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Washington Sets New Standard In Win Over Dallas

Jonathan Allen, Jon Bostic and Chase Young bring down tight end Dalton Schultz for a safety in the Washington Football Team's 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)
Jonathan Allen, Jon Bostic and Chase Young bring down tight end Dalton Schultz for a safety in the Washington Football Team's 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys. (Elijah Walter Griffin Sr./Washington Football Team)

The Washington Football Team was huddled together in the locker room after its 25-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys when one of its quietest and most productive players -- Terry McLaurin -- spoke up to address his peers.

"That was complimentary football, from the offense to the defense to the special teams," said McLaurin, who finished Sunday's game with seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. "Feel this. Enjoy this...right now, because that's what we can build on. Now, we're right in the thick of it."

Aside from the fact that Washington beat the Cowboys for the first time since Oct. 21, 2018, and had its largest margin of victory since 2015, it was also a sign of what the team can be in Rivera's regime. The offense led the entire game and had dominant performances from its playmakers, while the defense limited the NFL's former No. 1 offense to 142 yards -- by far its lowest total of the season.

Now that the team has shown its potential, it intends to live up to that standard.

"We know what that looks like now," McLaurin said after the game. "We know every week is not going to be perfect, but when you have weeks like this against good football teams and it's in your division, it gives you a lot of confidence as a football team. We just have to build on that going forward going into this bye week."

If any unit earned a confidence boost, it would be Washington's offense. It's 27-17 comeback against the Eagles in Week 1 was impressive, but it has still struggled to put forth any kind of consistent production. A solid week against the Baltimore Ravens was immediately followed by a disappointing 108-yard showing against the Los Angeles Rams. Even in Washington's win over the Eagles, the offense could only manage 97 yards before it started scoring points.

That was not the case Sunday against the Cowboys, as Washington moved the ball with ease against Dallas' 27th-ranked defense. Antonio Gibson fueled a season-high 208 rushing yards, while the offense finished 9-of-15 on third downs.

"Our focus is really just on us and getting better," said offensive coordinator Scott Turner. "We've been saying that, and it's hard when you lose five games in a row. We're two weeks removed from having as bad as a performance you can have on offense...against the Rams. It's a credit to our guys. Like I said, we've got a lot of young guys. They're hungry and they want to be better."

Tight end Logan Thomas isn't sure what the offense's ceiling is, but he knows he and his teammates are doing something right. Washington had five drives of at least 10 plays against the New York Giants in Week 6; it nearly matched that total against the Cowboys with four. Although Washington only scored three points in the second half, it was still moving the ball effectively with 151 yards

"I'm feeling comfortable, feeling confident and I feel like our preparation has gotten better as the season has gone on as well," Thomas said.

It's hard for Turner to say when the offense started to click. It may have been in the first half against the Cowboys, but he and the offense aren't looking too far ahead. They live their lives on a week-to-week basis, he said, with a focus of growing and developing throughout the year. There is still some room for improvement, but Sunday's game was a step in the right direction heading into the bye week.

"I don't know exactly what level we're on," Turner said, "but I feel like the elevator is going up."

Washington already has one of the NFL's top defensive units, leading the NFL in passing defense and ranking seventh in efficiency, per Football Outsiders. It allows about 186 passing yards per game, which is 14 yards lower than the second-best Indianapolis Colts.

Those stats have rarely resulted in wins, though, as the team has given up 105 points in the first halves of games. That's why it was so impressive that Washington was able to hold Dallas, which averaged 28.8 points per game, to just a field goal.

"We just talked about it as a team, all three phases, starting fast, playing complementary football, giving ourselves an opportunity to come out of the gate and once the ball was teed off that we got to it, that we came out with energy and urgency. We just made an emphasis of it," said defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "Once that ball was kicked off, I thought we were ready."

That improvement has stemmed from practice, which according to Del Rio has been "outstanding" for the past three weeks. Del Rio said he and the rest of Washington's coaches have high expectations, and the players are starting to improve as they try to reach that standard.

"I think our guys are beginning to grow some confidence and trust each other and trust the preparation," he said. "We've had good energy and good practices. That typically leads to good performances on game day."

That preparation was apparent Sunday, and now the players can feel the momentum building as they enter the bye week ahead of a four-game stretch in which their opponents have a combined record of 7-19-1.

"Just trying to build off it as much as possible," Cole Holcomb said after the game. "It was a good feeling. It definitely makes the game a lot more fun when you have a lead and you know your offensive is playing well, your defense is playing well. Special teams is playing well, too. So when everyone is firing on all cylinders, man, we can be a good team. I think this is playing complimentary football and being able to count on every phase to produce makes it fun."

Washington showed it can win games handedly. Now it needs to prove it can do so consistently with a postseason appearance still within reach.

"There's no time to...celebrate everything," McLaurin said. "It's nice that we have this bye week coming up, but we set that bar really high. We have to live up to that."