WASHINGTON -- Boomer Esiason rose to some of his greatest heights in 13 seasons as an NFL quarterback yesterday and the Washington Redskins plummeted to a seasonal low in a wild and crazy football game at RFK Stadium.
Esiason dissected a reeling Washington defense for 522 yards and three touchdowns and Kevin Butler kicked a 32-yard field goal with 33 seconds left in overtime, lifting the Arizona Cardinals to a 37-34 victory.
In a game with several strange twists, Washington (7-3) looked as if it had won with 3: 58 left in overtime when Scott Blanton kicked the ball through the uprights from 38 yards, but the kick was nullified by a holding penalty against Scott Galbraith.
Blanton tried again to win it from 48 yards and the ball sailed wide left.
"To get a holding penalty on the game-winning field goal is inexcusable," said Washington coach Norv Turner. "But I'm not singling out one player. We've got to improve in every area."
He can start with a defense that has gotten worse each of the past three weeks.
Esiason and the 4-6 Cardinals racked up 615 total yards, the most given up by a Washington defense in franchise history.
The 522 yards passing were a single-game career high for Esiason and the third most in the history of the NFL.
Only Norm Van Brocklin in 1951 (554) and Warren Moon in 1990 (527) have thrown for more yards in one game.
Also, the 522 yards broke Y.A. Tittle's single-game mark of 505 against the Redskins in 1962.
Esiason, 35, had an astounding fourth quarter to bring the Cardinals back from a 27-13 deficit, completing 14 of 24 for 252 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to tie the game at 34.
He then completed his first eight passes in overtime to finish with 35 of 59 for 522 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions. He was 9 of 11 for 99 yards in overtime.
"I'm not going to stand here and yell 'I'm back,' " said Esiason, who played at Maryland from 1981 to 1983. "But it does feel great to come in here and play like this at this beautiful stadium in front of a lot of my friends."
But Esiason and Butler both needed a lot of second and third chances yesterday from a mistake-riddled Washington team, which lost its second in a row.
Butler, who was signed lastweek by the Cardinals, missed two game-winning field-goal attempts in overtime before finally getting it right on a third try which came as a result of an offsides penalty on Washington's Darryl Morrison.
Butler had hit the left post from 37 yards with 37 seconds remaining in overtime and it looked as if the Redskins would at least get out of the game with a 34-34 tie.
However, Morrison was called for offsides and Butler got another shot to end it from five yards closer and he did.
Butler's first miss in overtime came from 32 yards with 9: 15 remaining.
All the overtime failures would not have occurred if Washington could have run out the clock after Darryl Pounds intercepted the fourth Esiason pass of the day with 1: 52 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Redskins leading, 34-27.
The Pounds interception gave Washington the ball at its 17, but the Redskins went three downs and out.
Turner felt the Redskins should have maintained possession of the ball on that crucial late fourth-quarter series on a third-down Gus Frerotte pass to Michael Westbrook that was incomplete.
Turner wanted an interference call against the Cardinals but the officials ruled the ball had been tipped at the line.
Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said, "I've seen a lot in my 14 years in this league but even I thought we had this game won at least twice."
Frerotte said, "That was the craziest game I've ever seen in my life."
With 55 seconds left in the fourth, Marvcus Patton intercepted an Esiason pass on a first- and-10 play at the Washington 34-yard line, but the theft was nullified by an offsides penalty on Redskins defensive end Rich Owens.
Three plays later, Esiason tied the game at 34 with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Edwards.
The Cardinals' Boomer Esiason had the third-best passing day in NFL history and became the seventh to pass for more than 500 yards:
Quarterback, Opp., Year, C-A, Yds.
Norm Van Brocklin, L.A. Rams, N.Y. Yanks, 1951, 27-41, 554
Warren Moon, Oilers, Chiefs, 1990, 27-45, 527
Boomer Esiason, Cardinals, Redskins, 1996, 35-59, 522
Vince Ferragamo, L.A. Rams, Bears, 1982, 30-46, 509
Y.A. Tittle, N.Y. Giants, Redskins, 1962, 27-39, 505
Pub Date: 11/11/96