Disastrous fourth-down decision ruins Thanksgiving Day for Cowboys in 41-16 loss

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ARLINGTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 26: Andy Dalton #14 of the Dallas Cowboys reacts to an incomplete touchdown pass during the third quarter of a game against the Washington Football Team at AT&T Stadium on November 26, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

ARLINGTON, Texas (KXAN) — A failed fake punt attempt deep in their own territory doomed the Dallas Cowboys’ attempt at a Thanksgiving Day win and dibs on first place in the NFC East on Thursday at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys tried a reverse fake punt to Cedrick Wilson at their own 24-yard line in a four-point game early in the fourth quarter. At the time of the fake, the Washington Football Team lead 20-16. The WFT easily shut down Dallas’ gadget play going on to win 41-16, taking a slim lead over the Philadelphia Eagles in the division standings.

Washington running back Antonio Gibson went 23 yards for the touchdown on the next play after the fake punt for a 27-16 lead. On Washington’s next possession, Gibson ran 37 yards for his third rushing touchdown of the game. Gibson finished with 115 rushing yards and three scores.

WFT defensive lineman Montez Sweat turned the game into a rout with an excellent individual effort just seven seconds after Gibson’s final touchdown. Sweat jumped in the face of Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton, intercepting the pass and returning it 15 yards for the touchdown.

Late in the third quarter with the Cowboys trailing 20-13, Jaylon Smith’s second career interception put the Dallas offense on the field at the WFT four-yard line. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin didn’t give up on the play, tackling Smith before he reached the end zone. His effort was rewarded as the Washington defense kept Dallas out of the end zone. Greg Zuerlein hit a 28-yard field goal to get the Cowboys within 20-16.

Dallas takes another step toward a top five draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, falling to 3-8 with the loss on Thursday. The Cowboys are scheduled to face the Ravens in Baltimore on Thursday, Dec. 3.

The Dallas Cowboys offensive line dealt with two setbacks in the span of four plays on the Cowboys’ first offensive possession just as the unit was improving in play and health. Right tackle Zack Martin and left tackle Cam Erving each suffered lower body injuries and were ruled out for the remainder of the game.

Dallas capped off the first drive with a Zuerlein field goal. Washington responded with a 12-play drive capped off by Gibson’s five-yard touchdown run.

The biggest offensive play of the game came on the Cowboys’ ensuing possession when Dalton hit Amari Cooper deep for a 57-yard touchdown and a 10-7 lead.

Washington took the lead after the Cowboys failed on fourth down from their own 34-yard line. On fourth-and-1, the Cowboys didn’t give the ball to Ezekiel Elliott instead throwing to CeeDee Lamb for the attempted conversion. The ball fell incomplete, giving WFT great field position.

Five plays later, Alex Smith found Logan Thomas in the end zone for a 17-10 lead. Zuerlein brought the Cowboys within four in the final minute of the first half with a 32-yard field goal.

ARLINGTON, TEXAS – NOVEMBER 26: Dallas Cowboys strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul is honored prior to the start of the game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Football Team. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The Cowboys honored strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul before Thursday’s game. Paul died on Wednesday after suffering a “medical emergency” at the team’s headquarters on Tuesday.

The Cowboys released a statement saying Paul, surrounded by his family, passed away at the hospital Wednesday evening at the age of 54. The cause of death is pending.

“We extend our love, strength and support to Markus’ family during this most challenging of times and ask that their privacy be respected moving forward. Markus Paul was a leader in this building. He earned the players respect and attention because he cared so much and was a naturally gifted communicator—both on the personal and professional levels. He handled every situation, sometimes with a smile and a pat on the back, and sometimes with tough love. He had innate toughness in a job that requires that quality, and he was admired throughout the NFL by his peers and the players he coached. It was a privilege to work with him as a coach and laugh with him as a friend. Markus did everything the right way,” head coach Mike McCarthy said in a statement.

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