Redskins Get Stuffing From Cowboys' Smith
By Dave Sell
The Redskins' loss was their fourth in five games and dropped them into a tie for first place in the NFC East with the Cowboys at 8-5. The Philadelphia Eagles (7-5) can make it a three-way tie by beating the New York Giants this Sunday in Philadelphia.
Making matters worse for Washington, starting defensive tackle Sean Gilbert -- one of their best players this season -- suffered a sprained left knee. He will undergo an MRI exam Friday. Wide receivers Michael Westbrook and Leslie Shepherd also missed significant portions of today's game because of injuries -- Westbrook's a bruised kneecap and Shepherd's a strained Achilles' tendon.
Smith was benched in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' 20-6 loss to the Giants on Sunday. Though Coach Barry Switzer made the decision, saying it was because of Smith's sore ankle, Smith took out what he called his "frustration" and "humiliation" at being benched on the Redskins.
"It hurt and I wouldn't be human if it didn't hurt," Smith said. "I had to release some anger, and better to release it on the field than on someone you love."
The Redskins certainly felt his pain.
Smith's four-yard touchdown run gave Dallas a 7-0 lead with 2 minutes 3 seconds left in the first half, but a 21-yard field goal by Redskins place kicker Scott Blanton 23 seconds before halftime cut Dallas's lead to 7-3.
Shepherd gave the Redskins a 10-7 lead with a 26-yard touchdown reception early in the third quarter, but was injured on the play and departed. Smith responded with a 42-yard run that set up a four-yard touchdown run, which put Dallas back in front, 14-10. His three-yard touchdown run in the middle of the fourth quarter capped the scoring.
Redskins running back Terry Allen, who entered the game as the NFC rushing leader, was held to a season-low 34 yards on 12 carries. The Redskins' 10 points tied their season low and their 209 yards in offense was a season low. In the second half, quarterback Gus Frerotte yelled at his offensive linemen as they came off the field after yielding two consecutive sacks.
"That's just a little frustration, a little anger talking," said Frerotte, who was 17 of 33 passing for 175 yards and one touchdown, but also threw two interceptions and fumbled a snap that led to a touchdown for the Cowboys.
Dallas began the season 1-3, but has charged into the division championship race. Head-to-head competition is the first playoff tiebreaker when two teams are tied and winning percentage among teams is the tiebreaker when three are tied. Philadelphia has split its season series with Washington and Dallas. The Redskins and Cowboys complete the regular season on Dec. 22 at RFK Stadium.
The Redskins' frustration today came in many forms. Smith's efforts meant Washington's good work against the Cowboys' passing game went for naught. Dallas had minus-7 yards passing in the first half and quarterback Troy Aikman was 9 of 19 for 63 yards (the fewest since 1990 in a game in which he wasn't injured or replaced) with no touchdowns and one interception. Wide receiver Michael Irvin had one catch for five yards. However, Smith made up for it.
"Regardless of what anybody might say about him, you know he's a great back," Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey said. "By putting him on the bench, that doesn't do anything but make a great back mad."
The Redskins' offense had trouble taking advantage of anything the defense set up. Frerotte's favorite target the past two weeks was Westbrook, but he reinjured his left knee on the Redskins' second offensive play. The injury was described as a bruise, but Westbrook said the sharp pain prevented him from returning to the game. Westbrook's absence meant the Redskins were less of a downfield threat, which allowed the Dallas defense to crowd the line and stop Allen.
Dallas defensive tackle Leon Lett was a dominating force inside and he nearly had an interception in the first quarter. Though Lett dropped the ball, it stopped a drive. Chad Hennings then blocked Blanton's 40-yard field goal attempt.
With 4:55 left in the second quarter, Frerotte fumbled a snap and middle linebacker Fred Strickland recovered. Seven plays (including a 15-yard pass interference penalty by Bryan Walker on Herschel Walker) after the fumble, Smith scored from the 4. Chris Boniol's extra point made it 7-0 with 2:03 left in the half.
The Redskins wasted two timeouts earlier, so they had just one for their last drive of the half. Helped by 33 yards in penalties on cornerback Kevin Smith, a 21-yard catch by wide receiver Bill Brooks and an eight-yard catch by Shepherd, the Redskins got to the Dallas 4 with 34 seconds left. But with no timeouts, they opted to pass, and after two incompletions, Blanton was sent in. His 21-yard field goal made it 7-3 just before halftime.
Frerotte's first interception went off the normally sure hands of wide receiver Henry Ellard into those of safety George Teague. The Redskins then got the same break in the third quarter when Aikman's pass went off the hands of Irvin into those of linebacker Rod Stephens.
The Redskins capitalized. Frerotte completed 4 of 6 passes, the last being a 26-yarder across the middle to Shepherd. He outran Smith and dove into the end zone. With Blanton's extra point, the Redskins led by 10-7 with 10:25 left in the third quarter. But Shepherd hobbled off with the strained Achilles' tendon and the Redskins did not score again.
"It was a hard-hitting game and in those types of games the team that hits the hardest usually wins," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said.
Dallas's offensive line and Smith took care of that. With the Redskins moving a safety out to double cover Irvin, and defensive tackle Marc Boutte slanting to his right, Smith used fullback Daryl Johnston's block to burst through the line for a 42-yard gain. Four plays later, Smith scored from the 4-yard line for a 14-10 lead. Then, in a drive of nearly eight minutes, Dallas drove down the field and Smith clinched it with a three-yard score.
"Everyone was better," Dallas guard Nate Newton said. "Emmitt was just extra special."