LANDOVER, Md. - At the halfway point of the season, it was clear the strength of the Cowboys defense was at cornerback, having three solid corners who could likely all start for any team.
But in the second quarter of Sunday's 35-7 loss to the Redskins, it was evident just how much injuries have affected the overall position.
At one stretch, the Cowboys had Aaron Glenn and Jacques Reeves playing on the outside, with little-used Nate Jones manning the slot. Both starters - Terence Newman (concussion) and Anthony Henry (groin) - were on the sideline nursing injuries that had either occurred or re-aggravated in the game.
Now both Newman and Henry were able to return, but neither one looked to be at full strength. In fact, Glenn, who suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago against the Giants, said he re-injured his ankle as well, but knew he had to fight through the pain.
"What can you do?" Glenn said. "It was just everything going wrong at once. I'm not making any excuses. If I'm out there, then I expect to make plays. But it's tough when you're hobbling around out on the field."
And the injuries didn't stop there.
The most serious injury might have occurred to right guard Marco Rivera, who left the game late in the fourth quarter on a stretcher after suffering what was being termed a neck strain. Rivera did not return home with the team, staying overnight with associate trainer Britt Brown at a hospital in the Washington D.C. area.
Tight end Jason Witten suffered a concussion in the first quarter, missing two drives before he returned. Witten ended up leading the team with 41 receiving yards and scored the Cowboys' only touchdown with a 2-yard catch late in the fourth quarter.
Middle linebacker Mike Barrow, who played for the first time since signing with the Cowboys on Nov. 28, suffered a sprained knee after just two series. The veteran linebacker ironically spent the past 1½ years with the Redskins but never suited up in 2004 because of a quad tendon injury.
Barrow returned from the locker room at halftime and spent the entire second half on the sidelines in street clothes.
Second Time Around
The Cowboys had few problems stopping the run in their first three games against the NFC East.
But they've seen a dramatic difference in the rematches against Philadelphia's Brian Westbrook, New York's Tiki Barber and now Washington's Clinton Portis, who rushed for 112 yards Sunday against the Cowboys.
Portis, who now has three straight 100-yard games, only had 52 against the Cowboys in Week Two.
And it was a legit 112 yards Sunday, Portis' longest run only 19 yards. He averaged 4.9 yards on his 23 carries, keeping the Cowboys defense off balance all day.
"He's a good back and they did a good job of getting him going," said inside linebacker Bradie James, who led the Cowboys defense with nine tackles. "He didn't really have any big runs, but they kept moving the chains."
In rematch games against the NFC East this year, Westbrook improved from just 12 yards rushing to 86, while Barber had only 64 yards in the first game, but rushed for 115 two weeks ago against the Cowboys.
Cowboys rookie defensive tackle Thomas "Pepper" Johnson, who had been inactive for the first 13 games, not only made his first road trip, but made his NFL debut.
Thomas played several snaps at nose guard. The Cowboys used Johnson in the middle of the 3-4 defense while playing Glover a bunch at defensive end, a position he's rarely played much this season in the 3-4 scheme. Rookie Chris Canty, who missed two days of practice this week because of an ankle injury, did not start for the first time in three games and struggled most of the day.
Johnson, who was credited with two tackles, said after the game he was thinking more about the loss and less about his debut.
"I really don't care about all that right now," said Johnson, one of the surprises of training camp who made the roster as a undrafted rookie free agent. "It's really all about the game. It was a tough loss."
The Cowboys haven't had much consistency at the kicker position this year, and that didn't change Sunday. Place-kicker Billy Cundiff missed his only field-goal attempt, pushing a 38-yard attempt wide right in the first quarter.
That would've cut into Washington's 7-0 lead, but instead wasted a lengthy drive from the Cowboys offense that struggled to produce yards all day.
Since joining the Cowboys on Nov. 19, Cundiff has made 4-of-6 field goals, with his only other miss a 34-yard attempt in the fourth quarter against Denver that would have broken a 21-21 tie. The Broncos won in overtime, 24-21.
Cundiff is the third kicker for the Cowboys this year, having released Jose Cortez, who made 12-of-16 kicks and missed an extra point, and rookie Shaun Suisham, who was perfect in his two games, making all extra points and two short field goals.
But Cundiff wasn't alone Sunday. Punter Mat McBriar also had a rough outing, averaging just 35.2 yards on his six punts. His 15-yard punt from the Cowboys' 30 brought on an unpleasant glare from head coach Bill Parcells.
- With 25 receiving yards on Sunday, Terry Glenn now has 1,004 yards this season, becoming the first Dallas player to top the 1,000-yard mark since Raghib Ismail (1,097) in 1999. This is the third 1,000-yard receiving season of Glenn's career and his first since 1999 (1,147 in 1999 and 1,132 in 1996). All three of his 1,000-yard seasons have come with Bledsoe at quarterback.
- Julius Jones recorded a season-long 51-yard run.
- The seven sacks by Washington Sunday were the most allowed by Dallas since Philadelphia recorded seven on Dec. 21, 2002.
- The 35 points allowed was the most by the Cowboys all season. Ironically, prior to this game, the Cowboys managed to win the three games they had allowed the most points in regulation, beating San Francisco (31), Kansas City (28) and San Diego (24).
- Rookie running back Tyson Thompson's six kickoff returns and 136 kickoff return yards were season-highs.
- Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss caught only two passes, but turned them into 73 yards. His 42-yard reception to the 1-yard line set up Washington's second touchdown. Moss' two catches were the only two by Redskins wide receivers.
With 29 pass attempts Sunday, Drew Bledsoe moved past Fran Tarkenton into sixth place in NFL history for career pass attempts. He is now only 33 attempts behind Vinny Testeverde (6,519) for fifth place . . . Keyshawn Johnson has recorded 60 receptions this season, putting him over the 60-catch mark for the ninth time in his 10 NFL seasons. . . Tyson Thompson continues to climb the rookie kickoff return charts. With six returns for 136 yards Sunday, he is now tied for the club record for most kickoff returns (47) by a rookie and is second in kickoff return yards by a rookie. Thompson needs only one more return to surpass James Dixon's (1989) season record. He is also just 57 yards behind Dixon's record of 1,181 kickoff return yards, set in 1989 . . . With four receptions Sunday, Jason Witten now has 61 catches. He becomes the second tight end in club history to post back-to-back 60-catch seasons and the 14th tight end in NFL history to do so . . . Sunday's attendance figure of 90,588 was a FedExField record. When Washington visited Dallas in September, the Cowboys set a Texas Stadium record with 65,207 fans in attendance.