The Washington Football Team was handedly defeated by the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, losing 56-14. Here are five takeaways from the evening.
1. Washington fell behind with early mistakes.
In Washington's first matchup with Dallas, self-induced errors were part of why the team fell into an early hole. It was the same story two weeks later, but this time the mistakes came earlier.
Taylor Heinicke has had a philosophy that usually works out in his favor: throw it up to Terry McLaurin and let Washington's best receiver make a play. That didn't go as planned on the first play of Washington's opening drive, as Trevon Diggs grabbed his 11th interception.
After a punt, Washington gave up another turnover, and this one led directly to a touchdown. Demarcus Lawrence timed a jump perfectly, snagged Heinicke's pass and brushed past Washington's offense for a 40-yard score.
Washington did eventually score on a five-play, 75-yard scoring drive, but by the time the team did finally get on the board, Dallas had built up a commanding lead.
2. Initial defensive success was quickly overwhelmed by Dallas.
During Dallas' opening drive, Washington's defense looked vastly improved over what it put on display over the previous two weeks. The front was swarming to the balls and putting pressure on Dak Prescott.
While the first three minutes of the game could be judged as a success for Washington, the same could not be said for the rest of the night.
After punting the ball away to start the game, the Cowboys made scoring a habit with five straight touchdown drives. Washington was dealt one body blow after the other with double-digit gashes in the Cowboys' passing game. Prescott delivered four touchdown tosses and 321 yards, completing 27-of-35 passes in the first half.
Dallas found it relatively easy to march down the field against the defense that had shown flashes of improvement, albeit still showing plenty of room for it. All five of Dallas' touchdowns came after drives of at least 71 yards with the last being an 89-yard romp in the final two minutes of the half. The 13-yard grab by Amari Cooper made the score 42-7 and almost impossible for Washington to recover.
The Washington Football Team travelled to Dallas to take on the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium and was defeated, 56-14. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
3. Defensive rebounds weren't complemented by the offense.
Washington did manage to stop things up on defense after allowing 396 yards in the first half. In the first two drives of the third quarter, Dallas was held to just 11 yards. Unfortunately, that was still more than what Washington could muster.
Aside from the one scoring drive that went 75 yards, Washington's offense was met with perpetual struggles. The unit punted on three of its seven drives; the other four were the touchdown, two interceptions and a knee to close out the half.
Washington didn't fare much better coming into the third quarter with three straight three-and-outs, the last of which ended in a blocked punt recovered in the end zone.
Heinicke was plagued with misfires throughout the night, but particularly in the first half. He completed 5-of-14 passes for 93 yards while being sacked three times with a passer rating of 43.8.
4. Washington's playmakers struggled.
If Washington had a hope of pulling out an upset win, it was going to need big nights from its playmakers. That was not the case, though, as Washington's top offensive options did not find much success.
Heinicke, who finished the night 7-of-22 for 121 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, was replaced in the fourth quarter by Kyle Allen. With the game getting away from Washington quickly the running game was not much of an emphasis. As a result, Antonio Gibson, who did score Washington's sole touchdown, only had six carries for 29 yards.
McLaurin was targeted three times with Heinicke under center and could not grab a reception. His first catch came in the fourth quarter for a 15-yard gain, when Washington was scrambling to close the gap on a 56-7 deficit.
5. Washington's playoff hopes drastically diminished.
Washington still has a mathematical chance to make the postseason, but after being in control of its own destiny three weeks ago, the team is now in need of nearly every situation to swing in its favor.
The team's next matchup is against the Philadelphia Eagles in its final home game of the year. After that, it must go on the road to face the New York Giants. Washington will need to win both of those games. Then, assuming Washington takes care of its own business, teams like the New Orlean Saints, Minnesota Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and Eagles must lose.
Either way, Washington must figure out how to bounce back from getting blown out in primetime.
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