IRVING, Texas -- The Washington Redskins showed they are not ready for "Prime Time."
Dallas cornerback Deion Sanders backed up his nickname, while the Redskins had to choke on a week's worth of trash talking as the Cowboys humbled their NFC East rival, 38-20, before 64,377 at Texas Stadium yesterday.
The Redskins (4-2) watched their sole possession of the division lead disintegrate when Sanders high-stepped down the right sideline and into the end zone, finishing off a 70-yard punt return with his usual flair.
It capped a two-touchdown flurry in a 1: 47 span early in the fourth quarter that handed Dallas (4-2) a regular-season sweep of the Redskins as well as a share of first place.
"If you're going to talk the talk, you had better be able to walk the walk," Sanders said. "They're young, and they have a ways to go."
The Redskins fell behind 17-0 in the second quarter, but they chipped the deficit to 24-20 by the start of the fourth quarter.
It appeared Washington had the momentum, especially because the Cowboys had running back Emmitt Smith (strained groin), cornerback Kevin Smith (strained neck) and wide receiver Raghib Ismail (chest contusion) on the sideline.
Plus, Sanders was on the field against the advice of doctors after suffering a mild concussion on a first-quarter punt return.
But the Cowboys still managed to answer, grinding out 93 yards in 13 plays. Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman capped off the 6 1/2-minute drive, which included four third-down conversions, with a 1-yard touchdown run just 4: 10 into the fourth.
After the Redskins went three plays and out, newly signed punter Brian Hansen tapped a low-sailing kick to Sanders. Following Robert Thomas' block of the Redskins' Mike Sellers, he found a seam up the middle and scored his sixth career touchdown on a punt return to stake Dallas to a 38-20 advantage with 9: 03 left in the game.
"Great players make great plays," Redskins fullback Larry Centers said. "That's why they call him 'Prime Time.' "
Said Redskins coach Norv Turner, who signed Hansen on Friday because punter Matt Turk had broke his finger a week earlier: "We weren't trying to kick to Deion. When you kick low and short to Deion, anyone in this league knows that's not good."
Owners of the NFL's top-ranked offense, the Redskins bragged all week that their attack could not be stopped, and receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell said no one could cover them, including Sanders.
But the Redskins, whose game plan revolves around using the pass to set up the run, couldn't live up to their claims. They recorded their worst offensive performance of the season, passing for 211 yards -- 66 below their season average. They also rushed for just 61 yards for a net total of 272. The Cowboys' cornerback unit of Sanders, Smith and Kevin Mathias shut off the deep routes most of the game and limited Westbrook and Connell to a season-low five combined catches.
"Bottom line, the Cowboys didn't win this game, we lost it," Connell said.
After the game, Turner met with first-year owner Daniel Snyder for a lengthy discussion, then said that personnel moves could be made as soon as today.
"We'll go back to look at the film and break down where we feel we didn't get things done," Turner said.
"If there is a player change, it will be based on something we see when we evaluate the films."
Turner will have to sort through countless mistakes.
Redskins safety Sam Shade bit on a play-action fake on first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, leaving Dallas tight end David LaFleur wide-open in the end zone to put Dallas ahead 24-13 late in the third.
Washington then bailed the Cowboys out of a third-and-20 at the Dallas 10-yard line. After failing to keep up with former Redskin Alvin Harper on a streak pattern, Darryl Pounds grabbed him and was flagged for pass interference. Eight plays later, the Cowboys had increased their fourth-quarter margin to 31-20.
The Redskins, at times, also missed blitz calls from coaches and gave Dallas free plays twice, being called twice for defensive offside on drives the Cowboys later converted into touchdowns. The Redskins also seemed lackadaisical, being penalized twice for delay of game.
"You can't be on top of the world forever," Westbrook said. "Sometimes, people are going to get you."
The Redskins displayed that same attitude early, falling behind 17-0 before they had even managed to move the ball past their 38-yard line.
"When you get in these situations, you have to look at all personnel, and everyone is held responsible," Turner said. "We had a chance to leave as the leader, and we didn't. That's what's really disappointing."