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Virginian-Pilot: Shutout Loss to Dallas ends Skins' last shot at postseason

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By JIM DUCIBELLA, The Virginian-Pilot

© December 15, 2003

LANDOVER, Md. — The Dallas Cowboys played with the fire of a team in the midst of a stretch run to the playoffs Sunday. The Washington Redskins played like a team in need of a stretcher.

One of the ugliest days in Redskins weather history ended with one of the ugliest losses as the Cowboys (9-5) blew past their so-called rival 27-0 at FedEx Field. In the bone-chilling cold, wet and wind, the Redskins fell to 5-9, finally lousy enough to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.

“We got embarrassed today and it had to be Dallas who did it to us,” Fred Smoot said. “It has nothing to do with the coaches; the guys between these lines are the ones who are at fault. We should have brought a different passion to this game.

Not coming out and playing was very heartbreaking. I’m going to carry this loss into the offseason and next year, because I never want to feel like this again.”

The Cowboys won the toss, drove 74 yards in 5:34, and scored on a 21-yard screen pass from Quincy Carter to Richie Anderson on which Anderson literally wasn’t touched. So much for the competitive portion of a contest the Redskins vowed all last week they were pointing to. A couple of young Dallas stars reveled in the best performances of their brief careers.

Running back Troy Hambrick rumbled 33 times for 189 yards, third-highest rushing day in Dallas history. In all, the Cowboys ran for 222 yards of their 326 total yards. Rookie cornerback Terence Newman intercepted three passes, becoming the first Cowboy in 22 years to accomplish that feat.

“I wish I could have days like this more often,” said Newman, who held Laveranues Coles without a catch. “I kind of remembered him from last time. It was a big challenge, a good challenge for me. I don’t know if it was for him, but I enjoyed it.”

With Tim Hasselbeck experiencing one of the worst days of any quarterback in Redskins history, coach Steve Spurrier’s troops did little more than stand on the sidelines and absorb the torrents of rain that fell for much of the day.

“I’m not very good at making excuses,” Spurrier said later. “They just kicked our tails. There’s not much to say. The best team won. They outplayed us in every area … We had a lot of individuals who played hard, but as a team, we weren’t very good.”

Hasselbeck, making just his third start and trying to win for the second straight week, was comically inept. He completed just six of 26 passes for 56 yards — that’s right, 56 — and was intercepted four times.

At halftime, Hasselbeck’s quarterback rating was 1.7. After a second half in which he completed three of 16 throws, Hasselbeck finished the game with a rating of 0.00.

Amazingly, it’s not that uncommon.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, Hasselbeck is the 89th starting quarterback in NFL history to throw at least 10 passes in a game with a rating of zero.

“I didn’t feel like I ever got into much of a rhythm,” said Hasselbeck, in what may qualify as the understatement of the century.

“I was trying, but it was frustrating and disappointing.”

Newman’s first interception came in the second quarter at the Dallas 7-yard line on a fade for Coles that Hasselbeck threw to the outside.

His second came on a dump-off for Rock Cartwright that was overthrown. Dallas turned that into Quincy Carter’s 3-yard sweep and 14-0 lead that ended the suspense with more than two quarters still to play.

“The quarterback has to put the ball where his guy has a chance to catch it, where it’s not batted up into the air,” Hasselbeck said. “I didn’t do a very good job.”

The Cowboys already led 17-0 when Darren Woodson tipped Hasselbeck’s pass at the line and Newman scooped it in. Later, cornerback Pete Hunter, who also recovered two fumbles on special teams, intercepted Hasselbeck for the last of the six turnovers Dallas forced.

“Dallas is No. 1 in the league in defense,” Spurrier groaned. “And they played like it.”

Hambrick, meanwhile, played like Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett rolled into one. He was thrown for a 2-yard loss on his first carry, then reeled off a 12-yarder the next time he touched the ball.

Thirty-one carries later, he’d polished off the third-best game in Dallas history.

Only Smith, with 237 in a 1993 game against Philadelphia, and Dorsett, with 206 against the Eagles in 1977, have done better.

“I don’t belong in the same breath as Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett, but I am there,” Hambrick said. “You can write it in stone.”

As far as Smoot was concerned, there was something else you could write in stone. “We stunk the joint out,” he said, “and I apologize to all Redskins fans.”

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