- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2004

IRVING, Texas — Washington Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot sprained his back while making a tackle in the third quarter of yesterday’s 13-10 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Smoot began vomiting on the sideline and was taken to a local hospital for tests. The Redskins returned to Washington last night, but Smoot was expected to remain behind with a member of the team’s medical staff.

The hospitalization brought a horrible end to a discouraging day for Smoot, who last week was voted a second alternate to the Pro Bowl.

Smoot was beaten on all four passes thrown his way and also was called for two penalties, one for grabbing a facemask as he tackled receiver Keyshawn Johnson on the play on which he was injured.

Smoot had similar misfortune last season at Texas Stadium. Hampered in that game by a bruised sternum, Smoot had difficulty breathing and vomited on the sideline.

The Redskins had only Shawn Springs and Walt Harris at cornerback on the Cowboys’ winning drive yesterday because of the injury to Smoot, a sprained ankle suffered by Ade Jimoh and the placement of backup Garnell Wilds on the inactive list.

Portis sidelined

Running back Clinton Portis is at best a longshot for the record books after he sprained his chest and shoulder area and rushed for just 32 yards against the Cowboys.

Portis is attempting to become the first back in NFL history to rush for at least 1,500 yards in each of his first three seasons. He has 1,315 yards this season, and his status is not certain for Sunday’s finale against the Minnesota Vikings.

An X-ray and MRI will be taken today to determine the severity of Portis’ injury. The sprain officially occurred at the “SC joint,” approximately where the chest and shoulder meet.

Portis was injured on a 3-yard run on Washington’s opening drive. He continued to play until the third quarter, when increasing pain forced him to give way to backup Ladell Betts.

“I tried,” Portis said. “It was bad. I just hoped that some miracle would happen.”

The Redskins acquired Portis last spring in a blockbuster trade for cornerback Champ Bailey. Portis’ eight-year, $50.5 million contract makes him one of the top-paid running backs in the game, but his first year with Washington has been erratic. Getting the record would have punctuated a season in which some observers questioned the wisdom of the trade.

“It would mean a lot, but it ain’t the end of the world,” Portis said. “Records are meant to be broken. If I don’t do it, somebody’s going to do it. But I think I had a golden opportunity. It just wasn’t meant for me.”

No. 2 defense wilts

The Redskins’ second-ranked defense blew a chance to move closer to the league’s No. 1 ranking after yesterday’s game-losing drive and nearly plummeted to No. 3.

Washington entered the game needing to hold the Cowboys to 212 total yards to catch the Steelers’ top-ranked unit. Midway through the fourth quarter, the Redskins were nearly there, sitting at 231 with the game just about over.

But Dallas’ stunning 75-yard march in the game’s waning moments quashed those hopes and left Washington with only a 5-yard lead on third-place Buffalo, which held the 49ers to 189 yards in a 41-7 thumping.

“If you go out there and you’re the No. 2 defense, you’ve got to stop them,” said defensive tackle Brandon Noble of his squad’s late collapse.

The Redskins still have an outside shot at surpassing the Steelers in the season’s final week. Washington now trails Pittsburgh by 94 yards, but the Steelers close the regular-season having already sealed home-field advantage in the AFC and facing the red-hot Bills offense.

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs went easy on his defense.

“Our defense has been so good all year,” Gibbs said. “I wouldn’t second-guess anything they do.”

LaVar limited

Linebacker LaVar Arrington had his activity severely curtailed a week after getting about two dozen snaps at San Francisco.

Although Arrington didn’t complain during the week about pain in his surgically repaired knee, he said after the Cowboys game that it hadn’t been easy to get through practice. His role at Dallas, limited to snaps as a defensive end on third down, reflected that.

“My leg just didn’t feel as good as it did last week,” Arrington said. “It was a struggle during the week of practice. It was a struggle today. It is what it is.”

Arrington was unsure if he will play Sunday against the Vikings. The injury, initially a torn meniscus in his right knee but later a bone bruise, as well, sidelined him for 11 games. He returned to play against the 49ers and saw fairly extensive time, including some snaps at linebacker in the base package.

Still in the red

The Redskins’ red-zone troubles continued to haunt them through much of yesterday’s game. Washington drove inside the Dallas 20 on each of its first two possessions, only to walk away with a total of three points.

H-back Brian Kozlowski killed the game’s opening drive when he dropped Patrick Ramsey’s pass in the end zone and deflected it right into safety Lynn Scott’s hands for an interception.

Minutes later, Ramsey threw back-to-back incomplete passes from the Dallas 7, forcing the Redskins to settle for a 25-yard field goal from Jeff Chandler.

This, of course, wasn’t a new problem for Washington, which failed to score touchdowns on three straight red-zone trips last week in San Francisco. The Redskins entered the game ranked 20th in the NFL in red-zone scoring and were facing a Cowboys team that ranked 30th in red-zone defense.

Not so many happy returns

Antonio Brown managed just 8 yards on three punt returns in his Redskins debut last week, but yesterday he scooted 39 yards on his first attempt.

Brown was knocked out of bounds by punter Mat McBriar at the Dallas 23, setting up a 25-yard field goal by Jeff Chandler that made the score 3-0 with 3:01 left in the first quarter.

“It was a middle return and I tried to break it outside like I always do,” said Brown, whom Washington signed on Nov. 3 to replace the injured Chad Morton.

However, Brown also fumbled at the Washington 38 with the Redskins clinging to a 10-6 lead. The Cowboys didn’t convert the fumble — caused by Keith Davis and recovered by Keith O’Neil — into points, but the gaffe gave Dallas enough time to score the winning touchdown when it got the ball again with 1:25 remaining.

“I’ve got to protect the ball, but they made a heck of a play,” Brown said. “They get paid, too.”

Inactives

The Redskins’ inactives were cornerback Garnell Wilds, offensive lineman Jim Molinaro, defensive tackle Ryan Boschetti, offensive lineman Vaughn Parker, wide receiver Darnerien McCants, tight end Dan Goodspeed and defensive tackle Cedric Killings.

Tim Hasselbeck was the third quarterback.

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