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'They Threw the Last Punch'

Redskins Fade Under Lights For Second Straight Game

The Redskins got off to a strong start after celebrating Hall of Famers Art Monk and Darrell Green, but the Cowboys rallied in the fourth quarter and held on for a 14-10 win with fourth quarter drives fueled by running back Marion Barber.
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Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 17, 2008; Page E01

During the final seconds of their second straight poor performance in a high-profile matchup, the Washington Redskins began to assess a suddenly troubling situation. A season that seemed so promising a short time ago has taken a difficult turn, and it only got harder last night with a 14-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field.

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Washington continued to struggle on offense in losing for the second time in as many games before 90,830, most of whom waved "rally rags" and celebrated the return of Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts -- the team's top running backs -- who played despite still being hampered by knee injuries.

In a familiar story, the offense did little to assist the NFL's fourth-ranked defense, and the Cowboys capitalized on the bounce they received from the return of quarterback Tony Romo.

Sidelined for three games because of a broken pinkie, Romo started slowly, with two interceptions in the first half, but delivered in the fourth quarter as Dallas rallied for the victory. He teamed with backup tight end Martellus Bennett on a 25-yard touchdown pass for the go-ahead score with 10 minutes 36 seconds remaining in the game.

"They scored a touchdown, and we did not answer," Coach Jim Zorn said. "We had to answer with another touchdown, and we couldn't do it."

Bennett beat rookie strong safety Chris Horton off the line of scrimmage and made a nifty catch in the end zone while absorbing a hit from free safety LaRon Landry. "I thought I was in pretty good position. I just thought he made a great catch on the ball," Horton said. "Somebody's got to make a play. I didn't make a play. He made it."

Then the Cowboys' defense also succeeded in its biggest test. With Washington at the Dallas 37-yard line and needing four yards on fourth down, cornerback Terence Newman, who had a third-quarter interception, stuck close to wide receiver Santana Moss near the right sideline. Quarterback Jason Campbell's pass fell incomplete with 6:40 left to play, and Dallas running back Marion Barber finished off the Redskins.

Barber touched the ball on 11 consecutive plays (10 rushes, one reception), and Romo kneeled twice to run out the clock. Barber finished with 114 yards on 24 carries and one touchdown, faring much better than he did in a 26-yard performance during Washington's 26-24 win on Sept. 28 at Dallas.

"I worked hard in the offseason and in practice, and I had the energy at the end of the game," Barber said. "When you have guys up front making holes, it can happen."

Dallas (6-4) accomplished its main goal in what many Cowboys players described as a must-win game for a team that still has significant postseason aspirations despite stumbling through the first half of its schedule amid a circus-like atmosphere. Owner Jerry Jones recently said the Cowboys would qualify for the playoffs despite their problems, and they remained in contention in a crowded mix.

"I don't know when I have been any prouder; this team just wouldn't let it happen any other way," Jones said. "We all know what was at stake here, and I'm so proud of both sides of the ball. I have a lot of respect for the Redskins as a team, but I really know what this win meant, and we can really build off of it."

The Redskins (6-4) still are in the hunt, too, but their footing appears to be not as firm as a few weeks ago. Dominated by the Pittsburgh Steelers in a 23-6 loss in Week 9, Washington came back from its bye week with another inefficient outing on offense that has stirred concern from FedEx to Redskins Park.

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