- The Washington Times - Monday, November 17, 2008

It takes a village to win a game like the one Sunday night between the Redskins and Cowboys. Or rather, it takes every player at your disposal - not to mention every play in your playbook.

It takes Mike Sellers - long-lost Mike Sellers - catching two huge passes in the opening drive, the second for a touchdown, to stake the home team to a 7-0 lead. (As many receptions as he had had in the first 10 weeks.)

It takes DeAngelo Hall, who has barely unpacked his suitcase from Oakland, intercepting Tony Romo to stop Dallas’ first drive.

It takes Rocky McIntosh getting the first pick of his NFL career - thanks to a withering hit by Carlos Rogers on Terrell Owens that sent the ball flying - and halting another Cowboys march.

It takes Rock Cartwright returning a kickoff 57 yards in the last minute of the first half to set up a field goal that put the Redskins up 10-7.

None of those guys, you’ll notice, is named Portis, Campbell, Moss, Cooley, Fletcher, Griffin or Landry, to name the club’s most recognizable faces. But that’s what you have to have at this point of the season, when the games become increasingly meaningful and teams are playing for their playoff lives. You need everybody, right down the 45th man on the active roster, doing his part.

The Redskins had that in the rematch with the Cowboys at FedEx Field, and still it wasn’t enough, still they couldn’t avoid a second straight home loss - 14-10 to the hated Cowboys. Offensive opportunities were frittered away, and ultimately Washington fell victim to an unsung member of Dallas’ supporting cast, rookie tight end Martellus Bennett, who used his 6-foot-6 frame to outreach Chris Horton for the winning touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.

It figured to be a game like that, what with both clubs struggling coming in and the Cowboys, in particular, working Romo back into the mix after a three-game absence. It figured to be a game won by an unlikely hero … or two … or five. Owens wasn’t going to score four touchdowns like he did last season at Texas Stadium. Portis, less than 100 percent because of a sprained knee, wasn’t going to have one of his big days. The outcome was going to be decided by Other Things, by the Sellers/Hall/McIntosh/Cartwright types - which is how it turned out.

Make no mistake, though, Jason Campbell and Co. are in the midst of a genuine crisis. They managed to put the ball in the end zone in the first half Sunday night, a rarity lately, but it took some unconventional playcalling (e.g., the passes to the seldom-used Sellers). And after that, well, they had trouble protecting their quarterback in Dallas territory and managed just a couple of field goal tries, only one of them successful, the rest of the way.

“We had some people open down the field,” Jim Zorn said, “but we couldn’t get the ball off. On one play early, we had Devin Thomas open for a touchdown, but Jason checked off to Chris Cooley in the flat, and he wound up getting the first down. Wait until he sees it on the film [Monday]. He’ll be sick. He just didn’t have the pass protection to get it off [to Thomas].”

The offense’s disappointing performance followed games in recent weeks in which it had been held to 17, 14 and six points. The Redskins are playing playoff defense, no question, but their ‘O’ has left the building. And there’s no telling, really, when or if it will return. This is no longer a slump, folks. This is now a Major Issue.

Once again, Campbell wasn’t nearly as crisp as he was early in the season - and certainly not as effective as in the 26-24 win at Dallas in Week 4. Part of it is the pressure defenses have been putting on him, and part of it is … what? Opponents getting a better feel for how Zorn, a first-year coach, calls a game? Jason going through one of those dips every QB goes through, especially young ones? The offensive line, filled with 30-somethings, wearing down? Portis (knee) and Santana Moss (hamstring) being less than fully operational?

The Redskins, let’s not forget, had two weeks to prepare for Dallas - and their best-laid plans could produce just 228 yards, barely more than they gained against in their previous outing against the Steelers (218).

Whatever ails them, there isn’t much time left to sort it out. At 6-4, the Redskins aren’t in desperate circumstances - yet - but they probably can’t afford to lose another home game, not with Tampa Bay sitting at 7-3, the Cowboys pulling even with them at 6-4 and the 5-4-1 Eagles messing up everybody’s math by tying the Bengals.

That’s the muddled wild card picture - you can throw the 6-4 Falcons in there, too - as the Snydermen prepare for a cross-country trek to Seattle, where they don’t have many fond memories. All the excitement they generated in September and October is gone. Can they get back to where they were, or are they a club that peaked early and had no Second Act? On Sunday night against Dallas, they looked suspiciously like the latter.

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