Tony Romo had to feel like some supernatural force wanted him to lose to the Redskins Monday night. He entered the game nursing a freshly broken rib and a punctured lung that the Cowboys claimed had healed four days earlier (and four days after the puncture), so he needed a big effort from his teammates. His supporting cast wasn't able to produce many such efforts.
His center Phil Costa missed four snap counts, leading to four fumbles and big losses. His receivers, led by Kevin Ogletree, missed several line calls and made bad reads. He did get a big game from Felix Jones, who totaled 155 yards on 17 touches, but Jones had to leave late with his own recurring shoulder injury. His replacement, Tashard Choice, ran out of bounds on the team's last offensive play, giving the Redskins an extra timeout for their final drive.
Romo's defense did limit the Redskins to 16 points, his rookie kicker hit all six field goals, and his Cowboys - led by their injured QB - gutted out another tight win. That win moves the Cowboys into a three-way tie with the Giants and Redskins atop the NFC East and leaves the Eagles a game behind in last. As is sometimes the case against those Redskins, though, nothing was easy.
Six first half field goals left nothing settled at the half, as both teams failed to take advantage of great field position via turnovers - one of those another interception by Sean Lee. Romo was picked by Kevin Barnes in the Cowboys' first drive of the third quarter, and the Redskins responded with what was easily their best drive of the game, a nine-play, 74-yard drive that ended with Tim Hightower catching the game's only TD from one yard out. Dallas would kick their fourth field goal on their next drive, leaving the margin at four.
Rob Ryan's defense finished strong for the second straight week, forcing three straight punts and holding Washington to no more than two series in a drive. On their second drive of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys looked to be on their way to grabbing the lead. First downs at the Washington ten and two yard lines weren't fruitful, though, as the Skins stuffed the Cowboys' red zone run game, and Romo could not get on the same page with his receivers.
Dallas would get the ball back at their 14 for one final chance, trailing by one with 3:44 remaining. Romo hit Jason Witten and Ogletree to move the ball to the Dallas 41, but Costa's fourth mistimed snap chased Romo back 11 yards. An incomplete pass on second down brought up a seemingly insurmountable 3rd-21 from the 30. The Redskins showed a heavy blitz and came up the middle. Romo managed to reach the perimeter, buying time for Dez Bryant to change his route and race up field. Romo hit him in stride for 30 yards, and a face mask by DeAngelo Hall tacked on 15 more.
Now at the Washington 25, Dallas went conservative, handing to Choice three times to run clock. On third down, with 1:41 and two Skins timeouts remaining, Choice made his potentially fateful decision to run out of bounds, even though he had no yardage to gain. Dan Bailey hit his sixth field goal of the night and third from 40 yards or more, but with all of that time remaining, the Dallas defense would have to stand tall.
They did just that, once again. A false start pushed Washington back to their 15 to start the drive. Three Rex Grossman passes moved them to their 43, but he threw incomplete on first down with 43 seconds remaining. On second down, Grossman was flushed to his left, and Anthony Spencer chased him down and swatted the ball loose as he sacked the QB. The ball squirted forward right to Lee, who hung on for his second turnover of the game.
There was more relief than jubilation around Cowboys Stadium, but Romo and the Cowboys gutted out a second ugly - and mandatory - win, keeping pace in their division and buying more time to heal their growing corps of injured players.
It wasn't a Cowboys-Redskins Monday Night Football classic, but it was a suspenseful September game and could well be one that determines a race in December. Cowboys 18, Redskins 16, on to the trainers tables and then the Detroit Lions.