'Skins' offense goes nowhere vs. Dallas

The Baltimore Sun

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys did their best to give the Washington Redskins a chance to climb back into last night's nationally-televised game at Texas Stadium.

Dallas took a 14-point second-quarter lead, but a slew of penalties kept the Cowboys from breaking it open in the first half.

Then leading by seven in the third quarter, Dallas turned the ball over when running back Julius Jones fumbled at the Cowboys' 39-yard line.

But the Redskins did not want to be impolite guests. They gave the ball right back to the Cowboys on Mark Brunell's first interception of the season, and Dallas put the clamps on what would be a 27-10 victory.

A 40-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe to Terry Glenn finished off a six-play, 99-yard drive that extended the lead to 24-10 early in the fourth quarter. A 50-yard field goal by new Cowboys kicker Mike Vanderjagt gave the fans a little more to hoot about.

The defeat was the second straight for the Redskins (0-2), who must return to the Lone Star State next week to play the Houston Texans and look to avoid being 0-3 for the first time since the infamous 0-5 start in 2001 under Marty Schottenheimer.

"For us right now, it's an extremely tough time," Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said. "Somehow, some way, we've got to stick together and find a way out of this. We have to find a way to fix a bunch of things."

This represents the worst start by a Redskins team under Gibbs since Washington lost its first two games in 1989. Starting with his first team in 1980 that didn't win until the sixth week, three teams have started at least 0-2 under Gibbs.

Playing without star running back Clinton Portis as well as cornerback Shawn Springs, the Redskins continued to struggle on both sides of the ball. The only bright spot was a 100-yard kickoff return by Rock Cartwright that cut a 17-3 deficit to 17-10 late in the first half.

"They played very well tonight, they were very physical," Brunell said of a Dallas defense that held the Redskins to 93 yards rushing and 245 yards of total offense. "We had some great ideas going in but we didn't execute. It was just a really poor effort by the offense."

While Brunell showed no signs of grasping the new offense brought to Washington this season by Al Saunders, and backup Ladell Betts gave the Redskins little threat at running back with 40 yards on 11 carries, last night certainly helped Bledsoe.

With rumors swirling around this Cowboys-crazed city that Bledsoe was on the verge of being replaced by backup Tony Romo, the 14-year veteran survived - and thrived - for at least another week.

The three interceptions and three sacks last week at Jacksonville were replaced by two touchdown passes by Bledsoe, who had no interceptions and was sacked only once. It was the second straight week that the Redskins were taken apart defensively.

Jones had 94 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, and Bledsoe finished 19-for-38 for 237 yards.

"He threw the ball a lot better than the stats are going to show because we dropped about eight or nine balls," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "I thought he made some really good decisions."

Brunell was 18-for-33 for 197 yards, but much of his positive yardage came on the game's final, last-ditch drive.

The decision by Brunell to throw into double coverage, leading to the interception near the end zone by safety Roy Williams, ended any chance of a comeback by Washington. Starting at its 1-yard line, Dallas went on a six-play, 99-yard drive that ended with the touchdown pass to Glenn.

The defense that had somehow survived on this steamy, late-summer night finally broke.

Asked about the inability of the offense to put up any points, or go on any sustained drives (the Redskins converted one of their first 10 third-down plays), defensive end Phillip Daniels said, "They've got to find a way to get a first down and we've got to find away to stop them on third down."

Said Saunders, whose 700-page playbook has become the most talked about tome in Washington these days: "We've got a lot of things to fix and a lot of things to work on."


Play it again

A summary of the Redskins' 27-10 loss to the Cowboys:

What went right -- Rock Cartwright's 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was the only touchdown of the night for Washington and justified his place on the roster as the fourth running back.

What went wrong -- Take your pick, but fans back in Washington will be looking at quarterback Mark Brunell and wondering when Jason Campbell is going to start getting reps in practice.

Defining moment -- After getting their first turnover the season, at the Dallas 39-yard line in the third quarter, the Redskins gave the ball right back on Brunell's first interception of the season.

What's ahead -- Another trip to Texas on Sunday to play the Houston Texans. The way things are going for Washington, this game is far from a gimme.

[Don Markus]

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