Topic A in the Dallas Cowboys locker room at halftime: The Washington Redskins always fall apart in the third quarter.
Sure enough, the Cowboys drove 71 yards on seven plays on their first drive of the second half to take a two-touchdown lead. The Redskins didn't score the rest of the game as Dallas improved to 3-0 against the NFC East with Sunday's 31-10 victory.
"That was the issue" at halftime, guard Nate Newton said. "And we tried to play to that. We tried to come out and not make any mistakes."
In the process, Jason Garrett, Emmitt Smith and Chris Warren became the latest trio to put up great numbers at the expense of a winless defense. Garrett completed 14 of 17 passes for 169 yards and a touchdown as he improved to 2-1 as a starter while Troy Aikman recovers from a broken collarbone.
"He's an average quarterback," Washington cornerback Cris Dishman said of Garrett. "But today he was hot."
Smith ran for 120 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries and Warren finished with 104 yards on 14 rushes and two 6-yard TDs as the Cowboys (3-2) rushed for 224 yards against a defense that has allowed a back to rush for 100 yards for four straight weeks. It was the first time two Cowboys have rushed for 100 yards in a game since Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse did it on Nov. 12, 1978.
The Cowboys, rebounding from a 6-10 season, have already defeated division rivals Arizona, New York and Washington (0-5).
"We're not a contender," Newton said. "Not right now. Just four of five more games, just see where everybody stands. It's too early, man. Anybody can get on a run and make something happen, so we're just trying to stay tight."
| Dallas' Ernie Mills hauls in a 49-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter of the Cowboys' 31-10 victory. (AP) |
The game began to turn early in the second quarter when Smith ran for a touchdown and Garrett threw for one in a three-minute span that gave the Cowboys a 17-7 lead. The game was put away with the early TD in the third quarter, a quarter in which the Redskins have been outscored 63-10 this season.
"Honestly, I can't answer it," linebacker Marvcus Patton said of the post-halftime letdown. "You're asking a question that cannot be answered because we've done it over and over again for five weeks in a row. If anyone of us knew the answer -- anyone of us, from top to bottom -- it wouldn't happen, but we don't."
Smith, recovering from a strained right groin, scored on a 3-yard run set up by Deion Sanders' interception to give the Cowboys the lead for good at 10-7. Garrett hit Ernie Mills for a 43-yard strike to make it a 10-point lead.
The Redskins called this game a must-win, but penalties, a turnover and the bad third quarter once again doomed the home team to another afternoon of boos and taunting from fans wearing bags over their heads at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. No NFL team has ever recovered from an 0-5 start to make the playoffs.
The Redskins, 0-5 for the first time since 1981, have been outscored 114-36 in three games at home this season.
"Costly penalties, costly mistakes and missed opportunites ... same old thing," Washington receiver Leslie Shepherd said. "It's got to get better. Something has to go right. I can't see us going 0-16."
Trent Green was off target more often than not - even many of his completions forced receivers to catch the ball behind them. Green, who won the starting job from Gus Frerotte in Week 1, finished 13-for-29 for 193 yards and one interception that missed the receiver by at least five yards. Washington coach Norv Turner said he will re-evalutate the position this week.
The Redskins also lost Larry Bowie, the only fullback on their roster, for the season in the second quarter when his left leg was broken when he was hit by Leon Lett's helmet as Lett tumbled to the ground on a running play.
"Right now, we are snake-bitten as a team," Dishman said. "Somehow we have to shake that snake off of us."
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