- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 16, 2001

IRVING, Texas — Are you ready for some bad football? OK, here goes:
First series of the game. Third and inches for the Cowboys at midfield. The call: An end-around to Troy Hambrick for … a whopping 2-yard gain.
Exhibit B: First offensive play for the Redskins at their 8-yard line. Tony Banks takes the snap and … wait a minute, Banks doesn't take the snap. The ball hits the ground, and Banks is fortunate to make the recovery and avoid what would have been a huge, huge turnover.
More: A Bryan Barker punt has pushed Dallas back to its 23 and given the Redskins a chance to reverse the field position. So what happens? LaVar Arrington draws a facemask penalty, Antonio Pierce gets caught holding and Arrington is flagged for piling on to help the Cowboys move into Washington territory.
But my favorite at least in the first half, when I was still paying attention is this one: First down for the Redskins at their 31. Banks flips an 8-yard completion to Donnell Bennett on a swing pass, but Dallas tackle Brandon Noble is detected offside on the play. What's a coach to do? Marty Schottenheimer, bucking tradition, decides to decline the penalty and take the extra nine feet (which tells you all you need to know about the Washington offense). The Redskins fail to get the first down and have to punt.
I could go on, but you get the point. Last night's episode of "The Untouch(down)ables" was everything it was supposed to be and more. It took nearly two full quarters for one of the teams to score, and by then, well, how many people even cared?
There have probably been worse Monday night games, but I can't remember any. (And for that I'm grateful.) You had two 0-4 teams. You had a half-full stadium. You had virtually no historically significant players on either side except for Emmitt Smith, whose best 15,000 yards are behind him. And to think this was the NFL's marquee rivalry not so long ago.
The Redskins came to Dallas hoping to "build" on last week's 23-9 defeat at Giants Stadium their high point of the year so far. (That's what they've been reduced to in this Season From Hell, "building" on two-touchdown defeats.) But they did nothing of the sort, of course. Instead, they sank even lower, falling to 0-5 with an abysmal 9-7 loss to the Cowboys.
A brief synopsis: The Redskins didn't get their first first down until the last play of the first quarter, and the closest they came to scoring in the first 47 minutes was on a 44-yard missed field goal try by Brett Conway. Their offense, which would have trouble moving the ball on Montgomery College to begin with, was rendered even more impotent when Stephen Alexander went out with a sprained ankle.
A little later on, the Washington defense, about the only thing separating the Redskins from Arena ball, lost Fred Smoot to a sprained knee. How long he'll be inoperative is anyone's guess.
(There was some good news, though: This was undoubtedly the last time either club will appear on Monday Night Football for, oh, the rest of the millennium.)
This game was so bad, it was funny. Every time somebody picked up decent yardage, it seemed, the play was nullified by a penalty. For a while it looked like the turning point of the game would be, of all things, Dallas coach Dave Campo's decision to attempt a 52-yard field goal late in the third quarter with a 3-0 lead instead trying to pin the Redskins inside their 20 with a punt. Tim Seder's kick was short, and Washington, given new life and great field position at its 42, proceeded to drive to its second TD of the season (long lost Michael Westbrook doing the honors with a twisting, leaping 31-yard catch).
But just when the Redskins seemed to have the Big W locked up, Stephen Davis, their most reliable offensive weapon, fumbled at the Dallas 33 with 2:40 left. And the Cowboys, naturally, went the length of the field rather easily, in fact to boot the game-winning 26-yard field goal.
Good teams make their own breaks, and bad teams drown in their own mistakes. Such was the case again last night for Marty Schottenheimer's club. Five games into the season, the Redskins still haven't figured out how to win even against an opponent that's similarly afflicted. Can it get any worse?

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