Last Sunday was full of surprises for NFL fans all over the country, especially for Washington Football Team fans, who now see glimpses of a division title in their future.
Defeating the Dallas Cowboys 25-3, Washington ended its five-game losing streak and showed significant progress on both sides of the field throughout the game. Boasting the lowest average rushing yards per game in the NFL’s first six weeks, Washington’s offense on Sunday was much stronger and more consistent right off the bat. Dallas’ laughable defense failed to do its job. Dominating at the outset of the game, Washington’s offense finally showed up.
Leading a successful rushing attack, running back Antonio Gibson rushed for 40 yards on Washington’s opening drive, the team’s longest this season. Gibson was a force throughout the game, delivering a long-awaited performance and at last fulfilling the strong start fans had been looking for. Rushing for 94 yards in the first half, Gibson ended Sunday’s game with one touchdown and a career high of 128 yards on 20 carries.
Quarterback Kyle Allen also delivered, giving a strong performance that justified Coach Ron Rivera’s decision to give up on quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
Allen earned his starting position, stepping up his game and taking much better care of the ball than in the prior week — during which he committed two serious errors. Aided by his running backs’ effective ball advancement, Allen completed more passes, made better decisions, took more risks and was more confident –– or at least more comfortable –– than in his two earlier appearances. He completed 15/25 passes with 194 yards and two touchdowns.
Despite only scoring three points in the second half, Washington’s offense played its best game yet, showing significant progress and hopefully setting the precedent for future games.
On the other side of the ball, Washington dominated, too. For the first time all season, Washington’s defense started off strong, held it together and remained a force throughout the game. In just the first quarter, safety Landon Collins had a strip sack of Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton. Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz recovered the ball in the end zone but was tackled by defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, resulting in a safety that gave Washington a 2-0 lead. With star rookie defensive end Chase Young back on the field after missing two games because of injury, Washington’s defense was once again intact.
In addition to Young, linebacker Cole Holcomb and cornerback Ronald Darby each had solid games, too. Linebacker Jon Bostic was playing well until he was ejected in the third quarter after a dirty hit to Dalton’s head. Collins also had a strong performance but left the game with a torn Achilles tendon that has ended his season. Defensive end Montez Sweat had a solid performance, too, with several good tackles and two sacks.
Washington’s defensive line terrorized the Cowboys’ offense, who ended up flying to D.C. and leaving with just a field goal. Overall, Washington’s defense finally performed as a consistent, cohesive unit.
It is still too early to tell, but if Sunday’s game was any indication, things might be looking up for Washington, which may no longer be the laughingstock of the comical NFC East. Washington could –– and should –– win, rather than tank, its division, given how bad it is. Washington did not emerge completely unscathed, though, as Collins’ season-ending injury could be a devastating loss to an already weak secondary.
Even if the future is still uncertain, one thing is for sure: Sunday was Washington’s best game yet, marking a step in the right direction. Squaring off against the Giants, Lions, Bengals and then Cowboys again in the next five weeks, Washington could very well be first in the NFC East come Week 13 if it can keep its act together and continue to show up.
Arianne Levine is a sophomore in the College. District Disappointments?: Washington Football Team appears online every other week.