield.
Thomas also caught a touchdown to give Washington a halftime lead behind underneath routes and timely runs with McLaurin as the only wide receiver to register a catch prior to intermission.
Taking what the defense gives him has been the story of Smith's career, but he made his first major mistake late in the third quarter when he threw an interception to Jaylon Smith. It would have been a pick-six, but McLaurin chased him down and saved his team four points when Dallas was unable to convert for a touchdown.
The hustle play preserved the lead, which grew exponentially in the fourth quarter when Gibson exploded through the line for touchdown runs of 23 yards and 37 yards.
With Gibson running hard between the tackles, McLaurin getting open on the outside and Thomas taking advantage of the resultant space on the inside, Washington's offense looks capable of making enough plays to win the NFC East.
That is especially true if its defense continues to play like it did Thursday.
Both teams face challenging AFC foes on the road in Week 13, when the Cowboys are at the Baltimore Ravens and Washington is at the Pittsburgh Steelers.