Washington plays best all-around game, shows progress

LANDOVER, Md. -- It wasn't just the Dallas Cowboys that the Washington Football Team needed to see. For the team and coach Ron Rivera to prove they were headed in the right direction, they needed a solid all-around performance.

They finally got it, even if it was a 25-3 win against a wounded Cowboys team. Washington beat Dallas the way it should have: handily. But after five straight losses and a painful defeat a week ago, Washington does not need to do anything other than embrace its best game of the season.

Washington (2-5) is now 2-1 in the NFC East, with a game coming up against the New York Giants after its bye week. But this is less about contending in a bad division and more about trying to get headed in the right direction. One win won't change that, but it allows Washington to enter an off week feeling a lot better about itself.

It received big performances from its young players. Rookie running back Antonio Gibson ran for 128 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown. Second-year defensive end Montez Sweat recorded two sacks. Second-year receiver Terry McLaurin caught seven passes for 90 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown catch.

The win, too, comes a week after a failed two-point conversion was the difference in a 20-19 loss to the Giants. After such a week, and with the stench of their other losses, this was a necessary performance. It would have been one thing to win a close game, but Washington did exactly as it should. It showed growth and got a big win.

Promising trend: Gibson. Washington used a two-running-back set to fool the Dallas linebackers and create less traffic for Gibson. Dallas' run defense stinks; it entered the game ranked second-last in the NFL in both yards per carry and per game. But Gibson showed growth. His vision was better -- he avoided running into blockers as happened in other games. He showed a little more patience; on one run, he sucked in the linebackers by taking a slower step and then cut outside for a 9-yard gain.

Promising trend, part 2: Sweat recorded two sacks, and even though he left the game in the fourth quarter to be evaluated for a concussion, the trend for him is that he just continues to play well. The second-year player now has five sacks, two shy of his rookie total. He capitalized on Dallas' weakened offensive line, but for Sweat, it's also indicative of how he's been playing. He has been excellent vs. the run, and while fellow end Chase Young is more likely to be doubled or chipped, Sweat has been what Washington needed him to be so far this season.

QB breakdown: Kyle Allen was not the reason Washington won, but what the team needed from him was just a smart, effective game, and that's what he delivered. Allen didn't need to be spectacular, as it was the ground game that really delivered for Washington. But Allen avoided killer mistakes and was excellent on third downs for a second consecutive game. He threw two touchdown passes, with the ball to McLaurin placed exactly where it needed to be. Allen completed 15 of 25 passes for 194 yards and two scores.

Pivotal play: It was more like a pivotal sequence, and it occurred early in the second quarter. On fourth-and-1 at the Washington 45-yard line, Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton tried to quick-snap the ball and hit a sprint rollout pass to the right. But it was covered, so under duress, he heaved an incompletion. Two plays later, Allen connected with receiver McLaurin for the 52-yard touchdown pass that made the score 15-3 and Dallas never threatened thereafter. On the play, McLaurin just ran past the cornerback, Trevon Diggs, and was wide-open. It was his first touchdown catch since Week 2.