- The Washington Times - Monday, November 3, 2003

IRVING, Texas — After spending the last two weeks licking their wounds, venting their frustrations, denying rumors, making adjustments and refocusing their attention on football, the Washington Redskins today are no better off than they were before their tumultuous bye week.

The opponent might have been different, the setting might have been different and the date might have been different, but the result was all too familiar. A 21-14 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Washington’s fourth straight defeat, featured the same problem areas as past games and was met with the same dejection from players and coaches.

“We’ve got to find out what the problem is, because right now we stink,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “As a team, we just stink right now. We’ve got too much talent to be this bad.”

All the talent in the world can’t mask the Redskins’ current 3-5 record, nor can it hide the mounting sense inside the locker room that all hope of a successful 2003 season is fading into oblivion.

“This is frustrating on so many levels,” tackle Jon Jansen said. “I’m more frustrated now than I’ve ever been in my football career.”

Steve Spurrier, who kick-started the bye week of doom by questioning his players’ efforts in their Oct.26 loss at Buffalo, sounded like a man out of answers after losing for the eighth time in nine games against NFC East opponents.

“I’m not going to get on my players anymore this season,” Spurrier said. “We are what we are, and right now we’re struggling.”

The Redskins struggled in every facet of the game yesterday, offering up another stagnant offensive performance while allowing the Cowboys to overcome early miscues and march right down their throats in the decisive second half.

The final numbers weren’t pretty. Washington was outgained 400-213 and 208-89 on the ground. Quarterback Patrick Ramsey had minus-11 net passing yards in the first half, was sacked four times and briefly knocked out of his third straight game.

The Redskins committed eight penalties (including two costly personal fouls on the same second-quarter drive), were 1-for-11 on third downs, converted four first-half turnovers by Dallas into only six points and … well, the list goes on and on.

Perhaps most disheartening was the fact that two weeks of preparation and re-evaluation did nothing to resurrect Washington’s disintegrating season.

“We thought we had a good, solid game plan,” Spurrier said. “We thought we were ready to play well.”

From the start, it was obvious they weren’t.

The Redskins couldn’t have asked for a more fortuitous start to a game — three Cowboys turnovers on their first six plays from scrimmage. Somehow, Washington still managed to nearly squander it all, coming away with a paltry six points off the miscues.

Matt Bowen picked off Quincy Carter on the second play of the game, but the Redskins proceeded to go three-and-out. LaVar Arrington recovered a Troy Hambrick fumble on Dallas’ next play, but again the Redskins were forced to punt without ever picking up a first down.

Washington finally made good on the Cowboys’ third turnover of the first quarter — an interception by Ifeanyi Ohalete that bounced off receiver Terry Glenn’s legs. Ohalete ran it back to the Dallas 6, all but assuring the Redskins of a score.

They made good two plays later, with Laveranues Coles tiptoeing nicely inside the sideline on a 7-yard fade pass from Ramsey. Coles’ second touchdown of the season gave Washington a 6-0 lead, but no more — John Hall’s extra point attempt was blocked by Flozell Adams.

Dallas committed one more turnover, on another Hambrick fumble in the second quarter; the Redskins handed the ball right back.

“We had more opportunities today than I’ve ever had in a game,” Jansen said. “You have to take advantage of them when you’re on the road.”

After their ugly opening, the Cowboys (6-2) finally regained their composure, just as Washington started to lose its.

Dallas marched 75 yards on 11 plays during a second-quarter scoring drive, but don’t be fooled by the numbers. Washington committed two personal fouls during the drive, all but giving the Cowboys the touchdown. The latter of the two, called on linebacker Antonio Pierce for “jamming the signal” as Dallas attempted a 22-yard field goal, turned fourth-and-goal into first-and-goal. Hambrick scored from the 2 shortly after, putting the Cowboys up 7-6.

The second half was a one-sided affair. In classic Bill Parcells fashion, the veteran coach asked his players to pound the opposition into submission, and they responded with brute force. Behind Hambrick (21 carries for 100 yards), Dallas produced a pair of touchdown drives — 10 and 14 plays respectively — to make it 21-6 early in the fourth quarter.

“The first part of the game was a complete nightmare,” Parcells said. “We made enough mistakes for two or three games — penalties, fumbles, dropped balls. But we hung in there. We were in a benevolent mode.”

Unlike the Buffalo loss two weeks ago, Washington didn’t completely submit. Ramsey came back from a dislocated left pinkie and a bruised left forearm to engineer a late scoring drive, capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass to Taylor Jacobs — the rookie’s first career score.

Needing one last defensive stop, the Redskins never got the ball back. As the clocked ticked down, they slunk off the field with the weight of their fourth straight loss — and a collapsing season — on their shoulders.

“We are not going to toss in the towel just yet,” Spurrier said. “Certainly, we’re behind the 8-ball.”

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