Skins end season on high note

They got their wishes, all of them. Dan Snyder got the one game ball he coveted. Darrell Green took one last victory lap. And the Redskins wiped out the ugliest streak of all: a 10-game skid to Dallas. Happy New Year, indeed.

The Redskins season ended without a playoff berth, but short of that a win over Dallas to end the season--in Green's final game--was something to celebrate. Even if it was much closer than it needed to be with Washington winning, 20-14, in front of 84,142 fans.

The Redskins close at 7-9 and dropped Dallas to 5-11.

''We needed to win this for the fans,'' Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels said. ''They're sick of Dallas beating us and embarrassing us. We couldn't let it go to 11. I hate the Cowboys and I'm glad we beat them. It was an ugly victory, but I'll take the victory.''

They'll take it because it snapped the skid that had weighed on this franchise. Washington last beat Dallas on Oct. 13, 1997. And Snyder had presided over the previous seven defeats, which is why coach Steve Spurrier wanted to present him the game ball after beating Dallas.

Not that Spurrier was completely overjoyed with the win. He knew it could have, and should have, been worse.

Washington managed everything right statistically, outgaining Dallas, 352 to 186. The Redskins also dominated time of possession, controlling the ball for 35 minutes, 27 seconds. And they held Dallas to one of 13 on third down, while converting nine of 17 themselves. They also kept Smith to 13 yards on 18 carries, a career-low vs. Washington.

But the score didn't reflect the one-sided stats. Mainly because the Redskins turned he ball over five times. And committed eight penalties, including one that negated a touchdown.

All of that is why Washington still needed to run out the clock on its last possession.

''We had a chance to beat them by three or four touchdowns,'' Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. ''We constantly let them get back in the game. We still won so I'll be happy later. Dallas didn't have a lot going for them today. Their coach [Dave Campo] is probably getting canned [Monday] and he knows it. . . . They didn't play with a lot of fire.

''But it's hard to get excited about beating a 5-11 team. Sometimes we give Dallas too much credit and think they're too good when they've been 5-11 three years in a row.''

The day belonged to Green, the pint-sized corner playing his final game after 20 seasons. Green choked up while addressing the crowd in a pre-game ceremony, then took a victory lap after the game.

He also received the rarest of feats: a standing ovation from the media after his final press conference. But what he'll remember most about the football part of Sunday was his 35-yard punt return off a reverse from Champ Bailey.

''That was awesome,'' Green said. ''I didn't do too bad, either. That was the biggest football memory of my last game. And my son saw that dad could still do it. I thought I was going to score.''

The Redskins had lots of plays where they thought they were going to score. Running back Ladell Betts (17 carries, 98 yards) was stripped of the ball at the Dallas 1-yard line after running 26 yards, resulting in a touchback.

In the third quarter, Bryan Johnson should have scored a touchdown when he picked up a fumbled kick return and ran into the end zone. But the Redskins were penalized for having too many men on the field--the defense was jogging onto the field.

''I've never seen that before,'' Spurrier said.

And Dallas kept things interesting by making the big play at the worst time for Washington. Just like it has throughout the 10-game streak. Safety Roy Williams intercepted Patrick Ramsey and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown 42 seconds before halftime, tying the game at 7.

Late in the fourth quarter, receiver Antonio Bryant raced past corner Fred Smoot and hauled in a 46-yard touchdown pass on fourth and 14.

But Washington made sure those plays didn't ruin the day. Running back Kenny Watson had 58 yards on 17 carries, including a five-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 second-quarter lead.

The big play, though, occured with 7:41 left in the third quarter. End Bruce Smith sacked Hutchinson on third and 22 from the 15, the ball popping free. Linebacker LaVar Arrington dove on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Smith fooled tackle Flozell Adams and raced to the outside for an open path to the quarterback.

The Redskins added two Jose Cortez field goals, 22-yarder in the third quarter and a 38-yarder in the fourth quarter for a 20-7 lead.

''I hope we can build on this and maybe it's good that we didn't clobber them,'' Spurrier said. ''Then we don't think we're too good. We don't have to play perfectly to beat Dallas. If something goes bad, let's not fold up. When they got that interception we didn't go in the tank.''

It also allowed Green to leave on a high note. The crowd thanked him profusely with several standing ovations and cheered loudly when he was introduced with the starters. He played the first snap then returned to a nickel role, playing sparingly as Dallas rarely used three wideouts.

But that didn't diminish the ending. It wasn't about him playing. It was about his past. And he couldn't have picked a better ending than to have it come against Dallas.

''I thank the people who set up the schedule,'' Green said. ''I couldn't have written it any better than this. This was awesome.''

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