The Dallas Cowboys have a habit of sticking like epoxy to the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium, even though they're closing-night awful just about everywhere else. Dallas came close to beating the Redskins for the third straight time here; instead the Cowboys beat themselves in the final two minutes and lost, 19-15.

Dallas managed the game's only offensive touchdown, the defense held Art Monk and Gary Clark to a combined four receptions and the Cowboys' backfield of Emmitt Smith and Alonzo Highsmith had its moments. But the Dallas' offense misfired on key plays in the fourth quarter when the game was still up for grabs.

"I felt real good about it," said Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman (who completed 23 of 43 for 207 yards, two interceptions). "I felt like we were going to be able to move the ball and go in the end zone. I got hit a little bit, but I feel more emotionally beat up than anything else, just having to finish the game off and lose the game the way we did, when the ball was in our hands."

As the game progressed, the Cowboys, who are 2-17 under Coach Jimmy Johnson, became more confident they could leave RFK with another victory.

"We got away from our game plan a little bit," said tight end Rob Awalt. "When we got back to it, things started to click. It's frustrating because we caught the Washington Redskins on a down day, because they're a much better football team than they showed today. They made some mistakes that they normally don't make, and when that happens, you have to jump on them."

The Cowboys made enough of their own mistakes -- nine penalties for 65 yards -- and injuries to their offensive line made pass protection hazardous to Aikman's health. Starting guard Crawford Ker didn't play because of a sprained knee. John Gesek, his replacement, sprained his right elbow during the game, forcing in Kevin Gogan.

Dallas also tried to put out of mind swirling rumors that backup quarterback Steve Walsh was about to be traded to New Orleans.

"The game was the easiest part," Walsh said. "Last night was tough. Today I was talking strategy with Troy. I was into the ballgame. It was one of the few times we were in a game."

For most of the second half, Aikman was on his back, the recipient of a blitzing Redskins defense that registered six second-half sacks. But Washington's only offense resembled the right foot of kicker Chip Lohmiller, allowing Dallas to be within 12-6 early in the fourth quarter. That's when the major disaster struck.

Dallas had third and 15 at its 6. Aikman looked for wide receiver Kelvin Martin near the 20, and held the ball a beat long, having to step up in the pocket. That allowed cornerback Darrell Green to step in front of Martin for an interception. His 18-yard return for a touchdown gave the Redskins a 19-6 lead.

The Cowboys thought a penalty on Green was in order.

"We thought the receiver was mugged pretty good," Johnson said. Green "was draped all over him and he threw him to the side. We thought it was going to be an automatic pass interference call."

Said Aikman: "Kelvin was mauled out there. I was under a little pressure when I was getting rid of the ball, and I wasn't able to get the ball outside as much I would have liked to. He came up and made the interception. {But} he was hanging on to him when {Martin} was trying to come out of his break."

Midway through the fourth period, the Cowboys had managed only two second-half first downs. But they swiftly drove 71 yards in 4:34 to close within six as Aikman completed seven of eight passes on the drive. Smith's three-yard run with 3:03 left made it 19-13.

The Cowboys stuffed Washington on its next series. Dallas held the Redskins to 40 second-half yards. Washington's final four possessions amounted to one net yard.

At least one Cowboy was surprised by the Redskins game plan.

"They ran at me almost every down last year," said defensive tackle and former Redskin Dean Hamel. "Today they didn't go after me. It was kind of a slow day. I was surprised because they were talking about they wanted to get back to Redskin football, which is running the football. I was kind of surprised that they didn't really try to pound it like they used to."

The game remained in doubt until the final Dallas mistake, when Washington safety Todd Bowles intercepted a pass intended for fullback Daryl Johnston.

"The weak side safety had come up to cover the tight end," Aikman said. "He freed up and got underneath Daryl. . . . I didn't see him."