It was a hard-fought battle between Redskins and Cowboys, but it ended in heart-wrenching fashion, as Dallas continued its mastery of the Redskins with a 13-10 win at Texas Stadium on Sunday.
The Redskins have seemingly lost to Dallas every way imaginable. This time, the Cowboys won in the final 30 seconds when Vinny Testaverde connected with wide receiver Patrick Crayton on a deep sideline pattern for a stunning 39-yard touchdown pass.
The game-winning score came after the Redskins' defense had fought valiantly in the final five minutes, fending off three separate Dallas drives while holding on to a slim three-point edge. Defensive end Ron Warner and linebackers Marcus Washington and Chris Clemons each logged a sack on Testaverde in the final five minute
But the Cowboys managed to preserve their time outs and they had one last opportunity with less than a minute to play--and this time they converted. Crayton was able to get a step past Shawn Springs and caught the deep pass just ahead of safety Sean Taylor.
"They don't come any tougher than this," head coach Joe Gibbs said. "It's one of those things where you give the Cowboys credit. They made a great play there at the end. But I'm proud of our team and the way it fights. You're not going to take that away from our players. And the other thing is, we win together and we lose together. That's what we're all about."
The loss dropped the Redskins' record to 5-10 heading into the season finale next Sunday at FedExField against the Minnesota Vikings. Washington was officially eliminated from the playoffs. In the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry, the Cowboys have now won 14 of the last 15 games in the series and nine consecutive at Texas Stadium.
On the injury front, running back Clinton Portis and cornerback Fred Smoot both left the game in the second half. Smoot sustained a lower back strain on a tackle in the third quarter and was later carted off the field. Portis suffered a bruised shoulder and tried to play through it, but he was sidelined for good at the start of the fourth quarter. Their status will be updated by coaches and trainers at Redskins Park on Monday.
Despite the loss, there continued to be plenty of encouraging signs from the team.
Patrick Ramsey, who finished the game 19-of-29 for 158 yards, engineered an impressive fourth-quarter drive to give Washington a 10-6 lead with just under six minutes to play.
Ramsey had struggled most of the afternoon--he was sacked twice and intercepted twice--but he was able to direct a 13-play, 80-yard drive that consumed 7:21 off the game clock. With Portis sidelined with a bruised shoulder, Ramsey spread the ball around to seven different receivers on the drive. But it was a 27-yard completion to Taylor Jacobs on a 2nd-and-16 play that seemed to give the Redskins momentum.
Ramsey found Chris Cooley on an 8-yard pass across the middle to get the ball inside the Dallas 10-yard line. Two plays later, Ramsey connected with Robert Royal on a similar play, across the middle of the field into the end zone.
Until the decisive fourth quarter, it had been a game of field goals and turnovers between the two long-time rivals.
On the game's opening drive, the Redskins' offense drove steadily downfield, with Ramsey completing a series of short passes and Portis finding running room to the outside.
But on a 3rd-and-2 at the Dallas 11-yard line, Ramsey's pass over the middle bounced off of the hands of H-back Brian Kozlowski and into the arms of Dallas safety Lynn Scott.
Later in the first quarter, the Redskins' Antonio Brown returned a punt 39 yards to the Dallas 23-yard line. This time, Ramsey and the Redskins were able to move into field position for a field goal, a 25-yarder by kicker Jeff Chandler.
The Cowboys responded with a drive of their own. Led by Testaverde and some solid running by rookie Julius Jones, the offense drove 13 plays and 73 yards to get into position for a 26-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff, tying the game at 3-3.
Both offenses traded turnovers on their next possessions.
Ramsey was picked off at midfield by cornerback Terence Newman, giving Dallas the ball at the Redskins' 46-yard line. The Cowboys proceeded to drive inside the Redskins' 15-yard line, but Jones coughed up the football just before he crossed the goal line for what would have been a certain touchdown. Sean Taylor poked the ball out and Fred Smoot recovered the fumble.
Later in the second quarter, the Cowboys again got the ball back at the Redskins' 46-yard line. Thanks to a 4th-and-1 conversion, Dallas was able to move into field position for another Cundiff field goal.
It almost didn't happen. After a run by Jones was stopped for no gain by Cornelius Griffin with 22 seconds left, Testaverde was able to spike the ball at the Redskins' 4-yard line with one second remaining in the half. That allowed the Cowboys' field goal unit time to get on the field. Cundiff connected on a 23-yarder to give Dallas a halftime advantage.
The third quarter was scoreless, with the Redskins' defense thwarting a Dallas drive on another red-zone turnover. Springs picked off a pass to
In a scoreless third quarter, the Redskins' defense thwarted a Dallas drive with its second red-zone turnover of the game, as Springs picked off a pass to Keyshawn Johnson in the end zone. It was Springs' team-leading fifth interception of the season.
Springs had been having a remarkable game until the game's final minute. Along with his interception, he logged two sacks of Testaverde--including one on a cornerback blitz in the first quarter--and seven tackles. But Crayton's game-winning touchdown marred a performance worthy of the Pro Bowl recognition he was denied last week.
"This was a tough one to lose," Springs said. "We want the game to be in the hands of our defense. We have a top-notch defense and that's how we want to put the game away. We didn't do it. It's tough."
Added Gibbs: "For us, I really feel sorry for our players. If there's ever been a group of guys who fight hard every single week, this is it. They played extremely hard. You could look at about 50 plays in a game like this where we could have won it.
"But the important thing for us is, it was all of us together and there was no one play that cost us a ballgame. These are hard-fought lessons for us. I'm proud of our football team and the way they fight. They've laid it on the line all year long."