- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs yesterday expressed displeasure with a pair of officiating calls in Washington’s 21-18 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, and the NFL responded by conceding its crew made two mistakes.

A club source said league officials reviewed the two plays in question — a pass interference call on Redskins cornerback Walt Harris in the first quarter, and a no-call on a deep pass to Rod Gardner in the fourth quarter. The league conceded error in both cases.

“I won’t go into it because I’ll get myself fined, but there were two awful calls, and both of them went against us,” Gibbs said. “You couldn’t get anything farther from what should have been called in both cases. Both of them were touchdowns, both of them were against us. … You realize in close games you need to have those things called correctly.”

Both plays proved crucial. First Harris was flagged for pass interference on a third-and-8 pass from Vinny Testaverde to Terry Glenn. Replays appeared to show Glenn initiating contact with Harris in the end zone, but officials called the penalty on the defender and placed the ball at the 1. Eddie George scored a touchdown on the next play to give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.

“I didn’t think it was going to be a call at all,” Harris said. “But I turned around, saw the flag and I was surprised. I wanted to see what it was about. They didn’t give me any explanation at all. It’s kind of amazing — the league is getting so sensitive to any kind of touching at all. I just don’t think it’s being called consistently on both sides of the ball.”

The Redskins certainly didn’t believe so, and they point to the second of the two controversial plays as proof.

Trailing 21-10 early in the fourth quarter, Washington quarterback Mark Brunell tried to throw deep to Gardner in the end zone. Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman defended the play, but Gardner immediately began jumping up and down when no flag was thrown for pass interference.

The Redskins punted later in the drive and didn’t get the ball back until there were less than five minutes to play.

According to Gibbs, Newman grabbed Gardner’s arm and “holds him down before the ball gets there. That’s what happened. That’s what’s on film.”

Clock mismanagement

Gibbs accepted plenty of blame for some other costly mistakes in Monday night’s loss, most notably the Redskins’ burning of all of their second-half timeouts.

Brunell twice was forced to call timeout in the third quarter with the play clock about to expire. In both instances, the Redskins were having trouble getting their appropriate personnel lined up properly.

“I need to simplify some things we’re doing there package-wise,” Gibbs said. “I think we’re trying to do too much, and I’ve got to simplify that. We shouldn’t get caught in those situations like we did.”

Washington lost its final timeout when, with 13 minutes to play, Gibbs challenged Glenn’s 26-yard touchdown catch in the back of the end zone and failed to get the play reversed.

Gibbs said team replay adviser Larry Hill informed him that while the play was challengeable, he could not find a good replay on television monitors. The coach went ahead and challenged the play anyway.

“If it was close, I wanted to at least take our shot,” Gibbs said. “Where the game was right there, I felt like I needed to do it. So that one goes to me — that was my mistake.”

LaVar: First-time caller

Listeners to WTEM-AM’s postgame show Monday night might have been stunned to hear a familiar voice call in: Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington.

Arrington, who did not play after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery earlier in the week, was listening to irate callers on his way home from FedEx Field and decided to offer upset fans his own opinion.

“You’re jumping ship in Week 3. Why? This team is going to be good,” Arrington said yesterday. “I understand you’re upset that we lost to Dallas. We’re upset too. But we lost a game. We didn’t get our hats handed to us.”

Arrington is likely to have a fan’s perspective on Sunday’s game at Cleveland as well. He said it would take a “miracle” to get him back on the field this week but added that he hasn’t ruled out playing Oct. 10 against Baltimore.

Extra points

Kick returner Chad Morton, who suffered both a concussion and a sprained left knee in Monday’s game, was limping considerably around Redskin Park yesterday. Morton, though, said his status is day-to-day, and Gibbs said neither injury is serious. …

Safety Matt Bowen pulled a groin muscle chasing down Testaverde in the second quarter and sat out the second half. He also termed his status “day-to-day.” …

Wide receiver Laveranues Coles dislocated his middle finger trying to catch a pass in the first quarter but never told trainers he was hurt and kept playing. “One of our coaches saw it,” Gibbs said. “He takes off his glove, pulls his dislocated finger out, puts it in place, puts the glove back on, and never said a word. He goes back in there and plays his heart out.”

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