ASHBURN, Va. -- It became the day of accountability.
Less than 24 hours after the Washington Redskins failed to hold a three-touchdown lead against their chief rival in their home stadium, they tried to explain the plays that finalized a 41-35 overtime loss to the Dallas Cowboys in what many are referring to as The Meltdown.
With Dallas facing a third-and-two on its 24-yard line, the Redskins played a two-deep zone, thinking the Cowboys would run. Backup safety Matt Stevens then bought into Dallas' play-action fake to Emmitt Smith by taking a couple of steps toward the line of scrimmage. He couldn't recover to defend his assignment, receiver Raghib Ismail, on a post pattern.
"I just lost the game," said Stevens, a fourth-year player who also has played for Buffalo. "I thought Emmitt had the ball. I messed up."
Punter Matt Turk understands Stevens' situation. Turk, the holder for kicker Brett Conway, bobbled the snap from his brother, Dan, to ruin a possible game-winning field goal in the final seconds of regulation.
It was the first botched attempt for Turk, the holder for the past two seasons. Still, he has been known for the occasional miscue, fumbling three snaps as a punter in his five seasons with the Redskins.
"I just didn't make the play," Turk said. "I've got a lot of work to do with my holding skills. Initially, I didn't want this job. Nobody wants to be the holder, really. You don't get recognized unless something happens like it did."
With the win-now philosophy that has accompanied new owner Daniel Snyder, the first coaching job on the hot seat could belong to defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
The Redskins allowed 541 yards of total offense to Dallas and gave up over 40 points for the fourth time in their last 16 games. The defense also failed to hold the Cowboys out of the end zone in four of their last six possessions.
So does Nolan fear any added duress concerning his job security with Snyder?
"No. There's always pressure there from him anyway with our situation and especially this year on all of us," Nolan said. "The largest pressure to me is what I put on myself at this point. Obviously, Mr. Snyder can take our jobs at any time."
And does coach Norv Turner still have the same confidence in his defensive coaching staff?
"Absolutely," Turner said.
The Redskins worked out linebacker Tony McCombs yesterday. The third-year player from Eastern Kentucky started 13 games for the Arizona Cardinals last year. Of the last seven times the Redskins have lost their season opener, they have failed to make the playoffs six times.
Pub Date: 9/14/99