Redskins survive final play to beat Cowboys 13-7
The first half ended with a fumble returned for a touchdown. The second half ended with a touchdown that didn't count.
Nothing less should be expected from a game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys. The cast might change - insert Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan into the mix, for example - but one thing is eternal: This rivalry will always have some memorable finishes.
The Redskins came out on top this time, winning 13-7 in Sunday night's opener even though Tony Romo completed a 13-yard pass to Roy Williams in the end zone on the game's last play. Alas, the score was negated because tackle Alex Barron was whistled for holding linebacker Brian Orakpo, stopping the Dallas celebrations in their tracks and giving Washington a victorious start in its new era with quarterback McNabb and coach Shanahan.
''I knew he held me, but as soon as I seen him throw it to Roy, I'm like `Are they gonna call it?''' Orakpo said. ''Then I looked up and saw the yellow flag on the floor. Hey, it's game, set and match. Game over, it's celebrating time.''
The Redskins didn't get to celebrate much last year, going 4-12 under coach Jim Zorn and 0-6 in the NFC East. They didn't score a touchdown in either game against the dreaded Cowboys.
For that matter, they didn't score an offensive touchdown Sunday night - cornerback DeAngelo Hall was the only Redskins player to find the end zone - but that hardly seemed to matter.
''We've had so many heartbreaking losses around here,'' linebacker London Fletcher said. ''It's a new era. New Redskins football.''
McNabb's debut performance for Washington wasn't much to brag about. He completed 15 of 32 passes for 171 yards, leading two drives that ended in field goals. Another big name, Albert Haynesworth, didn't have much of an impact, rotating in and out of the game as a backup defensive lineman after months of feuding with Shanahan over offseason practices, conditioning tests and playing time in preseason games.
Romo completed 31 of 47 passes for 282 yards, but he relied heavily on screens and was staring at a shutout until he hit Miles Austin for a 4-yard touchdown late in the third quarter. Austin was the closest thing to an offensive star, making 10 catches for 146 yards.
The spotlight instead will fall on two plays, both of which ended with 0:00 on the clock.
A yawner of a first half was headed toward a plodding finish when Dallas coach Wade Phillips decided to try to score instead of letting the time run down when the Cowboys got the ball at their own 30 with 27 seconds remaining. On the last play - 4 seconds were left when the ball was snapped - Romo threw short to Tashard Choice, who had the ball stripped by Hall with help from Lorenzo Alexander and Andre Carter. Hall picked up the ball and ran 32 yards for the score, somersaulting into the end zone.
''That was my fault before the half,'' Phillips said. ''We should have taken a knee.''
Phillips then corrected himself a bit, saying Choice needs to hang on to the ball.
''If you catch the ball with 4 seconds left, you don't need to make an extra yard or two,'' the coach said.
The Cowboys kept on making mistakes. Penalties were piling up. Three of them, including a holding call on Barron, stalled a promising drive early in the fourth quarter.
Then came the final sequence. Graham Gano gave the Redskins a 13-7 lead with a 49-yard field goal with 1:50 to play. After the kickoff, the Cowboys started at their own 19. They converted a fourth-and-10 at Washington's 43 when Romo hit Austin over the middle for a 30-yard gain with 12 seconds to go. Three plays later came the pass to Williams that was wiped out by Barron's second holding call of the quarter and Dallas' 12th penalty of the game.
Barron, who was starting because Marc Colombo was out with a knee injury, sat facing his locker after the game, head in hands, long after most of his teammates had showered. He eventually left without comment.
''You can't blame it on that one play,'' Williams said. ''We had a bunch of opportunities, early in the game, in the middle of the game, at the end of the game, to drive down and get points, and we couldn't do it.''