- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

What more could a football fan ask than the Redskins against the Cowboys on a cold November night with something at stake besides the pride of victory in “America’s Rivalry?”

Although neither Washington nor Dallas figures to catch the NFC East-leading New York Giants (9-1), each is very much alive in the jumbled conference playoff chase.

The big news for the Redskins was that Clinton Portis, the NFC’s No. 2 rusher through nine games, was able to start despite missing practice all week with a sprained left knee. Of course, the Cowboys had their own emotional lift from the return of Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo, who had missed three games with a broken right pinkie.

After winning just one game in the biannual battles from 1998 to 2004, Washington has won five of the last eight meetings despite Sunday night’s defeat at FedEx Field.

Q: How did Portis look?

A: What, you didn’t watch the game? Portis came out with fresh legs, gaining 5 (to go over 1,000 for the season) and 8 yards on his first two carries and then 9 yards on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 11. Portis slowed after that, but he had sent a message to the Cowboys. Portis also got right up after being slammed by Keith Davis in the third quarter.

Q: How about Romo?

A: Jessica Simpson’s main squeeze looked like his usual excellent self except for the early pick he threw behind Terrell Owens. Romo’s other interception was a heads-up play by Washington’s Carlos Rogers, but his late touchdown to rookie tight end Martellus Bennett was a terrific throw and gave him 198 yards on 19-for-27 passing.

Q: How did DeAngelo Hall do in his first game in place of the still-ailing Shawn Springs?

A: If Springs passed the torch as the team’s No. 1 cornerback last month to Carlos Rogers, he might have passed his job in 2009 to Hall on Sunday night. The two-time Pro Bowl pick with Atlanta covered Owens, who once spit on Hall, most of the game and stopped Dallas’ first scoring threat with an interception at the Washington 18-yard line.

Q: Mike Sellers was huge on the first touchdown drive. What took Jim Zorn so long to give the big man the ball?

A: Good question. Sellers came into the game with just three touches, but the burly fullback’s 13-yard catch put the Redskins on the Dallas 11, and then he finished the drive with a 2-yard scoring catch. Zorn, while saying Sellers was basically a blocker in this offense, also had said his time would come at some point. That was early Sunday night.

Q: What was the scoop with all the short passes? It looked like Zorn was channeling Joe Gibbs circa 2004 with Jason Campbell in the part of Mark Brunell.

A: It seemed Zorn decided the way to combat Dallas’ persistent pass rush was short, quick throws. For the most part, the strategy didn’t work. Campbell did pick up big yards on dumpoffs to Chris Cooley and Ladell Betts on the first drive of the third quarter, but Terence Newman ended that series by picking off a pass in the right flat to Cowboys killer Santana Moss at the Washington 33.

Q: Did the 50,000 towels the Redskins passed out to the fans have an effect?

A: The move by owner Dan Snyder, in the wake of the embarrassment of the Pittsburgh fans waving their own towels last time out in Landover, at least contributed to the Cowboys burning a timeout on their first series. In contrast to the Steelers’ game 13 days earlier, this crowd seemed much more dominated by those clad in burgundy and gold.

Q: How’s Marcus Washington?

A: The Redskins’ only Pro Bowl player in 2004 and perhaps still their best defensive player in 2005 has been increasingly hampered by injuries the last couple of years. He started camp in 2007 with a bad hip, then hurt an elbow and missed three games with a hamstring. He missed two games this year with a bad hamstring again, came into Sunday’s game with a sprained shoulder and was carted off with a sprained ankle. While X-rays were negative, Washington could be nearing the end of his tenure with the Redskins.

Q: What happens this week in Zorn’s return to Seattle, where he’s still a hero from his days as the Seahawks’ first quarterback?

A: If the Redskins can’t beat the 2-8 Seahawks, they don’t deserve to go to the playoffs. Contenders don’t lose to St. Louis and Seattle.

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