- The Washington Times - Monday, November 23, 2009

ARLINGTON, Texas | When he saw another running back and right guard go down to injury, Jim Zorn felt it. When normally reliable kicker Shaun Suisham missed two field goals, the pain was retriggered inside Zorn’s gut. And the emotions certainly swirled when the Dallas Cowboys’ offense awoke from their game-long slumber to drive down the field in the final six minutes.

“You’re getting stabbed every time something happened,” Zorn said.

The final wound came with 2:41 remaining Sunday at Cowboys Stadium, when Tony Romo threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton, propelling Dallas to a 7-6 victory. Crayton’s touchdown, his only reception of the game, capped the longtime rivals’ lowest-scoring game in eight years.

So good on defense for three-plus quarters despite playing without Albert Haynesworth clogging the middle, the Redskins were unable to stop Dallas’ receivers early in the drive and unable to corral Romo on the winning play.

Rookie Brian Orakpo got the advantage on left tackle Flozell Adams and nearly sacked Romo. But the elusive quarterback escaped and rolled left before throwing across his body to Crayton, who found an open pocket in the end zone between DeAngelo Hall and London Fletcher.

“Romo went outside of [Adams],” Orakpo said, “and that was all she wrote.”

For the game — and perhaps for the season, for Zorn’s tenure and for who knows how many players.

The Redskins (3-7) trail Dallas by four games in the NFC East with seven to play. The realization that they’re playing out the string is starting to sink in.

“I really believe this is a special team of players that will not chuck things in at 3-7,” Zorn said. “Being 3-7 is bleak. We’ll look at our roster and patch it up and go again.”

That roster, already held together by equal parts rubber cement and baling wire, suffered more losses when running back Ladell Betts (left MCL) and right guard Chad Rinehart (broken right fibula) went down. And the defense already took the field without Haynesworth, whose ankle injury shelved him 90 minutes before kickoff.

Still, the Redskins showed courage in the face of adversity, holding Dallas scoreless for more than 57 minutes and taking control at certain junctures by going 7-for-15 on third down.

“It was just a hard game for our players because we felt like, ‘Here we go, we’re climbing ourselves out of it,’ ” Zorn said. “To lose it that way at the end in a hostile situation is so hard.”

The Redskins’ hopes ended when Jason Campbell’s pass from the Washington 33 was deflected by Stephen Bowen and intercepted by Anthony Spencer with 1:46 remaining.

It was the Redskins’ second blown fourth-quarter lead of the season. In Week 5, they led at Carolina 17-9 but lost 20-17.

“Definitely disappointed; we should have won,” offensive coordinator Sherman Smith said. “We had some field goal opportunities and made only half of them.”

For the first time this year, Suisham let the Redskins down. He entered a perfect 12-for-12 on the year and provided the Redskins’ only points Sunday on kicks of 45 and 31 yards. But he missed wide left from 39 yards late in the first half and wide right from 50 yards — a field goal that likely would have sealed a Washington victory.

“It’s hard to swallow, especially in a tight game like this,” Suisham said. “I feel awful. The guys fought so hard today. You got a tight game like that and you miss two field goals, it’s very frustrating and disappointing.”

Zorn opted for the long attempt with 7:12 remaining rather than trying to bury Dallas deep in its own territory with a punt.

“I’m just sure it’s the right decision to make,” Zorn said. “I’ve got to go with that because he’s an NFL kicker, it called for that situation and I’m not sure there’s any doubt. Plus, had [Suisham made it], they hadn’t scored all day and needed more than a touchdown to win.”

Taking over at his own 40, Romo moved Dallas down the field. He completed his last seven passes, and none resulted in more than a 12-yard gain.

Before the winning drive, the Redskins’ defense kept Dallas in check for most of the second half, including a London Fletcher interception on fourth down from the Washington 39.

“If we would have said [before the game] we would hold the Dallas Cowboys to seven points, you’d think we were stupid,” secondary coach Jerry Gray said. “I thought our guys did a great job of putting the plan together. We stopped the run and didn’t give up the big pass.

“You hold Dallas to seven points and they walk out with a win, something’s wrong.”

The offensive players agreed.

“The bottom line, we have to score more points,” receiver Antwaan Randle El said. “That’s the only way you can look at it from an offensive standpoint.” Added receiver Malcolm Kelly: “The defense played their tails off, and I don’t want to say we half-stepped, but we could have done a little better.”

The Redskins settled for field goals when drives stalled outside the red zone. But they could have gotten more out of Suisham’s first miss. With 15 seconds on the first half clock and no timeouts, Zorn resisted giving Campbell (24-for-37 for 256 yards) a shot at the end zone on third down.

“I could have taken another shot to the end zone,” Zorn said, “but they were coming after us and blitzing, so I didn’t want to get pushed out of field goal range.” It became another game of missed opportunities for the Redskins. Their defense’s play made the loss even more discouraging.

“As we get home and regroup and get this game behind us, I think our players will come back and play hard and try to get back after it,” Zorn said. “Those are the things I demand and I’ll expect. But they’ll do it because it’s the kind of group we got. They’ll revive themselves. It’s the way they are.”

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