ARLINGTON, Tx. – You knew.
You knew when it was 3-0 that it would eventually be 6-0 and that one touchdown would be enough to offset those kicks.
You knew that one touchdown would come late and make all the difference.
You knew too much.
Tony Romo waved receiver Patrick Crayton toward the middle of the end zone and then fired a 10-yard touchdown pass with 2:41 left to play and the Dallas Cowboys nipped the touchdown-free Redskins 7-6 at Cowboys Stadium.
"If you hold the Cowboys to seven points," said linebacker London Fletcher, "you should win the game."
Dallas (7-3) stole a victory after its second consecutive weak offensive performance. The Redskins (3-7) simply did not have enough people at the end to finish the job or at the outset to properly begin it.
The losses piled up before and after kickoff. They made the Redskins' task, already huge, all the more immense in the NFL's largest stadium against their most hated rival. It didn't take long for an undermanned and underdog Redskins team to fall into a hole against the Cowboys.
Not the usual hole. Not the deficit on the scoreboard. The Redskins were actually the first to score.
No, the problem for them was in manpower. It seemed as if they might run out of players before they ran out of game.
DeAngelo Hall's recovery and return of a fumble led to him being knocked out of the game with a knee contusion. That brought Carlos Rogers, benched last week, back into the mix.
Ladell Betts, making his second consecutive start at running back, carried four times for five yards before going down in heap with a knee injury. That put the running game in the hands of Rock Cartwright and Quinton Ganther, a mid-season pickup who had been on and off the roster.
So. No Clinton Portis. No Chris Cooley. No Chris Samuels. No Mike Williams. Those we knew of in advance. Albert Haynesworth, the bulwark of the defensive line, was a pregame scratch due to his ankle sprain.
Hall eventually returned but linebacker Rocky McIntosh went down after making a tackle. McIntosh made it back as well. Then rookie Brian Orakpo needed assistance leaving the field after a tangle with offensive tackle Flozell Adams in the final two minutes of the first half. Dodged a bullet with that one as it was only a cramp in his calf.
Glued together, patched, the jerry-rigged Redskins stayed with the Cowboys in the House that Jerry Built, took a 3-0 lead and hung on to it with the ferocity of a wounded beast. Which isn't stretching the case too far. Already relying on backups as new starters, they reached deeper still for contributions.
Chad Rinehart is carted off the field. (AP Photo)
Rock Cartwright stepped in at running back and ripped off a 34-yard scamper. Caught a few passes. Assisted greatly in setting up the initial score.
Jason Campbell struggled under pressure, held the ball too long at times but put a couple of passes close enough to where they had to be.
The defense attacked, creating the one takeaway and dropping two other likely interceptions, all the while blanking the Cowboys through the first half.
Romo could not find his wide receivers at all and five of his six completions went to tight ends Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten. The other was to a back. He didn't hit a wide receiver until the final play of the third quarter.
"For the most part we shut them down pretty well," coach Jim Zorn said. "The last drive certainly wasn't an indication of what our defense played like."
The Redskins missed a chance to double their point total when Shaun Suisham pushed a 39-yard field goal try wide to the left with 10 seconds left in the first half. It was his first miss this season after 13 consecutive successes.
The second half brought no respite. Two plays in, right guard Chad Rinehart got his right ankle rolled up in the aftermath of a Cartwright carry and then was himself carried and carted from the field. He has a fractured fibula.
Enter Edwin Williams, who joined the Redskins as an unsigned rookie free agent and made the team.
If nothing else, it put one more Cowboy-hater on the field. Williams grew up in Washington, D.C., went to DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., and the University of Maryland. Always disliked the men who wear the star. Now he got his chance to play against them.
Respect the valiant way the Redskins went about their business. Understand how much more difficult they made their own lives with silly penalties. Four false start penalties? Yeesh. Look at how they wasted a scoring opportunity, if kicking a second field goal for a 6-0 lead can be called a waste.
Malcolm Kelly turns a short throw into a 36-yard catch-and-run that carries to the Dallas 19. Then Cartwright loses two yards, Fred Davis commits a false start, the Redskins burn a timeout and ultimately get no closer than the 13. Field goal.
The failure to score a touchdown bit them badly in the end. Sure, they scored twice … on field goals. Sure, they had more opportunities, twice missing field goals to Dallas' once. But Dallas put up a touchdown, scored it with 2:41 left and secured the victory with an interception off a tipped pass.
"You find out a lot about your team under pressure," Dallas coach Wade Phillips said. "Our defense obviously kept us in the game to be able to do that. I'm not going to be mad that we won."
He doesn't need to. He has the Redskins for that.
Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.