Redskins vs. Cowboys: Another letdown for Washington’s defense in a 2013 full of them

December 22, 2013

The Washington Redskins certainly had their opportunity to put a major dent in the Dallas Cowboys’ playoff chances and give linebacker London Fletcher a victory in what was probably his final home game with the team Sunday. The Cowboys were on their way to unraveling again in the second half, and the Redskins led, 23-14, after a field goal by place kicker Kai Forbath in the opening seconds of the fourth quarter.

But the Washington defense, after bottling up quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas offense for three quarters, was unable to apply the finishing touches. Romo led the Cowboys on two long scoring drives in the fourth quarter, culminating when he threw a fourth-down touchdown pass to tailback DeMarco Murray with just more than a minute left. Dallas escaped with a 24-23 triumph, and the Redskins were left with another disappointment in a season filled with them.

“Having Fletch out there was something [where] we all wanted to go out there and try to give it our all, give it our best,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “But we wanted to win for ourselves, for our fans, for our organization, just to try to get this bad taste out of our mouth. . . . It was definitely frustrating to have the game, it felt like, in a great place, a place that we liked, and we couldn’t close it out.”

Romo completed 9 of 12 fourth-quarter passes Sunday for 140 yards. He managed only 86 passing yards in the game’s first three quarters on 8-for-15 throwing accuracy.

“That’s what Romo does,” Redskins safety Reed Doughty said. “He’s very good at eluding pressure and keeping his eyes down the field. He’s not the type of quarterback that’s necessarily gonna scramble to run. But that’s how he’s been effective his whole career.”

The Washington Post's Mike Jones says the Redskins' loss to the Cowboys in their final home game produced the same errors that plagued them throughout the season. (Natalie Jennings/The Washington Post)

Doughty called it “very disappointing” that the Redskins were unable to find a way to hold their fourth-quarter lead.

“In front of our home crowd, against a big rivalry for us with Fletch playing his last game here, I wanted that one real bad,” he said.

The Cowboys had lost their previous two games. They were outscored in the second half, 34-10, in a 37-36 defeat to the Green Bay Packers a week earlier. So when the Redskins scored a pair of third-quarter touchdowns Sunday after Cowboys turnovers, including an interception by Hall of a Romo pass, and Forbath added his fourth-quarter field goal, Dallas had been outscored to that point by a 51-10 margin in the second halves of its past two games.

Romo began the day with a December record of 11-17 and was on the verge of having his late-season miseries continue to accumulate.

“We definitely had control of the game,” Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said. “We felt like we could impose our will on them whatever we were doing. And I can’t even tell you what happened.”

The Cowboys could have been eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to the Redskins and a win Sunday night by the Philadelphia Eagles over the Chicago Bears. Instead, the Cowboys will play the Eagles next weekend for the NFC East title.

“Any time you’ve got Dallas and the Redskins together, it’s gonna be kind of crazy,” Hall said. “The fans definitely were behind us 100 percent. You can’t ask for nothing more than that. To not be able to come out of here with this win is definitely frustrating.”

Romo’s big plays in the fourth quarter Sunday included a 51-yard completion to wide receiver Terrance Williams on the Cowboys’ drive to their go-ahead touchdown. Wilson slipped on the wet turf while in coverage on the play.

“It’s a scramble play,” Wilson said. “He gets out of the pocket scrambling. I mean, you ain’t got a clue where he’s going. I slipped. It was definitely tough in these conditions. But we’ve just got to make that tackle and give our defense and our whole team another chance.”

The Cowboys picked up a first down at the Washington 4-yard line. Murray ran for three yards on a first-down carry. But the Redskins stopped Murray for no gain on second down from the 1 and, led by Hall, got Murray going backward and threw him for a nine-yard loss on third down.

“Obviously when it’s a third and one and all of a sudden it’s fourth and 10, you feel a lot better about those chances,” Doughty said. “Unfortunately they made a play, and we didn’t.”

Murray caught Romo’s pass on fourth down from the 10-yard line and reached the front corner of the end zone before Hall could knock him out of bounds.

“To take it from third and one, possibly fourth and one, to fourth and 10, we definitely felt great about it,” Hall said. “We felt like we had the right call dialed up and we just didn’t execute.”

The Redskins have lost seven straight games to drop their record to 3-12. They’ll try to avoid an eight-game losing streak to close the season when they face the New York Giants next Sunday at the Meadowlands.

“It’d be tough to go out with eight straight losses,” Hall said.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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