Max-blitz call costs Redskins the game when Bryant frees himself from Hall’s coverage

On third-and-21, Cowboys complete the near-improbable

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ARLINGTON, Texas — DeAngelo Hall never saw the all-out blitz that came after Tony Romo. He didn’t see the Dallas quarterback race to his right to stay just out of the reach of Redskins linebacker London Fletcher, nor did he see Romo loft the ball toward the middle of the field.

All Hall saw was the agonizing finish — Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant breaking off his go route toward the open middle of the field and Romo’s pass landing softly in his hands, a play that turned an uplifting road victory into a most galling defeat.

The 30-yard gain — combined with a disputed facemask call — in a seemingly impossible third-and-21 situation put the Cowboys at the Washington 25 with a little more than two minutes left in a 1-point game. Four plays later, Dan Bailey banged through his sixth field goal of the game, this one the winner, leaving Hall fuming at everything from the play call to the referee’s call.

“I haven’t seen it,” Hall said of the Redskins’ futile pass rush on the key play. “I was too busy trying to cover my man. I didn’t do it — obviously — but that’s what I was trying to do.

“It’s tough when you feel like you should only be able to cover for a couple seconds and you end up covering, it seems, for a lifetime.”

That was a result of the defense called. A max blitz, with eight men rushing and the other three in man-to-man coverage with no safety to help in the middle of the field — zero coverage — a huge gamble in long yardage.

The idea was to get to Romo quickly, either to get the sack or to make him get rid of the ball before his receivers could get deep enough for the first down. The Redskins had run the play before during the game and had forced poor throws. With more rushers than blockers, they figured they could do it again.

But seeing the blitz coming, the Cowboys kept seven men in to protect. And as the offensive line angled to the left side, drawing the rush in that direction, Romo slid to the right, with running back Tashard Choice and tight end John Phillips providing cover in that direction. By the time Fletcher broke into the clear and put Romo in his crosshairs, the ball was on its way.

“We thought we could pressure him,” Fletcher said. “With everybody coming, we’d have one more man than they had to block. But because of the way they blocked it, by the time I got free, it was just one second too late.”

And that was all it took. Hall, left alone with Bryant, had him covered to the outside, where the pattern was supposed to go. But realizing there was no safety, Bryant improvised and found the open spot at the same time Romo did.

“I could see the angle he was taking,” Romo said. “I could see where the corner was. I just gave him a little air and let him go run under it.”

And all Hall could do was watch and chase, a predicament caused, he hinted, by an unnecessarily risky call when the Redskins could afford to give up a few yards — but not a big play.

“All I saw was me and my man in zero [coverage],” Hall said. “He ran a little nine route. I thought I had that pretty well covered. Then he just kind of backyard-routed my [butt] and ran away from me.

“I don’t know who called it,” he said of the play. “But we’ve got to play what’s called, and we damn sure tried.”

But that wasn’t enough.

“We got bit this time, I guess,” defensive end Brian Orakpo said. “We got caught this time. … This one hurts. I’m not going to lie to you. This hurts. Because we know we had the game at the end. They made a huge play. It’s very disappointing.”

No one was more disappointed than Hall, who had battled Bryant all night. Before that play, the cornerback had had a good night, holding Bryant to three catches for 33 yards.

Then one huge play turned Hall’s good night into a nightmare.

“[Bryant] made a couple good catches,” Hall said, looking down. “They really didn’t target him that much, so it’s hard to take a lot from that.

“But I guess he caught it when he needed to. Third-and-21.”

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