Redskins lose "Donut Bowl"

The Redskins started to do things right. They handed the ball to running back Stephen Davis, letting him grind out the clock. And they marched down the field, heading toward their first win of the season. Then Davis churned out five more yards. Then he lost the ball. Then Washington lost the game.

Dallas' Tim Seder kicked a game-winning 28-yard field goal with no time remaining, giving the Cowboys a 9-7 victory at Texas Stadium. The Redskins fall to 0-5; Dallas is 1-4.

As usual, the Redskins tried to scratch positives from another agonizing defeat. For the second straight game Washington entered the fourth quarter with a chance to win. For the second straight game the Redskins failed to do so. It's hard to extract anything good from losing against a previously winless team. But Washington tried.

''We're growing and we're developing a personality,'' Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer said. ''It's difficult and there are no prizes for losing. We've put together two good defensive performances in a row and we're growing on that. We put together a running game. With the personality we're developing we're going to win games.''

But when? This lose stung Washington harder than the previous defeats. Players consoled Davis in the locker room--Marco Coleman gave him a bear hug. Coaches hugged one another, wiping away a tear or two of frustration. Other coaches sat on the bench, their shoulders sagging.

 ''We're finding ways to lose games,'' Redskins defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. ''It sounds silly, but there's an art to winning. Right now we're not finishing.'' The Redskins' last play from scrimmage provided evidence of that. Davis had the first down and Washington had the game. ''It's obvious we had the game,'' Redskins receiver Michael Westbrook said. ''It's unfortunate that something like that happened to Stephen because he's a great back. But he'll make up for it, he always does.''

Dallas made Davis, and the Redskins, pay. It didn't take long as quarterback Anthony Wright connected with receiver Darrin Chiaverini for 15 yards followed by a 14-yard toss to wide-open receiver Raghib Ismail. Running back Emmitt Smith then took over, with runs of three and five yards. After a two-yard run by Troy Hambrick, Smith rushed for three and finally 13 yards to the Redskins' 8-yard line. Seder took it from there, kicking the game-winner. Washington tried to claim this was a solid defensive effort. But the numbers suggest differently. Dallas gained 386 total yards, including 211 on the ground. Smith, struggling most of the year, finished with 107 yards on 25 carries. And the Cowboys, ranked 30th in offense, converted eight of 16 third downs.

 ''We knew they would try to hammer the ball at us,'' Wilkinson said. Washington finally cracked the end zone for the second time this season. And the Redskins took their first fourth-quarter lead of the year. With 12:16 left in the game, receiver Michael Westbrook, held without a catch for the first three quarters, ran a deep post and hauled in a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Banks, cut by Dallas this summer. Westbrook raced behind linebacker Dat Nguyen, who was playing a zone and received no help from the safety. It was Westbrook's first touchdown catch of the season and only the third time Banks had thrown his way all night. Westbrook said it was a great play call. He just wishes there were more chances.

''Let me get one thing straight,'' Westbrook said, ''I was not having a hard time getting open. The ball was not being thrown my way. I might get cut if I say something to [the coaches].''

The drive started after a missed 52-yard Dallas field goal. For most of the game Washington blew golden chances when handed excellent field position. Not this time. Davis gained 23 yards on two runs, followed by gains of three and one to the Dallas 31. On the latter play, Westbrook missed a block on safety Darren Woodson, allowing him to make a tackle. But Westbrook atoned for his mistake on the next play. Thus capped a maddening night of offensive blahs for Washington.

Dallas closed to 7-6 on a nine-play 49 yard drive in the fourth quarter. But it could have been worse. The Cowboys had a first down at the Washington 19. But tackle Dan Wilkinson stopped Dallas running back Emmitt Smith for a three-yard loss and linebacker LaVar Arrington blitzed, forcing a hurried throw by quarterback Anthony Wright. That also resulted in intentional grounding, leaving Dallas with a third and 23. Then, with 6:36, Seder--who missed two of his first three kicks--kicked his second field goal of the night, a 39-yarder.

Washington responded with a ball-control drive, chewing up nearly four minutes and reaching the Dallas 33 when Davis fumbled. The Redskins entered with the NFL's worst offense and showed the nation exactly why it had earned that ranking. They couldn't run much, or pass and, given good field possession, usually produced nothing but headaches.

Washington started two drives in Dallas territory and a third just outside it. Yet none of these series ended in points. The first drive, from the Dallas 40 thanks to a Fred Smoot interception and 36-yard return, gained only five yards. Smoot later left the game with a sprained knee. And the second, from the Dallas 48, lost five yards. Here's the list of futility from that series: a holding penalty by tackle Chris Samuels on second down, an incomplete pass on second down--after the penalty--and an incomplete pass on third down. Dallas' Seder kicked a 28-yard field, punctuating an 11-play, 77-yard drive.

The Cowboys' drive was ignited by a 27-yard run on third and one by back Troy Hambrick to the Washington 49. Smith turned a short pass into a 22-yard gain on the next play. Wright ran for eight yards on third and 5 and passed for nine more to Smith on the ensuing play. But the drive stalled on the 10, forcing a field goal with 21 seconds remaining in the half. Seder had missed a 41-yard attempt in the opening quarter, pushing it wide left. Washington's Brett Conway had a chance to tie at the end of the first half. Two Banks passes, one to Ki-Jana Carter for 10 yards and a second to Rod Gardner for 18, left Conway with a 44-yard attempt. But he missed the attempt wide right, his first miss of the season.

''It's unbelievable how the ball bounces,'' said Alexander, who suffered a high-ankle sprain in the first half. ''We're close. I don't think we can go further back.''


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