Win or lose on Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys will remain atop the NFC East, a division in which each of the other three teams has only a single win, with two of those victories coming against division rivals.
By virtue of Philly’s tie with the Bengals and the head-to-head loss against the Giants on Sunday, Washington has fallen to dead last in the division, after spending the first couple of weeks at the top.
Sunday’s game offered Rivera’s team a chance to vault into the division lead, but a number of errors, most notably an interception and fumble by by third-year quarterback Kyle Allen and a missed field goal on the opening drive by kicker Dustin Hopkins, proved too much for the underpowered roster to overcome.
Dustin Hopkins is now 5 of 7 on field goals and 8 of 9 on extra points. His misses have come from 47 and 54 yards, but the kicker’s inability to consistently make attempts from over 45 yards must be concerning for coaches as it limits options when the offense stalls outside the 30 yard line. For his career, Hopkins is 39 of 48 on attempts between 40-49 yards (81.25%) and 11 of 22 on attempts of 50 yards or longer (50%). While his career long of 56 yards indicates that Hopkins has the leg strength to score from long distance, he has demonstrated time and again that he is unreliable if the line of scrimmage is beyond the 28 yard line.
The team, meanwhile, lost Kyle Allen’s second start, and, while the young quarterback did a number of good things, he was responsible for two key turnovers — a first half interception that led to a Giants touchdown three plays later, and a 4th quarter sack & fumble returned by a Giant defender for another touchdown. While the Giants never trailed in this game, the score off the interception gave them a 10-0 lead and the ability to control the game from that point on, while the fumble return broke a tie and ended a Washington bid to take its first lead of the game.
Late in the 4th quarter, the Washington offense had the ball and was driving effectively with the score tied at 13-13. The team had converted 2 first downs already on the drive. Facing 3rd & 9 from the Giants’ 46, QB Kyle Allen needed to either convert on the play or rely on Tress Way to pin New York deep in their end of the field and rely on the defense to get a stop.
Instead, Allen was sacked and fumbled the ball, which was scooped up by 2020’s Mr. Irrelevant, Tae Crowder, and returned for a go-ahead touchdown.
While Allen led a scoring drive to put another touchdown on the board with 36 seconds left in the game, head coach Ron Rivera opted to go for the win instead of overtime, running a 2-point conversion attempt. Kyle Allen had a lot of time, moved outside the pocket, but, in a play that was reminiscent of Dwayne Haskins failed 4th and goal play against the Ravens when he didn’t throw into the end zone, Allen couldn’t find a way to score the 2 points that would have made him the hero. Instead, he tossed an ineffectual pass that fell harmlessly to the ground in the end zone, sealing the loss for the Washington Football Team.
The Cowboys play tonight on Monday Night Football against the Cardinals. With a win, Dallas can extend their lead in the NFC East; with a loss, they can extend the embarrassing stretch of NFC East futility against non-division opponents in front of a prime time audience.
The current standings are:
Week 7 will feature two intra-divisional games, with the Giants at the Eagles on Thursday Night Football, and Washington hosting Dallas on Sunday. The results of those two games will begin to create some separation in the division, but, with yesterday’s loss to the Giants, Washington missed a huge opportunity to set itself up for a run at the division crown.
The WFT is two games into what Ron Rivera, when he made the decision to bench Dwayne Haskins in favor of Kyle Allen, identified as a crucial four-game stretch, saying that Allen at QB gave the team the best chance to win. So far, Washington lost to the Rams, with Allen being knocked out of the game on what his biggest fan, offensive coordinator Scott Turner, characterized as a “selfish” and “bone-headed” play, and, now, has added a loss to the Giants in a game that Ron Rivera said came down to Allen’s two giveaways. Halfway through the crucial four-game stretch, the Football Team has actually fallen further back in the divisional standings and has not really seen improved quarterback play.
Should the team lose to Dallas this week and finish the 4-game stretch at 1-3 or 0-4, it’s fair to wonder what the head coach’s next move would be. Would the Kyle Allen experiment continue if he can’t produce a better record than Dwayne Haskins against inferior competition? Would Rivera turn to Alex Smith to lead the team through the second half of a lost season? Could he possibly re-commit to Dwayne Haskins in an effort to either let him prove he is the franchise quarterback of Washington’s future, or put enough on tape to generate some potential off-season trade value?
What, exactly, has Ron Rivera accomplished by benching his starting quarterback four games into the season?
At 1-5, and with more questions than answers, the Washington Football Team feels directionless on the field, which is a far cry from what most fans seemed to expect when Ron Rivera was hired to lead the franchise. The horrible state of play in the division has kept the team in the conversation for a division title, but, absent a sudden winning streak to ignite hopes and passions, fans may be turning their attention to mock drafts before election day (and the trade deadline) yet again, with no idea whether Dwayne Haskins or Alex Smith will be on the field, or even on the roster, in 2021.
What a mess.