ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Taylor Heinicke threw an interception when trying to go deep on Washington’s first offensive play, and things only got worse from there for the team that is just barely still in playoff contention after its most-lopsided loss since 2007.
Veteran defensive tackles Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen got into a scuffle on the sideline, Dallas defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence picked another of Heinicke’s passes out of the air and rumbled 40 yards for a score and the Cowboys recovered a blocked punt for another touchdown in a 56-14 win Sunday night.
“Just a little brotherly disagreement,” Payne said, refusing to say what caused the disagreement. “Maybe the wrong place at the wrong time, but it happened. It is what it is.”
Washington (6-9), which won the division with a losing record last season, dropped its third consecutive game — two against the Cowboys (11-4), who clinched the NFC East title even before kickoff Sunday, and another against Philadelphia — since a four-game winning streak that got them to .500 in a crowded NFC playoff race.
The defense was already without safety Deshazor Everett, who is recovering from injuries sustained in a car crash Thursday night when he was driving and a passenger in his vehicle was killed.
Then rookie linebacker Jamin Davis, who had been expected to call defensive plays because of other absent players, was inactive after reporting to team doctors with possible COVID-19 symptoms before the game. There wasn’t enough time before the game to process a test for Davis, which coach Ron Rivera said afterward was negative.
“It definitely affects us, but as professionals it’s our job to go out there and play good football,” Allen said. “But the last few weeks, it’s been probably some of the worst football that we’ve been a part of.”
Rivera said the team has to do a better job with dealing with all the things that have happened.
“That’s football, that’s life, you’re going to deal with a lot of things. How you handle it, though, that’s the important thing, and we didn’t handle it very well tonight. That’s disappointing,” Rivera said. “If we expect to win football games, we have to be better than that as a group.”
The Washington Football Team has the fewest wins among the six teams still mathematically alive for the NFC’s final two playoff spots with two games left in a 17-game regular season. Washington plays its home finale against Philadelphia next week before finishing its fifth consecutive losing season at the New York Giants.
The five consecutive losing seasons are the most for Washington since nine in a row from 1957-65. That was during a 13-season stretch without a winning record that included a pair of .500 records (6-6 in 1956 and 7-7 in 1966).
Allen and Payne were sitting next to each other on the bench in the second quarter with Washington already down 28-7 when things suddenly got heated between the former first-round picks from Alabama.
Payne stood and pointed his finger to the side of the head of Allen, who with his left hand swatted away Payne’s hand before swinging his right fist that grazed Payne’s face. Teammates then got between them before defensive line coach Sam Mills got involved.
“When things are going bad like they are, things get heated,” Allen said. “Brothers fight.”
They were teammates at Alabama for a national championship in 2015, and again in 2016 when the Crimson Tide were national runner-ups. Allen was the 17th overall pick in the NFL draft the following spring, and Allen the 13th pick a year after that.
Two weeks after Washington’s 27-20 loss at home to the Cowboys, the 123rd meeting in the series featured the most points by the winning team and also was the widest margin of victory.
It was Washington’s most-lopsided loss overall since falling 52-7 to the New England Patriots in 2007. If not for tight end John Bates recovering his own fumble in the end zone with 2:51 left, it would have been the most lopsided since 1961.
Heinicke and fellow quarterback Kyle Allen both cleared virus protocol after both missed Tuesday’s loss at Philadelphia that was pushed back two days because of a COVID-19.
Allen finished up, completing 8 of 10 passes for 67 yards and the TD on the Bates play. Heinicke was 7 of 22 for 121 yards, was sacked four times, and threw both of his interceptions in the first quarter while completing only one of his first seven attempts.
“First play of the game was unfortunate. Wanted to take a shot, the ball was just too flat,” Heinicke said. “Then the second pick was just unfortunate. The defensive lineman put his hand up. … When you get down 21 points right of the bat, it’s tough to come back from.”
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