By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 13, 2010; 1:48 AM
In a rivalry that has had more than its fair share of drama and intrigue, here again were the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys, locked in another white-knuckle finish for all to see on national television. The Cowboys had driven 68 yards to the 13, and with three seconds to play, quarterback Tony Romo had the ball in hands before looking right. Wide open in the front of the end zone was wide receiver Roy Williams, and a split second after Romo completed the pass, a disheartening hush fell over FedEx Field.
Then 90,670 screaming fans took notice of a penalty flag laying on the left side of the field. When officials confirmed a hold against Dallas backup tackle Alex Barron, playing only because of an injury in the preseason to starter Marc Colombo, another riveting finish to this rivalry was complete, and this time, Washington was able to celebrate.
Barron was charged with the hold because he had his arm wrapped around the neck of hard-charging Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo, who had him beat to the outside with a speed rush. The Redskins entered the game intent on applying as much pressure as possible on Romo largely because the Cowboys were a mess along the offensive line. In addition to Colombo, starting guard Kyle Kosier was missing, also the victim of a preseason injury.
Those absences had the Cowboys offense looking remedial in the preseason, and the Redskins were thrilled to exploit mismatches at the line of scrimmage with Orakpo, whose 11 sacks last season led all rookies, as well as members of the defensive line.
"I knew I got held, but it's the end of the game, and all I saw was Roy in the end zone," Orakpo said, "and I turned around, and I'm like, 'Please call holding,' and I saw the yellow flag on the floor, and man, I was one of the happiest men in the world."
Although the defense yielded 380 yards, including 277 passing, it stiffened as Dallas moved closer to the end zone. Washington stopped Dallas on 2 of 3 red zone possessions, and its pressure forced Barron into three holding infractions in a game in which the Cowboys committed 12 penalties for 91 yards.
Romo, meantime, never became fully comfortable in the pocket, throwing incomplete three straight times on the final drive before hitting wide receiver Miles Austin for a 30-yard gain on fourth down and 10 to get to the 13. Then came two more incompletions before the negated touchdown to Williams.
"I'm like, 'Oh my goodness. This don't make no sense, to fight that hard and for those guys to drive down the field,' " said cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who provided an improbable finish to the first half when he stripped the Cowboys' Tashard Choice of the ball and returned the fumble 32 yards for a touchdown. "It was definitely a little heart-wrenching, but I did see that flag on the field. Didn't really know what it was for. I kind of thought [Romo] scrambled past the line of scrimmage and threw the ball, didn't really know. Saw the referee make the holding signal, and I sprinted off the field."