Considering the way the Washington Redskins have played in the first half of games this season, it was fitting that Jason Campbell threw an interception on their first drive Sunday night at FedEx Field.
That set Dallas up for its first score, a 4-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Roy Williams, and the Cowboys never trailed.
Slow starts have plagued the Redskins all year. When the Cowboys took a 14-0 lead into halftime Sunday night, it gave Washington's opponents a 201-101 advantage in the first half this season. In all, the Redskins have trailed at halftime 10 times this season.
After Campbell's interception, it didn't get much better for the Redskins. Their running game was practically nonexistent, averaging a meager 2.2 yards a carry in the first half and 2.4 for the game.
With their deficit quickly mounting, the Redskins were forced to lean on the passing game in an attempt to catch up. But that was just an invitation for the Cowboys' pass rushers to take shot after shot at Campbell, who again had minimal protection from his patchwork offensive line.
"Physically, this is the most I've been hit in a year," Campbell said. "But at the same time, a lot of guys have gone through a tough year this year. We fought the injury bug as hard as we could for a 5 1/2-week period, but things catch up with you at the end."
As recently as two weeks ago, it appeared the Redskins' offense had achieved some semblance of competency after scoring a combined 88 points against Denver, New Orleans and Oakland. But the unit has slowed considerably in back-to-back humbling losses to NFC East foes.
"Sometimes it's just communication, making sure we're [blocking] the right guy," Campbell said. "It's not always the offensive line, either. Our backs also have to communicate, and if it gets loud and there's a guy that hasn't been in there a whole lot, one missed communication can throw off the whole protection."
The Redskins managed just 97 yards in the first half against Dallas on Sunday. That was an improvement on their output against New York last week, when the Giants limited Washington to 78 yards in the first two quarters.
To make matters worse, the Redskins' defense did little to stop the Giants and Cowboys from jumping out to early leads. Eli Manning completed six passes of 10 yards or more last week as the Giants racked up 24 first-half points, including a 45-yard hookup with rookie Hakeem Nicks.
The Redskins' defense again had trouble getting off the field Sunday: The Cowboys converted four of their six third downs in the first half, including a third-and-9 in the first quarter to set up their first touchdown.
And then in the second quarter, Dallas struck with a big play the Redskins have been prone to allow this season when Tony Romo connected with Jason Witten on a 69-yard catch-and-run down to the Washington 3-yard line. Witten got a step on LaRon Landry, who again was exposed in coverage on the long gain, and the big-hitting safety was unable to catch up to the 6-foot-5, 263-pound tight end as he rumbled down the left sideline.
Marion Barber punched it in on the next play to give Dallas a two-score lead.
"Romo finds a way to make his guys move and just find open guys on his scramble," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "When you got him, you gotta get him down. He keeps plays alive."
The Redskins were unable to awake from their slumber in the second half. Their eight consecutive punts were a season high, and they were only able to avoid a season low in yardage with a meaningless 51-yard drive late in the fourth quarter.
"For our offense to play this way in a game that a win means so much to our fans, to our franchise, to lay an egg is disappointing," center Casey Rabach said.