- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2009

Even when the Washington Redskins were at their lowest point this season, finding it difficult to protect quarterback Jason Campbell, open holes for various running backs and reach 20 points, they were always able to score at least a field goal and enter the red zone at least once.

Until Sunday night.

Against a Dallas Cowboys defense that flummoxed an elite New Orleans offense last week, the Redskins provided little resistance in a 17-0 loss at FedEx Field that clinched the franchise’s first winless NFC East record in 15 years.

The Redskins (4-11) punted a season-high eight times, and only a garbage-time drive lifted them above 200 yards. An offense that was functional and entertaining for a five-week stretch during the second half of the year has reverted back to its early-season ways — a combined 12 points the past two games.

The Redskins were shut out for the first time since October 2005 and for the first time at home since December 2003.

“Tonight was very frustrating,” Redskins coach Jim Zorn said after likely his final home game. “We could not put a drive together. The frustrating thing was their front four beat us, and we couldn’t mount any consistency with our offense, and that was the big story for us.”

Dallas (10-5) clinched a playoff spot and eliminated the New York Giants. The Cowboys face Philadelphia (11-4) on Sunday for the NFC East crown.

The Cowboys completed a season sweep of the Redskins for the first time in five years.

“The hardest thing for me is to watch our team lose to that team because of the division rivalry and too many blue jerseys having a good time in our stadium,” Zorn said.

Dallas scored two first-half touchdowns and then held possession for 20:04 of the second half to prevent the Redskins from getting close to the end zone — Washington’s closest penetration was the 25-yard line on its final drive.

In two losses to Dallas this year, the Redskins managed two field goals and ran exactly one play (a field goal) inside the 20-yard line.

By far the NFC East’s last-place team, the Redskins finished 0-6 in the division — only the second goose egg since the NFL-AFL merger.

“It’s very hard, and it’s devastating to not win a division game,” Zorn said.

Said receiver Santana Moss: “Losing is losing no matter who it is and what division. When you lose, it’s just rough. It’s something we have to deal with it. The record will still be the same tomorrow, and what happened previously will be the same. It’s harder to do than say, but we have to move on.”

Zorn’s tenure likely has one game remaining (Sunday at San Diego), and speculation continues to swirl at how the Redskins will operate until they likely hire Mike Shanahan.

New general manager Bruce Allen spent much of the second half with owner Dan Snyder after watching last week from the coach’s box. The future of the franchise is in the hands of the two men.

During the second half of the NBC telecast, Andrea Kremer reported Snyder called commissioner Roger Goodell “a few weeks ago” to ask if the Redskins will have complied with the “Rooney Rule” by interviewing player personnel director Morocco Brown for the general manager’s post and secondary coach Jerry Gray for Zorn’s position.

Kremer reported that Goodell called John Wooten of the Fritz Pollard Alliance and Wooten contacted Brown and Gray to confirm the legitimacy of their interview, which they did.

The report was emphatic that Gray already has interviewed for the head coaching position. Following the game, Gray continued to misplay the situation; he did his Comcast SportsNet appearance but then blew off a waiting group of reporters.

On the day of Allen’s hiring, Goodell said the Redskins followed the “Rooney Rule,” which probably included Brown.

The uncharted territory is whether the “Rooney Rule” in regard to head coaches is based on whether there’s an opening.

While Gray wasn’t talking about his future of the Redskins defense, the players had to account for giving up 393 yards and seven third-down conversions and respond to defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth’s weekend bashing of the scheme.

Dallas led 14-0 at halftime on Roy Williams’ 4-yard touchdown catch from Tony Romo that was set up by Terence Newman’s interception on the Redskins’ first drive and a 3-yard Marion Barber run set up by Jason Witten’s career-high 69-yard reception.

As for Haynesworth, he started even though he was late for meetings Friday and set home from practice. Zorn said he and defensive coordinator Greg Blache met with Haynesworth on Saturday, and quarterback Jason Campbell said the team discussed things.

“We talked about it as a team, about keeping things in house, trying to finish the season out together as a team,” said Campbell, who was 24-for-39 for 199 yards. “This is not the time to start to separate, start to divide. Everyone’s going to be shooting for that one word or listening for someone to say something.”

Haynesworth downplayed his riff with Blache.

“I talked to Blache, and we’re all great — everything’s fine,” he said. “We’re grown men. We can disagree. We don’t hate each other. We’re still the same.”

What remains the same is the Redskins’ inability to take advantage of good defensive plays.

Safety Reed Doughty’s first career interception halted a Cowboys march (he was injured on the return), and the defense made two third-quarter fourth-down stops only to punt all three times.

Doughty (high ankle sprain) joined the injury list along with right guard Mike Williams (broken toe), who are probably out for the finale.

“We have to look past this now, and we still have one game,” Zorn said. “I want to get to five wins. It seems frivolous, doesn’t it? But we’re going to prepare like we always have.”

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