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Redskins’ Overtime Loss To Cowboys Not Just Another Crushing Defeat

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

LANDOVER, Md. – In a season rife with unlucky breaks and unfortunate mistakes, it seemed like somehow, someway, nothing would end up going wrong for the Washington Redskins on Sunday against Dallas.

Grossman

A touchdown pass from Rex Grossman to Jabar Gaffney shortly before halftime gave the Redskins their first lead in six games. Another touchdown pass, this one from Grossman to Donte Stallworth, tied the score with 14 seconds remaining. Even the coin flip at the end of regulation ended up in the Redskins’ favor.

But when Graham Gano lined up for a 52-yard field goal in overtime, reminders of what the season has been for the Redskins returned. Gano missed his kick mere inches to the right of the upright, Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey followed up by making his and Washington saw its losing streak extended to six, its worst since the start of the 1998 season, with a 27-24 loss before 80,122 at FedEx Field.

“All the things that were out there for us to get it done,” Grossman said. “To fight our [arse] off – I’m proud of every single player and every teammate. Just came up a little short.”

It was not the typical losing performance for the Redskins (3-7), who have struggled in a variety of ways since winning three of their first four games. The margin of defeat was the smallest it has been since the 18-16 loss to Dallas on Sept. 26. They shut down a highly regarded running game, holding the Cowboys to 89 yards on the ground.

And they had no trouble throwing the ball, with Grossman completing 25 of 38 passes for 289 yards and the two touchdowns to nine different receivers.

A loss is still a loss, though, and turnovers – including an interception and a fumble – as well as the inability to run the ball and crucial late mistakes by the defense again left the Redskins searching for answers.

“This one hurts a lot more because you lose in overtime, you lose to a hated rival and all that,” nose tackle Barry Cofield said. “Hopefully we can use this one as motivation and have a good week of practice.”

The missed field goal by Gano would, on any other day, be representative of the Redskins’ season. Instead, it was Stallworth’s touchdown grab – a well-placed jump ball in the back left corner of the end zone over cornerback Alan Ball – that seemed to hint at the potential resurrection of a stagnating team.

Stallworth, the veteran in his 10th NFL season, was released by the team on Nov. 5 but brought back last Tuesday when rookie receiver Leonard Hankerson sustained a season-ending hip injury. Even he didn’t expect Grossman to look his way, but the quarterback noticed the way Ball played Stallworth on a run two plays earlier and told Stallworth to be ready.

“Rex put it in the corner, gave me an opportunity to make a play on the ball and we ended up scoring on it,” Stallworth said.

It seemed like the same old story for the Redskins in the first half. An early deficit and struggles on offense have been their undoing in recent weeks, and that happened again Sunday. Three of Grossman’s first five passes went off receivers’ hands, while a fourth gained one yard and a fifth, by Fred Davis, was fumbled.

Tony Romo found Dez Bryant on a 22-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and Bailey followed up with a 37-yard field goal in the second to give Dallas a 10-0 lead, but Washington fought back. Grossman ran four yards on a draw for a touchdown with 3:59 to play – the Redskins’ first touchdown in the first half since the victory at St. Louis on Oct. 2 – and then found Gaffney in the back center of the end zone for the 16-yard scoring grab with 14 seconds left until halftime.

When Gano added a 40-yard field goal at the end of the first drive of the second half to push the lead to 17-10, at which point it seemed as if the Redskins, not the Cowboys, were the team contending at the top of the NFC East. But Gano missed his next attempt wide right, a 49-yarder, and Romo threw fourth-quarter touchdown passes to Laurent Robinson and Jason Witten – a 59-yard grab by the wide-open tight end.

The Redskins went 89 yards over the final five minutes for Stallworth’s touchdown grab and then went 47 yards in overtime before Gano’s attempt. After the miss, Dallas started at its own 42-yard line and needed only six plays – including a backbreaking conversion on third-and-15 when Bryant beat DeAngelo Hall and gained 26 yards – to set up Bailey’s winner.

It was a loss, but it was a different loss. No team has qualified for the playoffs after winning just three of their first 10 games since the format was expanded in 1990, but if the Redskins aren’t winning games, at least they’re now in them.

“It was not one of those games where we just got beat down,” Gaffney said. “We gave it away. We gave that one away. We’ve got to learn how to win again.”

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