Big 'D' Stands for Dejection

Owens Stars, Redskins Lose Yet Another Close Game

With London Fletcher trailing the play, Terrell Owens hauls in the third of his four touchdown receptions.
With London Fletcher trailing the play, Terrell Owens hauls in the third of his four touchdown receptions. "He's competing at a level where we haven't seen competing at since he's been here," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 19, 2007

IRVING, Tex., Nov. 18 -- This time, close was a mere 19 yards in a doomed football stadium that stands between Dallas and Fort Worth. Close was the inability of a young Washington Redskins quarterback to recognize the white jersey of a Dallas Cowboys cornerback named Terence Newman until after he had released a pass late in the fourth quarter and it found its way into Newman's waiting arms. And when that happened, all the Redskins could do Sunday night was slump in defeat and sigh.

A 28-23 loss to Dallas looked so close indeed.

But in the postgame mayhem, as the Cowboys celebrated another victory in their spectacular season and a happy beat thumped off the Texas Stadium ceiling, there remained a significant gap between the two biggest rivals of the NFC East. And nowhere was it more evident in the lanky strides of the Cowboys' 6-foot-3, 218-pound wide receiver Terrell Owens who, in the finest autumn in his life, might be making himself the best player in the game.

On Sunday, he raced past flummoxed Redskins defenders for four touchdowns, three of which came without a Washington player even touching him.

And after the fourth, on a catch during which he turned around, reached to the lights and grabbed the pass from the air and zoomed into the end zone, a chant rose from inside the famous stadium that will be replaced by a new structure in 2009.

"T-O!, T-O!" howled the crowd.

And Owens, who in past, less-focused seasons celebrated his scores with elaborate ceremonies, including pulling a pen from his sock and signing the ball, grabbing a cheerleader's pompoms and posing like Atlas with the world on his shoulders, this time coolly spun the ball in the end zone. It was a twirling reminder that this season he can seemingly score at will.

Later, Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs stood in an old storage room under the stadium and called Owens "a talented player," one who plays in "an explosive offense." Gibbs also said, as he often does, that his team played hard and it fought and nearly won an important road game. "We're going to have to find a way to play like that and make more plays," he said.

Yet it was hard to say if there were many more for the Redskins to make. They are 5-5, heading into the hardest part of their schedule and falling farther behind the Cowboys and the New York Giants in the NFC East. They still have a chance at the playoffs because they have beaten the two teams who stand as their closest competition for the final wild-card spot -- the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals -- and would win any tiebreaker with either club. But that is predicated on Washington likely finishing the year with a 9-7 record. It still has games left with the Giants and the Cowboys.

And while the Redskins had several unlucky breaks that could have changed the outcome Sunday, including a missed field goal and an interception that was overturned on a decision many felt was dubious, there was no answer for Owens.

Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell might have thrown for 348 yards and two touchdowns, but those numbers faded as they sat on the statistics sheet next to Owens's line: eight catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

Washington seemed to have little idea what to do with him. It put its best cornerback, Shawn Springs -- an old friend of Owens's -- on him. And the first time they came together, on an Owens catch in the first quarter, Springs did everything he could, including punching, shoving and digging with his hand to wrestle the ball loose. All this seemed to do was irritate Owens. Which maybe, in the end, was not a good idea.

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