Sports

Stage Isn’t Too Big for Washington as They Sit Atop Division

One of the most storied rivalry games in the NFL took place on Thanksgiving Day, and the Washington Football Team certainly got their fill after blowing out the Cowboys 41-16 on the road.

Washington leaned on the leadership of starting quarterback Alex Smith and playmaking services provided by rookie running back Antonio Gibson and wide receiver Terry McLaurin.

Gibson led the way with 20 carries for 115 yards, including three touchdown runs. An amazing performance, but Washington Football Team Head Coach Ron Rivera thinks that the best is yet to come for the young tailback.

“He’s got this skillset that really hasn’t developed. You feel really good about that, and he is starting to show the signs of growth and development that we are looking for,” Rivera said of Gibson.

The former Memphis University product scored on two big splash plays in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach with a 23-yard scamper off left tackle and then finally busted through the heart of the Cowboys defensive front for a 37-yard score. Gibson eclipsed the century mark for the second time this season against the Cowboys on the ground.

After Washington went three-and-out on its first possession, Dallas jumped out to a three-point lead on their first offensive drive by way of a Greg Zuerlein 33-yard field goal.

However, the Burgundy and Gold answered right back after Smith led a 12-play, 70-yard drive capped off by a five-yard touchdown run by Gibson.

Just five plays later, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton threw a 54-yard bomb to Amari Copper to retake the lead, 10-7.

Washington Football Team Kicker Dustin Hopkins booted a 23-yard field goal to tie the game up with a little over seven minutes remaining in the half during a tightly contested slugfest.

The Burgundy and Gold defensive unit stood tall the next possession, forcing a turnover on downs after Dalton threw an incomplete pass intended for speedster CeeDee Lamb.

With excellent field position on the Dallas 19-yard line, Smith capitalized on the opportunity and found tight end Logan Thomas for a 5-yard touchdown.

After Zuerlein knocked down a 32-yard field goal near the end of the half, Smith took a first-half lead into the locker room and his team took complete control over the game in the second half, holding Dallas to just three points the rest of the way.

Washington held Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott to just 32 yards and forced a fumble on the Cowboys’ first possession in the second half, which Hopkins converted into three points.

Zuerlein’s field goal two drives later was the last time Dallas found any success the rest of the way.

Near the end of the third and for the remainder of the game, Washington’s defensive forced two more turnover-on-downs scenarios, a punt, and a score when defensive lineman Montez Sweat made a spectacular interception. Sweat leaped in the direction of a Dalton throw and subsequently took it to the house from 15 yards out.

Washington’s stellar play put them temporarily at the top of the NFC East as they prepared to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers Dec. 7.

Pittsburgh’s defense has been nearly impenetrable this season and is ranked top five in the league (as of Nov. 1) and leads the league in sacks.
However, McLaurin is currently leading the league in receiving yardage (963) and, with Smith tossing him the rock, will test Pittsburgh’s defense. Smith has guided the Burgundy and Gold to two consecutive wins after the team lost Kyle Allen to injury.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever be here two years later full circle,” Smith said after the big win on turkey day. “I’m so appreciative of so much and so thankful to be here…the opportunity to still be doing this and enjoying every minute of it.”

Gibson is showing poise as one of the best rookie running backs of the draft averaging 4.6 per carry, and is just behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City) and James Robinson (Jacksonville) in total rushing yards (645) for rookies.

“Thursday on Thanksgiving is about as big of stage as it gets, and it was good to see our guys handle it…I thought they handled it well; I thought they played well,” said Rivera. “The stage didn’t seem to be too big. I do know next week is going to be a little bit different; it’s a different kind of a stage, but it’s a different kind of opponent, but we’ll see how we handle that.”

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