Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy will face questions about his decision-making after two fourth-down attempts blew up in his face. Washington stopped Dallas on its two fourth-down tries — one on a pass on fourth-and-one and another on a fake punt on fourth-and-10 — setting up touchdown drives of 19 and 23 yards.
That — and Washington receiver Terry McLaurin chasing down Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith to save a touchdown on an interception return — helped Washington to a 41-16 victory in the Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving game. It has Washington alone atop the NFC East with a 4-7 record, a half game ahead of the Eagles with the Giants 3-7 and the Cowboys now 3-8.
Washington scored 21 points in a nine-minute stretch of the fourth quarter — touchdown runs of 23 and 37 yards by Antonio Gibson and a 12-yard interception return by Montez Sweat — to turn the game into a rout.
Maybe it would have turned out a blowout anyway, but Washington had three possessions start deep in Dallas territory. An Ezekiel Elliott fumble at the Dallas 33 led to a Washington field goal and McCarthy’s two fourth-down calls set up Washington touchdowns.
The game was tied 10-10 when the Cowboys opted to go for it on fourth-and-1 from their own 34 with 5:22 left in the first half. Andy Dalton‘s pass was incomplete to CeeDee Lamb, who appeared to be interfered with by Ronald Darby, but no flag was thrown. On top of that, Cowboys tight end Dalton Schultz was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
The Cowboys had a chance to tie it late in the third quarter when Smith intercepted a Smith pass intended for McLaurin. Smith had nobody in front of him for what should have been a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown, but McLaurin caught him from behind at the 4-yard line.
It proved large as Dallas never got any closer, going backward before settling for a 28-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal. The Cowboys kicked three field goals on red zone possessions that reached the Washington 15, 14 and 10.
With Washington clinging to a 20-16 lead, Dallas attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-10 from its own 24. Cedrick Wilson was tackled for a 1-yard loss on a reverse, and Gibson scored on the next play.
Gibson finished with 115 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He also caught five passes for 21 yards. Thomas had a run of 3 yards, threw a 28-yard pass to McLaurin and caught four passes for 20 yards and a touchdown.
Washington ran for 182 yards as it gained 338 total.
Smith went 19-of-26 for 149 yards with a touchdown and an interception in winning back-to-back starts. McLaurin had seven catches for 92 yards.
Elliott had 10 carries for 32 yards and lost his fifth fumble of the season. He leads all running backs in fumbles lost this season. Dalton was 25-of-35 for 215 yards with a touchdown and an interception, with Amari Cooper catching six passes for 112 yards and a touchdown.