- The Washington Times - Monday, September 29, 2008

— IRVING, Texas

When the Dallas Cowboys drove for a field goal to end the first half Sunday and opened the second half with a touchdown march to tie the game, any Washington fan could be forgiven for thinking, “Here we go again.”

After all, the Redskins had lost 27 of 36 games at Texas Stadium, including 11 of their last 12.

Sure, there were some indelible great moments for the Redskins here in “America’s Rivalry,” namely the amazing 1987 upset that set the stage for the movie “The Replacements” and the 2005 miracle finish courtesy of two late bombs from Mark Brunell to Santana Moss.

It was mostly heartbreak for Washington in Irving, and yet the 11-point underdogs pulled off the upset of the mighty Cowboys on Sunday, winning 26-24 behind big games from Moss, Jason Campbell, Clinton Portis and a pass defense missing ailing cornerbacks Shawn Springs and Fred Smoot.

Q: Does Santana Moss just own the building?

A: If any Redskins player will regret the Cowboys moving to their gleaming new palace, it’s Moss. In three-plus games in Texas Stadium, Moss has 26 catches, 494 yards and three touchdowns. Those are unbelievable numbers. Moss has made Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman look like a high school player.

Q: Why do defensive coordinators go to the prevent right before halftime? It never works.

A: Greg Blache did so in two of the past three games, and each time the opponent drove for a field goal and then took the second-half kickoff and marched for a touchdown. On Sunday, that score by Terrell Owens tied the game 17-17 and swung the momentum back to Dallas. But rookie Chris Horton’s heady interception recaptured the emotion for Washington.

Q: Has Campbell taken the next step?

A: That argument could be made. He has been a different quarterback since rallying the Redskins past the Saints, leading his team on drive after drive and throwing clutch touchdown passes. He has yet to play in postseason, but he’s giving the Redskins their best quarterback play since Brad Johnson in 1999, when they last won the NFC East. Campbell’s 146 straight passes are 15 shy of Joe Theismann’s team record.

Q: Did Portis find a new gear against Dallas?

A: He might no longer have breakaway speed, as was evident when he couldn’t take his season-best 31-yard run to the house, but Portis is running really hard. He looked like a classic power back as the Redskins went to the Riggo Drill in the fourth quarter. Portis gained 34 yards on seven carries in the fourth and 85 yards on 12 carries after halftime.

Q: Is seventh-round pick Chris Horton a ball magnet?

A: That’s hard to argue given that the rookie safety has three interceptions and a fumble recovery in four games, only one of which he has started. His pick in the third quarter Sunday was huge considering Springs and Smoot were sidelined with injuries. The ball magnet probably will be a babe magnet in Washington after his hot start.

Q: Why was Texas Stadium such a house of horrors for the Redskins?

A: First of all, the Cowboys have been one of the NFL’s top teams during their 37 seasons here, winning five Super Bowls and making the playoffs 25 times. What was maddening for Washington fans is that Dallas beat the Redskins here in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004 despite never finishing above 6-10 in any of those seasons.

Q: What was the deal with the penalties on Casey Rabach on that third-quarter drive?

A: Rabach has been reliable since he came to Washington in 2005, but those two were killers. The holding call turned first-and-goal at the 6 into first-and-goal at the 16. The ineligible man downfield call nullified a touchdown catch by Antwaan Randle El.

Q: What happens next week in Philadelphia?

A: It’s not known whether Brian Westbrook will be able to play for the Eagles but go with the home team anyway. Win or lose, the Redskins will be thankful to be finished with their NFC East road games so early.

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