- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 16, 2008

Twice in the first half of the season, the Washington Redskins showed an impressive ability to shrug off a defeat, be it an opening-week setback at the New York Giants or a mid-October clunker against the previously winless St. Louis Rams.

This week, Jim Zorn’s crisis-management skills will be on full display.

Continuing to show an inability to finish drives and cash in on the rare takeaway, the Redskins wasted two first-half interceptions and a gutty performance by Clinton Portis, falling to the Dallas Cowboys 14-10 on Sunday night.

Now 0-3 in prime time games this season, the Redskins (6-4) lost sole possession of second place in the NFC East and sit just one game away from being shoved out of the playoff picture.

Dallas (6-4) scored the winning touchdown with 10:36 remaining when quarterback Tony Romo - back after missing three games with a broken pinkie - tossed a 25-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Martellus Bennett.

The Redskins marched to the Dallas 37 on the next drive before losing possession on downs with 6:36 left.

They never got the ball back.

Dallas in general and Marion Barber in particular burned out the remaining time, sealing the win with a fourth-down conversion with 1:02 left.

Barber carried 24 times for 114 yards as the Cowboys improved to 4-0 when he rushes at least 20 times. Romo finished the evening 19-for-27 passing for 198 yards.

Portis rushed 15 times for 68 yards and Jason Campbell completed 22 of 34 passes for 162 yards. But the Redskins failed to score after interceptions by newcomer DeAngelo Hall and Rocky McIntosh. And Shaun Suisham fell short on a 46-yard field goal in the third quarter.

Still, Washington entered the fourth quarter with a 10-7 lead.

Dallas’ first fourth-quarter possession gave the Cowboys its first lead. Barber caught a 7-yard pass and then ran for gains of 10, 9, 3 and 3 yards. Two plays later, following a Jason Witten drop, Romo shoveled a pass to Miles Austin for an 8-yard gain. On the next play, Bennett got behind Redskins safety Chris Horton.

The game’s intrigue started three hours before kickoff.

In a surprise, considering he didn’t practice all week because of left knee and right leg injuries, Portis worked out for coaches and trainers at 5:15 p.m. and was declared active less than two hours later.

Portis’ first carry, a 5-yard gain, moved him to 1,000 for the season - the fastest (10 games) and the sixth time in his seven-year career he’s reached the plateau.

Portis’ presence on the opening drive took a backseat to Mike Sellers’ emergence. On a third-and-14 from the Cowboys 24-yard line, Campbell threw to Sellers on the right side. Sellers bull-dozed his way to a 13-yard gain, allowing Jim Zorn to go for it on fourth-and-1. Portis gained 9 yards to keep the possession alive and on the next play, Campbell connected for Sellers for the 2-yard score.

“We had the momentum and I felt like Clinton was fresh and was running hard,” Zorn said at halftime of the fourth-down decision.

Sellers entered the game with one carry and two receptions in nine games. The Redskins’ offense had been similarly dormant in the first half recently. The touchdown broke a 0-for-25 streak of failing to get to the end zone in the first half.

The Redskins squandered opportunities to extend the lead throughout the first half. Dallas’ second possession ended at the Redskins 20 when Hall - making his Washington debut - intercepted Romo, whose pass was behind intended receiver Terrell Owens.

The Redskins couldn’t cash in on Hall’s turnover, going three-and-out.

In the second quarter, Carlos Rogers’ hit on Owens as he was collecting Romo’s pass was intercepted by McIntosh at the Redskins’ 16. It was McIntosh’s first career interception and represented the Redskins’ first multi-takeaway game since Week 3.

Again, though, the Redskins came up empty. A 22-yard run by Campbell - highlighted by him running over Cowboys safety Patrick Watkins - gave the Redskins a first down at the Dallas 40.

But a five-yard penalty (12 men in the huddle) and DeMarcus Ware (loss of 10 yards) knocked the Redskins out of field goal range.

Dallas tied the game on the ensuing possession, a 7-play,80-yard march capped by Barber’s 2-yard touchdown run 61 seconds before halftime. Looking exactly like a quarterback who hadn’t played in a month, Romo shook off some of his rust to go 5 of 5 for 74 yards on the drive, including gains of 28 yards to Witten and 25 yards to Owens.

The Redskins finally took advantage of a big play when Rock Cartwright returned the kickoff 58 yards to the Cowboys 37. Four plays later, Suisham hit from 41 yards to make it 10-7 Redskins at halftime.

“That’s our special teams right there - we just need more of that,” Zorn said at halftime.

The Redskins got the ball first in the third quarter and worked into Dallas territory on a 20-yard dump off pass to Betts on third-and-11. Three plays later, from the Cowboys 35, Campbell’s third-and-2 pass intended for Moss was intercepted by Terence Newman at the 33.

Two penalties derailed Dallas’ possession and the Cowboys punted.

The Redskins continued to help Dallas by not converting on field position. The drive started with a 24-yard pass to Antwaan Randle El and a 20-yard run by Portis. But from the Cowboys’ 17-yard line, the next four plays were utter disaster: Campbell threw away under pressure, Moss lost 3 yards when Ware deflected Campbell pass, Campbell was sacked when Jay Ratliff beat Randy Thomas for an 8-yard sack and Suisham’s 46-yard field was short.

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