IRVING, Tex., Nov. 2 -- Two weeks off and a recommitment by Steve Spurrier to coaching his way did nothing to halt the Washington Redskins' downward spiral. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey absorbed another pounding and the competitive portion of their season may have been ended by a 21-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday at Texas Stadium.
The Redskins (3-5) have lost four straight games and now must face another round of questions about Spurrier's ability to succeed in the NFL and his prospects for remaining with the team beyond this season, even after his repeated assertions that he will stay at least through the end of the 2004 season. The status of offensive line coach Kim Helton also was debated after Ramsey failed to last from start to finish for a third straight game.
Steve Spurrier has an overall record of 12-20 in two seasons with the Redskins.
(Tim Sharp - AP)
"We're struggling on offense," said Spurrier, whose two-season record against NFC East foes fell to 1-8. "We're trying not to get Patrick hit. I guess we got confused. They brought a guy from a different direction and we're not smart enough to pick it up. . . . We're certainly behind the eight-ball, no question about that . . . [but] we're not going to toss in the towel. We have to keep playing and we have to keep throwing."
The Redskins are winless since Sept. 28 and lost to the Cowboys for the 11th time in the past 12 meetings. The Cowboys (6-2) managed to lead 7-6 after a first half in which they committed four turnovers -- two interceptions by quarterback Quincy Carter and two fumbles by tailback Troy Hambrick, one caused by newly signed Redskins defensive tackle Darrell Russell. Two Dallas touchdowns were negated by penalties, including one on the opening kickoff, and Carter threw a tipped-ball interception that set up a Redskins' touchdown. Wide receiver Laveranues Coles got the score on a seven-yard pass from Ramsey, but place kicker John Hall's extra-point attempt was blocked.
"The first part of the game was a complete nightmare," Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells said. "We made enough mistakes for two or three games. . . . We were in a benevolent mode."
Redskins reserve linebacker Antonio Pierce returned the favor with an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty in field goal formation -- for yelling fake signals at the Dallas linemen -- to set up Hambrick's two-yard touchdown plunge. Hambrick extended the lead to 14-6 with a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Carter threw a 19-yard scoring pass to wide receiver Terry Glenn in the fourth quarter to make it 21-6. Hambrick finished with 100 of Dallas's 208 rushing yards.
Ramsey faced a steady stream of blitzes and was sacked four times, all in the first half. He suffered a bruised left forearm on a hit by Dallas safety Roy Williams, putting backup quarterback Tim Hasselbeck on the field for one snap at the end of the second quarter. Ramsey played the second half with a pad on his forearm but was knocked from the game temporarily when he suffered a dislocated left pinky finger on a hit by defensive tackle La'Roi Glover. He returned to finish that drive with a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie wideout Taylor Jacobs -- on which he received another jarring hit by Williams -- and a two-point conversion pass to wide receiver Darnerien McCants with 21/2 minutes to play. But the Cowboys ran out the clock.
Ramsey completed 16 of 30 passes for 147 yards, and the Redskins had only 213 yards against the league's top-ranked defense. Williams also applied a hit to Chad Morton -- who started at tailback for the Redskins with Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts sidelined by injuries -- on the second-quarter play that knocked Morton from the game with a high ankle sprain.
"It hurts," Redskins right tackle Jon Jansen said. "It hurts because we have so many good players. . . . If there was a simple answer, we'd have it and we'd be a much better team right now."
The Redskins got virtually every break imaginable in the early going. The Cowboys' Derek Ross took the opening kickoff from Hall, broke a few tackles on his way to the right sideline and high-stepped into the end zone. But Keith O'Neil hauled down Pierce and was called for holding.
Dallas immediately went to work on Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot, who was back in the lineup three weeks after suffering a fractured sternum. Smoot was beaten by wide receiver Antonio Bryant for a 20-yard reception on the Cowboys' first offensive play. Carter, with a first down at the Cowboys 40-yard line, tried to throw deep for wideout Joey Galloway but had the pass intercepted by safety Matt Bowen.
The Redskins failed to get a first down and punted, and Hambrick broke through the middle for a sizable gain on the Cowboys' first play of their second possession. But the ball was tipped out of his hand by Bowen just before he hit the ground, and linebacker LaVar Arrington scooped up the fumble. The Cowboys maintained that Hambrick's knee touched the ground before he lost the ball, but their challenge was rebuffed in an instant-replay review.
Ramsey was sacked twice, the first time on a first-down flea flicker, as the Redskins again went three plays and out on offense. But Bryan Barker's 52-yard punt pushed back the Cowboys to their 20, and this time they made a mistake that cost them. Carter put a third-and-six pass to Glenn on target. Glenn not only dropped the ball, though, but knocked it into the air with his leg while on the ground. Safety Ifeanyi Ohalete made the easy interception, and his 30-yard return gave the Redskins a first down at the Dallas 6.
Morton lost a yard with a first-down carry. But on second down, Ramsey lofted a throw over linebacker Dexter Coakley to Coles on a fade pattern. Coles made the catch and did a good job to get both his feet in bounds for the touchdown. Flozell Adams, in the middle of the Cowboys' line, reached up and blocked Hall's extra-point try.
The Cowboys were booed by their home crowd when they went three plays and out on their next possession, but the Redskins had to punt again after Ramsey was sacked by safety Darren Woodson on third down. The Cowboys marched down the field, and Carter appeared to connect with Glenn for a 35-yard touchdown pass with one second to play in the first quarter. But a false-start penalty on tight end Jason Witten wiped out the score, and an open Glenn stumbled to turn Carter's third-and-17 pass into an incompletion.
Morton got 17 yards on two carries and seven yards on a pass play before exiting the game. Bowen dropped a would-be interception as the Cowboys marched toward the end zone on their next drive, aided by a personal foul on Redskins defensive lineman Peppi Zellner. Arrington and middle linebacker Jeremiah Trotter teamed to stop Bryant four yards shy of the end zone on third down. But as Dallas place kicker Billy Cundiff lined up for a field goal try, Pierce appeared to yell, "Hut! Hut!" at the Cowboys' linemen. The penalty gave Dallas a first down at the 2, and Hambrick leaped into the end zone on second down.
The Redskins continued to go nowhere on offense, even when Russell thwarted a Dallas threat by knocking the ball from Hambrick's arms for his second fumble of the half. Running back Rock Cartwright missed a block on Williams on the blitz when he slammed into Ramsey, whose left arm was struck by the safety's helmet. Soon after Ramsey ran to the locker room, Hasselbeck made his Redskins debut with a kneel-down just before the intermission.
A 36-yard punt return by Galloway put the Cowboys in business at the Redskins 48 with their initial third-quarter possession, and they cashed in. An instant-replay challenge overturned a would-be interception by Arrington, revealing that the officials had missed the ball hitting the ground. Carter completed a 12-yard pass to Bryant on third and eight, and ran for six yards on a third and five quarterback draw to set up Hambrick's second touchdown. The Cowboys all but sealed the outcome with a 91-yard march, capped by Carter eluding the blitzing Arrington to slip the ball to Glenn, who maneuvered around Bowen and into the end zone with 11 minutes 21 seconds remaining.
"I hate losing," Redskins cornerback Champ Bailey said. "We lost, plain and simple. We've got to find a way to win, and we're not doing it. We put forth our best effort, I think, all year, but we didn't execute."