- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 19, 2000

COWBOYS 27, REDSKINS 21

After laying into quarterback Brad Johnson in the first half, giving owner Dan Snyder an earful at intermission and letting loose a Bronx Cheer when Deion Sanders fielded a punt off his face mask in the fourth quarter, the record sellout at FedEx Field was too stunned to boo Andy Heck when the reserve offensive tackle was whistled for a personal foul and wasn't even on the field.

Heck's 15-yard penalty killed a crucial fourth-quarter drive when the struggling Washington Redskins still had a chance to take control of last night's meeting against the Dallas Cowboys. Darrell Green's blown coverage four plays later gave Raghib Ismail a wide-open 44-yard reception that set up the Cowboys' touchdown that opened up the game.

"It was just a complete lack of judgment," Heck said. "I was emotional. That guy was laying on top of Stephen [Davis]. Then he jumped and had a few words and I pushed him back. It was a good call. That's the kind of thing that can kill a team dumb stuff like that. I'm embarassed, and I regret it."

Said Johnson: "All night long their players were taunting us. They head-butted us in the huddle. That's what happens when you retaliate. It was crucial penalty. You're talking about third-and-short, and then you go third-and-25."

The Redskins' $100 million season continued to unravel in stunning fashion with the 27-21 loss to Dallas before 84,431. After Snyder spent unprecedented amounts to bring in free-agent stars, Washington (1-2) finds itself in disarray heading into Sunday's game against the 3-0 New York Giants and then an incredibly difficult October.

"We've got to play better in all areas for our quarterback to play better," coach Norv Turner said. "That's a question I'm not going to deal with right now. It's easy to point to just the quarterback, but when you're struggling on offense it's 11 guys out there."

Instead, Turner blamed the surprising poor start on widespread mistakes.

"We made way to many mistakes. Stupid penalties. Errors," he said. "If you make those mistakes usually you wouldn't have a chance to win at the end. We certainly had a chance. We did not handle any part of the two-minute [drill]. We're not playing well on offense. We're not playing consistently in any phase."

Dallas (1-2) avoided the fifth 0-3 start in its history by winning the 11th "Monday Night Football" meeting between the bitter rivals. The Cowboys got strong performances from aging running back Emmitt Smith (24 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown) and aging quarterback Randall Cunningham (10 of 23 for 185 yards and two touchdowns), and its 27th-ranked defense combined with some errant passing by Johnson to stuff Washington's offense.

Washington drove 69 yards in nine plays to cut Dallas' lead to 24-21 with 5:34 left, and the Redskins' defense proceeded to hold the Cowboys three-and-out. But with 2:09 remaining, Johnson threw an interception to safety Izell Reese on second-and-2 from Washington's 45, allowing Dallas to tack on a 38-yard field goal with 1:46 left.

The Redskins then had a last-gasp possession. The ragtag drive eeked into Dallas territory on a 10-yard completion to James Thrash, but Johnson was sacked to end the game.

Heck's penalty came in most unusual fashion. The Redskins were trailing 17-14 at their own 35 when Stephen Davis picked up 4 yards on a sweep left. Davis was tackled at the Redskins' sideline, and moments later Heck was whistled for the personal foul. It was unclear immediately following the game why Heck was penalized.

The Cowboys faced third-and-6 on the possession that followed, but Green broke off his coverage of Ismail and yielded the 44-yard catch. Ismail caught a 15-yard pass on the right sideline on the next play, and then tight end Jackie Harris rumbled for a 16-yard touchdown after making a short reception. Harris' catch put Dallas up 24-14.

The game was filled with several rounds of boos from the partisan crowd. Johnson got jeered several times during a 12-for-21 first half, which ended with Washington down 14-7. Snyder then was booed during a halftime presentation in which Joe Gibbs, Art Monk and Dexter Manley were added to the Ring of Fame. Sanders got a smattering, too, when he botched a punt return.

The Redskins failed to generate points after free safety Mark Carrier forced the Cowboys' second turnover of the half. Carrier stripped the ball from the hands of Ismail, who had picked up a first down at the Redskins' 36. Davis rushed 11 yards in two carries, but wide receiver Albert Connell then couldn't come up with a deep grab against cornerback Ryan McNeil and Redskins running back Adrian Murrell picked up just 7 yards on two underneath dump-offs.

Davis, after a poor first half, carried five straight times for 23 yards and a 1-yard scoring run to cut Dallas' lead to 17-10. The short drive was set up by an interception by strong safety Sam Shade, who grabbed a pass tipped off the hands of Dallas running back Chris Warren. Shade's pick made amends for allowing Warren to beat him for a 76-yard touchdown reception in the first half.

Tim Seder kicked a 32-yard field goal to cap the first possession of the second half and put the Cowboys up 17-7. The drive went 62 yards in 10 plays plus a key 27-yard pass-interference penalty by Green while defending James McKnight. Cunningham also had a big third-and-10 conversion on a designed scramble up the middle.

At the possession's end, Dallas called a conservative inside handoff on third-and-8, perhaps confident that the Redskins' offense would not be able to overcome a two-possession deficit.

The Redskins trailed 14-7 at halftime after another poor offensive showing. Johnson completed just 12 of 21 passes for 95 yards and was booed several times by spectators. The unit as a whole picked up just 133 yards. Davis, who had 14 yards in the second half at Detroit, had just 27 yards on 10 attempts.

The Redskins' offense was booed hard on its final drive of the half. After a pass interference penalty against Kareem Larrimore, while defending a hitch-and-go pattern by Champ Bailey, gave the Redskins their ninth first down, Mark Fischer snapped the ball over the head of Johnson. Johnson then underthrew Murrell on second-and-28, and Larry Centers took an inside handoff on third down.

Marco Coleman sacked Cunningham on third-and-15 to end the Cowboys' last real drive of the half. Coleman worked underneath and hit Cunningham low, raising his sack total to a team-leading 4 and 1/2, while Bruce Smith applied pressure from behind. LaVar Arrington nearly blocked the Micah Knorr punt that followed.

The boos started pelting Johnson with six minutes left in the first half, when he threw a third-and-9 attempt to Thrash high and wide. On the previous play, Johnson dumped a short completion to Centers, who had been in motion on a four-wide set. Centers picked up four yards and was tackled by three Cowboys.

A 3-yard run by Smith put the Cowboys up 14-7 with 10:45 left in the first half. McKnight threw the key block on the fourth-and-a-foot play, diving into Carrier, who was the only Redskins defender with a shot to stop Smith. The run capped an eight-play, 50-yard drive set up by a fumble by Johnson.

Johnson's fumble came on the first play of the second quarter. Leon Lett stripped Johnson from behind as Johnson searched for a deep receiver. Greg Ellis recovered the fumble. Bailey, incidentally, was lined up in the slot on the play.

The Cowboys' offense struggled early but struck quickly on its third possession. Warren torched Shade on a fly route up the left sideline, and was wide-open when Cunningham hit him for a 76-yard touchdown. The score, with 2:32 left in the first quarter, tied the game 7-7.

Shade got turned around when Warren faked to the inside part of the field. Warren instead streaked straight up the sideline, and was 10 yards clear of Shade by the time Cunningham's pass reached him.

Davis put the Redskins up 7-0 midway through the first quarter with a 7-yard touchdown run. A 54-yard punt return by Bailey, on a handoff from Sanders, set up the six-play, 33-yard drive. Davis' scoring run came on fourth-and-a-foot, with Mike Sellers throwing a strong lead block against Darren Hambrick.

Bailey got a nice block from Thrash on the surprise punt return. Sanders started it by running toward the left sideline, then handing off to Bailey, one of the wing players on the punt return unit. Bailey surged up the right sideline, got past the punter Knorr and finally was brought down from behind by Hambrick.

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