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  Redskins Revolve Quarterbacks, Spiral to 31-7 Loss

By David Aldridge
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 21, 1994; Page D1

IRVING, TEX., NOV. 20 -- A season that ceased to be promising long ago for the Washington Redskins continued on its path today, with the Dallas Cowboys putting another licking on their former National Football Conference Eastern Division rivals, 31-7, at Texas Stadium.

Granted, the Redskins (2-9) and Cowboys (9-2) still play in the same division. But the rivalry part is currently not applicable. In the past three meetings, Dallas has outscored Washington 103-17.

There is no competition between these squads at the moment, as evidenced by the fact that the Cowboys were not in the least threatened by the Redskins after starting quarterback Troy Aikman went out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee in the first half and did not return. Preliminary indications were Aikman probably will miss three to four weeks.

"Basically, we took ourselves out of a chance to win this game in the first part," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said. "Our guys played hard defensively. We gave up one first down in the second half and I feel good about that. ... I don't think we played well in the first quarter {after which Washington trailed 17-0}. Maybe they played extremely well, and that's the issue."

Dallas's hopes for a third straight Super Bowl were dealt another blow when Aikman's backup, Rodney Peete, sprained his right thumb in the third quarter; he is right-handed, and will be out indefinitely. That leaves third-stringer Jason Garrett as the starter for the moment. And as Dallas has almost no money under the salary cap, finding a replacement will mean cutting someone else.

"We've got to find a quarterback," Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer said. "And if Jason's our quarterback, we have to develop another one quickly."

"It's real hard to say how much time I'm going to miss but it certainly looks like it will be tough for me to play on Thursday," Aikman said from Baylor University Medical Center, where he was taken after the injury. The Cowboys will host the Green Bay Packers on Thanksgiving.

"Right now I'm targeting Philadelphia {the Cowboys play the Eagles Dec. 4} for a possible return, but we're going to have to see."

The Redskins have their own quarterback problems. They started with Gus Frerotte, but he lasted just a quarter, completing 1-of-6 passes for 18 yards, with an interception. John Friesz came in and played most of the second and third quarters, and Heath Shuler, the third quarterback, mopped up in the fourth.

It leaves Washington back at square one, deciding what's most important -- long-term development or short-term gain.

If the Redskins choose the former, they'll put Shuler (5-of-9, 32 yards) back on the field. If it's the latter, they'll go with Friesz (16-of-35, 193 yards) next Sunday against the New York Giants at RFK Stadium. Turner said coaches would give the issue "a lot of thought" before making a decision.

"I think it builds character," Shuler said of his time on the sideline. "Really, this is the most adversity I've ever had to go through, especially coming in and playing. It's building my character and it's building my stamina as a person."

Frerotte wasn't sure why he was pulled; he thought he had made a proper read on a pass toward wide receiver Henry Ellard, but it was intercepted by safety James Washington, leading to Chris Boniol's field goal that made it 17-0 at the end of the first quarter.

And, asked if he'd like the Redskins to settle on one quarterback for the rest of the season -- even if it's not him -- Frerotte said: "That would be nice. That would be the way you'd like to play. I think that it will eventually get to that, but right now, it's so hard. There's just so many factors.

"I can't complain, because I never expected to get this chance, anyway."

The Cowboys swept the season series for the first time since 1985 with their usual mix of big plays. Aikman was 8-of-13 for 87 yards before Ken Harvey dived at him on a pass to Michael Irvin and inflicted the injury. Running back Emmitt Smith gained 85 first-half rushing yards and scored twice; wide receiver Alvin Harper caught a 15-yard score from Peete, and Kevin Williams capped the day with an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown in the third quarter.

Dallas shut down Washington's running game and for the first time this season, Ellard wasn't a factor. Sometimes he was covered well and sometimes the pass was just overthrown. The result was Ellard's first catchless day as a Redskin.

Desmond Howard picked up the slack with a career-best seven receptions for 107 yards and the Redskins' only touchdown, a 19-yard catch from Friesz in the second quarter.

But the Redskins contributed to their own demise with another slew of missed tackles. And Washington had five more turnovers to push its league-leading total to 33 and its league-worst turnover differential to minus-17.

The first miscue was the most painful and the hardest to explain. Brian Mitchell took the opening kickoff 67 yards to the Dallas 23 and the Redskins had a chance to grab the game's early momentum.

But two plays later, on second and seven, Mitchell took a pitch right. A step after he gathered the ball, it was clear he was looking to throw an option pass. Dallas cornerback Kevin Smith had Howard blanketed in the end zone, but Mitchell threw it anyway. Smith came down with the easy interception in the end zone.

"When I threw the ball, I didn't get anything on it," Mitchell said. "I wanted to throw it as deep {in the end zone} as I could so if Desmond couldn't catch it, nobody could. But my hands were a little wet."

Dallas promptly drove 80 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. Emmitt Smith went the final eight yards, making safety Darryl Morrison miss and running over linebacker Andre Collins the last four yards for the score. Boniol's extra point made it 7-0 with 5:53 gone by.

Chip Lohmiller missed a 53-yard attempt on Washington's next series, and the Cowboys zipped 56 yards in four plays to their second touchdown, with Smith going in from three yards with 1:43 to go in the first period. Boniol made it 14-0 and the rout, again, was on.

"We got pulled away from it so early," Redskins linebacker Tyronne Stowe said, "and we were playing catch-up."

After Frerotte's interception and Boniol's 32-yard field goal, Friesz came on. The Redskins went to a no-huddle offense and promptly marched 84 yards in nine plays, with Howard getting open against both Dallas cornerbacks, Kevin Smith and Larry Brown. Howard beat Smith to the end zone on a corner pattern with 11:36 left in the half, and Lohmiller's extra point made it 17-7.

The Redskins had a couple of chances to get closer, the last when Turner gambled on fourth and inches at the Dallas 47 with four minutes left in the half. But Ricky Ervins (37 yards on 12 carries) slipped and linebacker Darrin Smith fell on him behind the line of scrimmage.

A pass interference penalty on Tom Carter gave the Cowboys a first down on Washington's 41. On the next play, Aikman hit Irvin for 13 yards, but Harvey ended the quarterback's day.

No matter; Emmitt Smith ran for six, three and four yards, and with 1:09 left in the half, Peete hit Harper with a perfect strike in the end zone. Boniol made it 24-7 and the competitive portion of the day was over.

"I won't change my opinion on this," Redskins safety Martin Bayless said. "We, as a team -- and I can say the same for myself -- make a lot of mistakes that allow good football teams to make big plays. And it sounds repetitive. But you look at it on the other end, and when you win, win, win, that sounds repetitive too. When you lose, everything is magnified. "

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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