| USA TODAY
ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys trailed by 4 points.
Quarterback Andy Dalton had just succumbed to a sack, yielding fourth-and-10 at Dallas’ 24-yard line with 12:54 to play in the division matchup.
Punter Hunter Niswander trotted out on fourth-and-10.
He didn’t need to.
Cowboys coaches instead dialed up a fake punt, a jet-sweep reverse by way of receiver Cedrick Wilson. Washington made Dallas pay, tackling him a yard behind the line of scrimmage.
After that, it took just one play for Washington’s Antonio Gibson to score his second of three touchdowns, extending the Football Team to a double-digit lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Washington’s 41-16 win catapults the Football Team to 4-7, good for a half-game lead on Philadelphia atop the NFC East. It was Washington’s second win over the Cowboys this season. The WFT outscored Dallas 21-0 in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys, 3-8, return to the division floor. Here are three more things we learned in the Thanksgiving Day matchup:
Gibson’s one-play touchdown drive was the result of just one of three failed Dallas fourth-down attempts. Washington scored after two turnovers on downs gifted them fields of fewer than 25 yards on which to score. The end-around reverse fake prompted questions about play calling. The questions started far earlier, when the Cowboys faced fourth-and-1 in the second quarter and eschewed Ezekiel Elliot to attempt a pass to rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb. The pass was incomplete, tight end Dalton Schultz adding insult to injury with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Washington converted the 19-yard field into a touchdown. The Cowboys never regained their lead.
Even when the Cowboys’ offense did reach the red zone, they couldn’t convert. They settled for field goals on each of three trips, their lone touchdown coming on a 54-yard pass from Andy Dalton to receiver Amari Cooper, who burned Washington cornerback Ronald Darby. The Cowboys have emphasized for weeks their need to protect the ball and leave the red zone with 7 points. Instead, red zone touchdowns never materialized, and they turned over the ball twice, a Dalton pick-six and an Elliott fumble. Dallas’ offense now has 10 consecutive games with a turnover. Elliott, expected to be their premier back, has fumbled six times and lost five.
Defensive energy moot
The Cowboys defensive line started strong, Randy Gregory tallying his first sack in nearly two years and a second one shortly after. Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence found solid pressure. Dallas forced early three and outs. But by game’s end, they’d allowed Gibson alone 115 rushing yards and three touchdowns while Washington compiled 338 yards in total. In the team’s first meeting, Gibson had 128 yards rushing.
Disastrous offensive and special teams performance were too much for the Cowboys to overcome. Questions abound for McCarthy, who hasn’t won consecutive games in 11 contests in his first Dallas season.
The Cowboys are schedule to play the Ravens next week on Thursday Night Football.