- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 20, 2011

Help for the Washington Redskins‘ moribund offense came from an unexpected place Sunday.

A week ago, Donte Stallworth was unemployed, another casualty of the Redskins‘ unending roster churn. But the nine-year veteran receiver re-signed with the team Tuesday and, against the Dallas Cowboys, sparked an offense that ranked 26th in the NFL.

The numbers weren’t gaudy. Four catches. Fifty-one yards. One touchdown.

But for an offense beset by season-ending injuries, quarterback shuffles, protection problems and a host of other issues, any spark, no matter the size, is welcomed.

“Guys got to step up,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “[Stallworth was] very physical, snatched a couple balls, made a couple big plays. It was really a credit to him taking advantage of an opportunity.”

Stallworth’s hands pulled in the football that sent the game to overtime and, for a few minutes, lifted the gloom lingering over FedEx Field and the team that’s dropped six straight games. The 24 points the Redskins rolled up Sunday were more than they scored in the previous three games combined.

Though his absence from Redskins Park was brief, Stallworth spent extra time relearning terminology that became rusty and watching film.

“It’s obviously a lot better than the last few weeks,” Stallworth said. “But we didn’t do enough to win. … I’m very hard on myself. I felt like I should’ve gotten more yards. I’m always hard on myself. I didn’t do enough, and we lost the game.”

Stallworth didn’t expect quarterback Rex Grossman to look his way. Not after the Redskins had first-and-goal at the 2-yard line and the drive, like so many others, seemed to evaporate. Running Tashard Choice, making his Redskins debut, was gang-tackled back for a 2-yard loss. Then the big right arm of Marcus Spears slapped down Grossman’s pass.

This felt like so many drives over the past three weeks: a tease of progress, but no payoff.

But on 3rd-and-goal, Stallworth ran a fade to the left corner of the end zone. Grossman lofted the ball - one more solid throw in an afternoon where he went 25-for-38 for 289 yards - and Stallworth got in front of cornerback Alan Bell. As Stallworth hauled in the ball, he planted his left foot and dragged his right in bounds - then looked back for the referee’s arms to shoot up.

The arms raised. The game was tied at 24. Fourteen seconds remained. With Redskins supporters jumping up and down, you couldn’t see FedEx Field’s empty seats.

“It’s kind of a situation where I could throw it to anybody,” Grossman said. “I liked the leverage Donte had, and I tried to put it in the back of the end zone where only he could get it. He made a great catch.”

But Stallworth’s hands couldn’t pull in a win, too. There were bits of encouragement for the rest of the offense, such as Jabar Gaffney’s 115 yards receiving or Grossman not letting a fourth-quarter interception spiral into a festival of turnovers, like last month’s four-interception start against the Philadelphia Eagles.

“We have the capability to score and we showed it,” fullback Darrel Young said.

Still, the Redskins managed only 2.5 yards per carry while rotating three running backs, tight end Fred Davis lost a fumble and gimmicks like two end-arounds to start the game didn’t work.

Stallworth hoped some bit of progress lurked in the 51 yards he delivered amid the debris of another loss.

“With everything that’s gone on the last few weeks and us coming out and putting points on the board and driving the ball against a really good team, you have to take some good things from this,” Stallworth said, “and see what we can do to build on this.”

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