IRVING, Texas -- Just when the Washington Redskins gave their fans a reason to cheer, the team managed to disappoint them once again.
Armed with a four-point lead, the Redskins gave up a 39-yard touchdown pass from Dallas Cowboys quarterback Vinny Testaverde to rookie wide receiver Patrick Crayton with 30 seconds left in the game and watched Dallas post a 13-10 victory before 63,705 delirious fans at Texas Stadium yesterday.
Washington (5-10) was eliminated from the race for the final NFC playoff berth. Even if the Redskins had won, victories by the Carolina Panthers (7-8) and New Orleans Saints (7-8) would have made next week's home game against the Minnesota Vikings meaningless.
Perhaps the most galling aspect of the loss was the manner in which Washington dropped its 14th game to the Cowboys (6-9) in the past 15 meetings.
"I didn't see how we could possibly lose this one," wide receiver Taylor Jacobs said in a locker room that was devoid of hope. "I know there's always a slim chance to lose, but it was slim-to-none. ... I'm definitely shell-shocked."
Added defensive end Ron Warner: "This is a real hard kick in the gut. I feel like I fell out of a tree with no net on the bottom. ... I'm sick of the Redskins losing to the Cowboys."
The play that will be talked about until next season was Testaverde's game-winning throw to Crayton.
Testaverde, who was booed mercilessly by Dallas fans for mixing five sacks and one interception among 23-of-39 completions for 234 yards, converted a fourth-and-10 to guide the Cowboys from their own 25 with 1:25 left to Washington's 39.
On third and-3, Redskins cornerback Shawn Springs jammed Crayton at the line of scrimmage, but allowed the wide-out to run down the right sideline. Free safety Sean Taylor, keeping an eye on wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in the slot, leaned toward the middle.
That allowed Crayton to sprint down the sideline without interference and Testaverde lobbed a perfect pass to Crayton at about the 8, and Crayton trotted into the end zone.
Redskins kicker Jeff Chandler attempted to tie the game with no time left, but his 57-yard field-goal attempt fell about 5 yards short.
"I knew the safety was paying attention to [Johnson], and I had him," Crayton said. "The safety didn't pay attention to me."
Washington defensive coordinator Greg Blache declined to blame anyone by name, but said, "There's no question there was a lack of technique. We're not good enough to make mistakes and win."
While such an error from the league's No. 2 defense was unusual, the Redskins' lack of offense was typical. After opening the game with a 14-play, 65-yard march that ended at the Cowboys' 5 when quarterback Patrick Ramsey's pass bounced off the hands of tight end Brian Kozlowski and landed in the hands of Dallas safety Lynn Scott, Washington mustered just 16 yards of total offense in the rest of the first quarter, 27 in the second and 7 in the third.
Ramsey (19-for-29 for 158 yards) capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter with a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Royal, but the Redskins are still winless in Dallas since 1995.
"Obviously, the understatement is that it's a tough way to lose," said Ramsey, who finished with a 62.1 passer rating.
NOTES: Adding injury to insult, cornerback Fred Smoot was taken to a Dallas-area hospital for observation after leaving the game in the third quarter with a lower back sprain. Pat Wixted, the Redskins' director of public relations, said Smoot fell ill after being carted away to the locker room and was taken to the hospital for precautionary tests. Wixted also said that running back Clinton Portis, who left the game in the third quarter, bruised the SC (sternoclavicular) joint that connects the shoulder to the sternum, and cornerback Ade Jimoh suffered an ankle sprain. The status of all three players for Sunday's game is uncertain.
Washington 3 0 0 7--10
Dallas 0 6 0 7--13
First quarter Was--FG Chandler 25, 3:01. Second quarter Dal--FG Cundiff 26, 9:51. Dal--FG Cundiff 23, 0:00. Fourth quarter Was--Royal 5 pass from Ramsey (Chandler kick), 6:44. Dal--Crayton 39 pass from Testaverde (Cundiff kick), 0:30. A--63,705.
First downs 15 21
Total Net Yards 233 306
Rushes-yards 25-84 30-89
Passing 149 217
Punt Returns 4-59 3-20
Kickoff Returns 3-58 3-45
Interceptions Ret. 1-38 2-1
Comp-Att-Int 19-29-2 23-39-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-9 5-17
Punts 5-44.0 5-47.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-67 1-13
Time of Possession 27:18 32:42 Rushing--Washington, Betts 13-43, Portis 10-32, Coles 1-7, Ramsey 1-2. Dallas, J.Jones 22-57, Testaverde 3-14, George 3-6, Anderson 2-12. Passing--Washington, Ramsey 19-29-2-158. Dallas, Testaverde 23-39-1-234. Receiving--Washington, Coles 7-53, Gardner 5-31, Cooley 3-24, Jacobs 2-37, Kozlowski 1-8, Royal 1-5. Dallas, K.Johnson 9-84, Witten 6-50, Crayton 2-54, Barnes 2-22, J.Jones 2-10, R.Anderson 1-7, Morgan 1-7. Missed field goals--Washington, Chandler 57 (SH).
Keys to the game
KILLER INSTINCT: Rather than test the Cowboys' secondary, which started its fifth different cornerback this season, Washington stayed conservative and called short pass plays most of the game.
SECONDARY DEPTH: Injuries and inactive players left the Redskins with just four defensive backs late in the fourth quarter. That forced the defense to drop linebackers into coverage and stray from blitzing, which gave Vinny Testaverde time to throw the game-winning pass.
PENALTIES: The Redskins were flagged eight times and saw a pass-interference call on Fred Smoot extend a Dallas scoring drive and a false start by guard Derrick Dockery stall a Washington march near midfield.
- Edward Lee
Next for Redskins
Matchup: Minnesota Vikings (8-7) vs. Redskins (5-10)
Site: FedEx Field, Landover
When: Sunday, 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: Ch. 5/WNAV (1430 AM), WJFK (106.7 FM)
Line: Off the board