A Sept. 28 Sports article incorrectly said that Washington Redskins receiver Rod Gardner had a career-high 167 receiving yards against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night. Gardner amassed 208 yards against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 21, 2001. (Published 9/29/04)
The catcalls when the Dallas Cowboys were introduced were almost as loud as the raucous cheers for the Washington Redskins from the crowd of 90,367 -- a Redskins record -- at FedEx Field. The historic enmity between the NFC East arch rivals was even more intense, if possible, with Coach Joe Gibbs back on the sideline to renew his rivalry with Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells on a Monday night stage.
Although Parcells-Gibbs matches had been known for close, smash-mouth football, the Cowboys once against turned to a pass-happy offense for a hard-fought 21-18 victory that was won with a touchdown-inducing trick play: Dallas fullback Richie Anderson's option pass to Terry Glenn. It was Anderson's first career completion.
The Cowboys and Redskins entered the game knowing the loser would fall to the bottom of the NFC East, unfamiliar territory for two of the NFL's greatest coaches. And after winning the season-opener, 16-10 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on a magical night, the Redskins have dropped to 1-2.
"This is the reality in the league," Gibbs said. "It's an extremely tough league. We've just got to find a way to battle."
Parcells and Gibbs -- whose rivalry during much of the 1980s was marked by close games -- coached their teams to another tight matchup decided in the waning moments. Leading 21-18, the Cowboys converted on third and eight from the Dallas 30-yard line late in the fourth quarter to sustain a drive that helped to eat up valuable time on the clock.
The Redskins managed to get the ball back with 21 seconds remaining. But they had no timeouts -- Gibbs had used all three, including one on an unsuccessful challenge of a call -- and time ran out after a 46-yard completion to Rod Gardner that brought the ball to the Dallas 21-yard line. Gardner could not get out of bounds and the final six seconds ticked off on the clock.
"Six more seconds is all we needed," right guard Randy Thomas said in a grim Redskins locker room. "We were just thinking what we could have done if we had just made some play, but time ran out."
After a slow start, quarterback Mark Brunell was 25 of 43 for 325 yards as Gardner amassed a career-high 167 receiving yards on 10 catches.
"To end like that puts a sour taste in my mouth," Gardner said.
The Redskins lost to the Cowboys for the 13th time in the past 14 games. Parcells has uncharacteristically gone to a pass-oriented offense behind veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde to compensate for a weak output from the running backs. And the result is a 2-1 record after Dallas's first NFC East game.
After the crowd became quiet following the chicanery-induced touchdown -- the option pass by Anderson -- that gave Dallas a 21-10 lead, the Redskins turned up the noise again as Brunell, who was sacked five times, awoke from his passing slumber while making Gardner his favorite receiver.
One first and 10 from the Dallas 15-yard line, Brunell danced in the pocket as if back in his heyday. The quarterback zipped a pass to Gardner in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with 4:30 remaining in the game. The Redskins attempted a two-point conversion to get within three. And Taylor Jacobs responded with a catch near the sideline, cutting the lead to 21-18, sending the crowd into a tizzy.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, the game was still up for grabs with Dallas ahead 14-10. The Cowboys had the ball on first and 10 at the Washington 26. And Parcells employed a twist to his pass-oriented offense. Anderson received an option pitch to his left. Anderson, a lefty, threw a rainbow pass into the back of the end zone that wideout Terry Glenn snagged using ballerina-like footwork to drag his feet for the completion. Glenn made the 26-yard reception in front of diving rookie Sean Taylor and defensive back Ryan Clark, who arrived late. Parcells smiled broadly and punched the air at Dallas's 21-10 lead with 13:00 left.
"That was a gutsy call," said safety Matt Bowen. "That's one of his trademarks."
Despite being contained for much of the first half, early in the third quarter the Cowboys suddenly looked like the unit that entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked offense. On second and 11 from the Cowboys 19, Cowboys wide receiver Antonio Bryant snagged a 48-yard pass despite being shadowed by cornerback Fred Smoot. After a reception by wideout Keyshawn Johnson, the Cowboys had the ball on the Washington 10. On a play-action pass, tight end Jason Witten beat Washington's linebackers to the right corner of the end zone, catching a pass to give Dallas a 14-3 lead.
Washington responded on its next drive, propelled by several tough, darting runs by Clinton Portis. On third and one from the 1, wideout Gardner went in motion toward the left. He confused the defense enough to get open, and Brunell hit him in the end zone to cut Dallas's lead to 14-10. Tight end Mike Sellers flipped the ball into the stands in jubilation and Gardner pointed skyward.
Last week, Gibbs said that the rivalry against Dallas was threatened if the Redskins didn't start winning because of the one-sided nature in recent years. Beginning in 1997, Dallas won 10 straight before the streak was halted by Steve Spurrier's Redskins in the 2002 regular season finale. But the rivalry, which dates from 1960, remains as intense as ever, especially because the teams are now coached by Gibbs and Parcells, who have combined for five Super Bowl titles.
In Gibbs's first NFL stint, Parcells was his biggest nemesis, winning 11 of 17 games against Gibbs as coach of the New York Giants. But the outcomes were extremely close, with Parcells winning five straight at one point by a total of 18 points.
About 45 minutes before the opening kickoff last night, Gibbs stood on the 5-yard line wearing a burgundy-and-black windbreaker matching his black Redskins cap. Gibbs appeared to have an invisible shield with a serious, almost grim exterior. Almost directly across on the other side of the field, Parcells stood near the goal line with his arms also crossed. Parcells looked stern in a silver-and-blue Cowboys windbreaker and blue pants while watching passing drills.
As smoke filled the air from the fireworks set off shortly before the opening kickoff, the Cowboys players trotted out the tunnel to lusty catcalls. Parcells's name was booed the loudest when it was announced. Spectators turned delirious after the Redskins trotted out of the tunnel through an oversized burgundy-and-gold helmet. The cheering continued when the Redskins were announced as a team, a ritual that started this season under Gibbs.
The crowd's enthusiasm dimmed by the end of the first half as Washington's offense sputtered behind quarterback Brunell, who was 6 for 14 in the half. The Redskins didn't get on track until their final drive of the first half, when John Hall's 19-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3.
The Redskins lost an opportunity to tie the game at the half, however. Laveranues Coles's 20-yard catch gave Washington a first and goal at the 1-yard line with 1:12 left in the half. Brunell was stuffed trying a quarterback sneak. Portis was halted by a wall of Cowboys while attempting to plow through the right side. On third and goal from the 1, Brunell rolled right and his pass was deflected near the line of scrimmage.
After pulling his hamstring early in last week's 20-14 loss to the New York Giants, Brunell was uncertain as a starter. Brunell looked nimble last night, but his long throws were off against the Cowboys' eighth-ranked defense. Gibbs surprisingly used several multiple wide-receiver sets, keeping the H-back -- a hybrid fullback-tight end that normally is a key part of the Redskins' offense -- on the bench. Before Coles's big catch late in the first half, he had uncharacteristically dropped a few passes.
Dallas took the lead with a one-yard run by Eddie George with about four minutes left in the first quarter. The drive was set up by a pass interference penalty against cornerback Walt Harris. On third and seven from the Washington 41-yard line, Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense, sent in six defensive backs in anticipation of a pass. Harris covered Cowboys wideout Terry Glenn on a deep route. Harris appeared to have good position, but the players got entangled near the goal line, triggering the penalty.