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How to Lose a Game in Five Easy Steps

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It was a hot and humid night at Texas Stadium. Players were grabbing at their tight hamstrings almost from the opening kickoff. Assistant coaches looked wet and distressed on the sidelines, as if they had stepped out of a sauna bath. The ball was slippery and it led to many incompletions and fumbles. And on this night where nobody or anything seemed comfortable, the Cowboys let the game slip away from them, as Washington scored two TDs in the last 3:55, turning a shaky 13-0 lead into a 14-13 loss.

The loss was a team effort. Here are some low points from an incredible litany of Cowboys' miscues in the final minutes:

  • With Washington in a second and ten deep in its own territory at the five minute mark, DC Mike Zimmer switched out of his 4-2-5 nickel and brought SS Roy Williams on a blitz out of his base 3-4 set. Williams dropped Mark Brunell for a 17 yard loss. It was the last time Zimmer would blitz in the game, and his reliance on the four man rush the rest of the way would cost him. His aggressive calls had kept Brunell off balance all game, sacking him five times. The Redskins line neutalized the four rushers, in part because they could identify them, and Brunell was able to stand and deliver deep down field the rest of the game.

  • With Washington facing a fourth and three two plays later, after a 24 yard Brunell scramble, he brought the team to the line in a bunch formation left. James Thrash came in motion right to left and set just outside the left tackle. Terence Newman came with him in man-to-man coverage. For some reason, Newman stopped and peeked into the backfield at the snap, perhaps expecting a run. He left Thrash run free and Brunell floated an easy completion to him for 20 yards.

  • After a procedure penalty moving Washington back five yards, Brunell threw deep down the left hash mark into triple coverge. Roy Williams backpedaled, timed his jump correctly and looked ready to intercept the ball. It slid between his hands and bounced off his facemask. The Redskins scored three plays later over Williams on a fourth-and-15 from the Dallas 39.

  • Dallas got the ball and converted one first down on a Julius Jones run that was supplemented by a facemask penalty. Facing third-and-8 from the Dallas 45, Drew Bledsoe found Keyshawn Johnson for a sliding 17 yard completion to the Redskins 38. The pass was negated by a holding penalty on Flozell Adams, which led to a punt.

  • Brunell burned Dallas again two plays after the punt with a 70 yard pass. The Cowboys had 2:35, a time out and good field position after Tyson Thompson returned the kickoff to the Washington 48. But on fourth and four, Terry Glenn committed the fundamental receiver sin -- running his route at three yards. He was tackled short of the stripe and Washington had control of the game.
  • Notes:

  • Washington may have found a major chink in Dallas' armor in the final minutes. Both TD passes came against corner Aaron Glenn, who had suspect help from Roy Williams over the top. The Redskins could not dent Anthony Henry or do much against Terence Newman, but they isolated Santana Moss on Glenn and burned him. Expect other teams to try this as well.

  • Derrick Dockery is supposed to be the Redskins best young OL, if line coach Joe Bugel's raving this week mean anything. But he was abused by Chris Canty and LaRoi Glover on passing downs.

  • The loss obscured impressive games for Canty and Marcus Spears, who shows some push on passing down.