By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 23, 2009
ARLINGTON, TEX. -- When quarterback Jason Campbell's final deep pass fell incomplete as time expired Sunday afternoon, Dallas celebrated a 7-6 victory over the Washington Redskins in which it rallied behind quarterback Tony Romo, who overcame three rough quarters and connected with wide receiver Patrick Crayton for a touchdown late in the fourth. It was another feel-good moment for the Cowboys in a season that is going well for them.
On the other side of Cowboys Stadium field, Redskins players watched in disbelief as their nightmare continued, this time against an NFC East rival, and provided a new low point. And in the locker room afterward, Redskins coaches and players again focused on how close they came to winning, how well they performed in some areas and how hard they played.
The reality, however, is that the Redskins are 3-7, the roster isn't deep enough to withstand their mounting injuries and an offense that appeared to display a spark recently again failed to produce enough to support another strong showing by the defense, which played without injured Pro Bowl defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. It was the same story for the Redskins, and they are tired of living it.
"It's very bad. It's crazy, man," wide receiver Antwaan Randle El said. "We don't . . . I don't know, man. We were right there, every play in the game, and the defense only gave up seven points. I mean, we had multiple times to score touchdowns, win a game with a field goal and all that. We just didn't cash in. We just . . . I don't know."
Said Coach Jim Zorn: "It's bleak. Being 3-7 is bleak."
It was the division-leading Cowboys (7-3) who appeared perplexed for most of the game. In fact, during the second half, many in a crowd of 85,277 booed Romo, as several of his passes were the ugliest things in the team's stunning facility and Dallas trailed, 6-0, for the first 57 minutes. But Romo delivered on the second possession of the fourth quarter, accounting for all of the yards on a nine-play, 60-yard drive that was capped by his 10-yard pass to Crayton in the middle of the end zone with 2 minutes 50 seconds left.
Rookie defensive end-strong-side linebacker Brian Orakpo had Romo within his grasp, but as he has done throughout his career, Romo spun away from Orakpo, rolled left and directed his receivers until he located Crayton. "Just Romo being Romo," Orakpo said. "Very elusive, very slippery. That's all she wrote. Touchdown."
Orakpo came close. "I was going through my reads and felt someone flash around and I tried to get it out," Romo said. "It wasn't perfect. I wasn't able to drop back and throw the ball like I wanted. Patrick did a great job of making his guy think he was going to do one thing and he did the opposite and got open."
Said Zorn of each play on the Cowboys' touchdown drive, "It feels like you're getting stabbed."
After the Redskins were penalized on the kickoff for an illegal wedge formation, they took over on their 8-yard line with 2:35 left. On the fourth play of the drive, backup defensive end Stephen Bowen tipped Campbell's pass at the line and linebacker Anthony Spencer got the interception.
"We thought we was going to get the one today," said Campbell, who completed 24 of 37 passes for 256 yards with the one interception. "We're coming off a great Denver game, guys [have] confidence, momentum was going well. For four quarters, except for a couple of plays, we pretty much beat them."
But they didn't. In large part because of Romo's shaky performance for most of the game, the Redskins had a six-point lead on two Shaun Suisham field goals (Suisham also missed two attempts, his first misses of the season) despite having lost starting running back Ladell Betts in the first quarter and starting right guard Chad Rinehart early in the third.
Betts was starting because top back Clinton Portis -- who has been ruled out of Sunday's game against Philadelphia as well -- sat out his second consecutive game because of lingering effects from a concussion. Betts, while being tackled, tore his medial collateral ligament "for sure," Zorn said. "We don't know what the severity is. We're going to do the MRI [exam Monday] just to make sure."
On the second play from scrimmage after halftime, Rinehart broke his right fibula when a Dallas player rolled over his legs, likely ending his season. "We'll have a better assessment, but it's fractured," Zorn said.
Betts, who was hoping the injury was only a sprain, did not want to speculate about the possibility of missing the remaining six games because "it's an MCL, but I really don't know" how bad it is, he said. "I can't even feel anything right now, I don't have any pain, so I'll just get the MRI in the morning, see what damage is done and go from there."
Down to the No. 3 and 4 running backs in Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther, and the No. 3 right guard in undrafted rookie Edwin Williams, the Redskins continued to move the ball, albeit with little to show for their efforts.
Cartwright was strong off the bench with 67 yards rushing (with a 5.2-yard average) and team highs with seven receptions for 73 yards. "I just go in and try to do my part," said Cartwright, a special-teams standout who has had a bigger role in the offense than the Redskins would prefer because of their injury problems. "I prepare myself week in and week out like I'm going to be the starter, 'cause you never know what's going to happen."
Campbell went 13 for 13 on third downs and he made several nifty plays while being hit. But he couldn't get Washington into the end zone.
The Redskins led 3-0 on Suisham's 45-yard field goal early in the second. Suisham missed a 39-yard field goal attempt late in the quarter, which also was his first miss this season after converting 13 straight.
The attempt occurred after the Redskins were penalized for delay of game and a lengthy review in which officials tried to determine whether Campbell stepped out of bounds before he released the ball. The ruling on the field was reversed and Zorn decided to attempt the field goal instead of taking a shot at the end zone with 21 seconds left before halftime.
"I didn't want to complete the pass in bounds," Zorn said. "I could have taken another shot to the end zone, but they were coming after us, too. They were blitzing. I didn't want to get pushed out of the field goal range we got."
Suisham made a 31-yard kick near the end of the third but missed a 50-yarder with 7:12 to go in the fourth. Romo then led the Cowboys to the game's only touchdown.
"I just feel awful," Suisham said. "You got a tight game like that, and you miss a couple of field goals, it's very frustrating and disappointing."
Those are feelings the Redskins know well.