After five straight dismal performances, the Washington Redskins broke out of their funk Sunday to put on one of their best offensive showings of the season and nearly end the worst losing streak of Coach Mike Shanahan’s career.
But in the end the result was the same, as the Dallas Cowboys escaped FedEx Field with a 27-24 overtime victory in a fierce rivalry game that marked the first time since 1998 the Redskins have been defeated six straight times.
The Redskins (3-7), who forced overtime on a four-yard touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Donte Stallworth with 14 seconds left, had their chances. They won the overtime toss and received the kickoff, and Grossman moved his unit into Cowboys territory, but the drive stalled at the Dallas 34-yard line.
Graham Gano’s 52-yard field goal attempt was wide right — his second miss of the game. (On the same play, right tackle Trent Williams went down with a knee injury and had to be helped off the field. He could miss significant time.) Dallas (6-4) took over and marched 37 yards to set up Dan Bailey for the game-winning 39-yard field goal.
“It stings more because as a player, you understand how much our owner wants to win this game,” said Grossman, who completed 25 of 38 passes for 289 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He rushed for a touchdown as well. “We understand how much the fans want to win this game. . . . I’m proud of every single player and teammate. Just came up a little short.”
Wide receiver Jabar Gaffney led the team in receiving with seven catches for 115 yards and a touchdown, and Stallworth — used sparingly in four games this season, cut two weeks ago and then re-signed on Wednesday — added four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo connected on 23 of 37 passes for 292 yards and three touchdowns. Romo’s biggest throw came on a third-and-15 pass to Dez Bryant, who was covered by DeAngelo Hall, for a 26-yard gain to the Washington 23-yard line with 7 minutes 48 seconds left in overtime. Two plays later, Bailey hit the field goal.
“He’s like a snake, man,” fumed Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, who narrowly missed sacking Romo twice on key third-down plays. “You got to know when you’re rushing, he’s slippery, he’s all over the place. I can’t stand playing against this guy, because it don’t matter if you beat your guy. You got to worry about him. That’s the frustrating part.”
Early in the game, the Redskins made Romo’s job easier when tight end Fred Davis fumbled three plays into his team’s first offensive series. Dallas’s Gerald Sensabaugh recovered the ball at the Washington 24, and Romo and his offense needed only three plays to score.
The quarterback completed a 22-yard touchdown pass to Bryant, who was bracketed by Hall and safety Ohsiomogho Atogwe. Dallas took a 7-0 lead with 7:44 remaining in the first quarter.
After three more futile drives, Washington finally experienced a positive development when Shanahan won a second-quarter challenge to wipe out a Grossman fumble. Facing third and one from his 29-yard line, Grossman tried to pick up a first down on a no-huddle quarterback keeper. As he tried to squirt through the line, the ball came out. Dallas safety Barry Church scooped it up, broke a tackle by Gaffney and returned it to inside the Redskins 1-yard line. Shanahan, who already had lost a challenge on the Davis fumble, succeeded in getting the call overturned, and Washington survived to punt yet again.
Washington’s fortunes changed on that play.
Punter Sav Rocca boomed a 63-yarder to the Dallas 8-yard line, where Akwasi Owusu-Ansah fielded it. But a holding call on the Cowboys wiped out his 23-yard return and pushed the ball back to the 5.
After a strong defensive stand, Dallas punter Mat McBriar botched a punt, sending it only 23 yards toward the Washington bench at the 32.
Grossman connected with slot receiver David Anderson for a 23-yard completion along the left sideline, and two plays later, on third and goal from the 4, Grossman took the shotgun snap, slipped up the middle of the line and dove into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season. Gano made the extra-point attempt, and Dallas’s lead dipped to 10-7.
Boosted by their first offensive touchdown in two games, the defense flustered the Cowboys and forced them to punt on fourth and 16, only two minutes after the Redskins kicked off. On that defensive stand, rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan sacked Romo for an eight-yard loss — Kerrigan’s sixth sack of the season — to bring on fourth down.
Set up with favorable field position thanks to a 32-yard punt return by Brandon Banks, the Redskins got the ball with 1:41 left in the half and scored six plays later.
On third and six from the 16 with 20 seconds left, Grossman connected with Gaffney in the back of the end zone. The pass and the point-after gave Washington a 14-10 advantage — its first lead in a game since Washington’s 17-10 win over St. Louis on Oct. 2.
The Redskins opened the second half with a 55-yard drive that was capped by a 40-yard field goal by Gano, and extended their lead to 17-10. Their defense forced another Dallas punt, and Banks ripped off a 55-yard punt return to the Cowboys 34-yard line.
But Washington’s offense stalled, and Gano missed a 49-yard field goal attempt wide right. With that miss – which cost the Redskins a chance to extend their lead to 10 – the air began to come out of the Redskins’ sails.
Taking over at their 39-yard line, Dallas marched 61 yards in 14 plays and scored on a seven-yard Romo pass to Laurent Robinson to tie the game at 17 nine seconds into the fourth quarter.
And roughly seven minutes later, Romo – facing third and eight from the 41 – completed a 59-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Jason Witten, who made the catch around the 25-yard line and raced the rest of the way untouched to paydirt.
Grossman threw an interception to Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick at the Dallas 41 right after the kickoff. But the defense held and the offense rebounded with a 12-play, 89-yard drive at the end of regulation to force overtime.
“As I told our guys, I was pleased with the effort,” Shanahan said. “I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we kept our poise and I was just disappointed we didn’t get the job done.”