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Spagnola: This Loss To Washington Hurts In More Ways Than One

ARLINGTON, Texas – This is a shame, a dirty rotten shame.

         Their own dirty rotten shame, losing at home to a team coming in with a 2-5 record, starting a third-string quarterback who had not started a game since Dec. 8, 2011, and owning a miserable minus-9 turnover differential, all before a Monday night crowd at AT&T Stadium affording them as much of a home-field advantage as anyone could have hoped for.

Redskins 20, Cowboys 17, in overtime, and their six-game winning streak coming to a screeching halt is even worse than that.

DeMarco Murray rushes for another 100 yards, 141 to be exact, for a record-stretching eighth consecutive time to open a season.

For the first time in eight games the Cowboys had to rely on backup quarterback Brandon Weeden, who performed admirably, leading the club to 10 second-half points, managing a 17-17 tie before the injured Tony Romo could return with just 1:52 left in game.

[embeddedad0]Newcomer Henry Melton probably had his best game as a Cowboy, registering two sacks, two more than the entire team had the previous Sunday against the Giants and as many as they had in the past three games, and Tyrone Crawford continues to be all over the place since being moved to defensive tackle.

And while the entire defense wasn't exactly stellar, the Cowboys did manage to hold the Redskins to 17 points in regulation, and hey, any time you hold the opposition to no more than 17 points, sort of the line of demarcation between winning and losing in the NFL, you give your team a chance for the victory.

         But the Cowboys didn't. Lost their first game in seven weeks. Lost the distinction of owning the best record in the NFL, not to mention an NFC East game. Lost taking a 1.5-game lead in the division over Philadelphia, having to settle for but a half-game lead. Lost their flourishing luster, certainly causing many to grab the emergency brake on all this talk of them being the best team in the National Football League.

         Proved they are mortal.

         Look, I get it. It's hard to win six straight games in the NFL, even if you're the unqualified best team in the league. So that makes it really hard to win seven straight as the Cowboys were trying to do for the first time since 2007, trying to extend what had been the longest winning streak in the NFL this season.

         And I get that Washington probably played its best game of the year, which figures when we're talking Cowboys and Redskins. For a reminder of these strange occurrences in this rivalry, the 25-year anniversary is approaching of the 0-8 Cowboys going into RFK heading toward what seemed a certain ignominious 0-16 NFL and instead won what would be their one and only game of that 1989 season, 13-3.

         But doggoneit, this one is on them, or as Dez Bryant appropriately said, "We let one slip away. We've got to look at ourselves in this one."

         A long hard look in the mirror.

         Why, you can't take a little swing pass 36 yards to the Washington 5 and fumble the ball away, DeMarco Murray.

         You can't run 51 yards to the Washington 6, DeMarco Murray, and then another 3 to the 3 and come away with only a field goal. That's a minimum of seven, and a possible 11 points the Cowboys left on the field in a game that went overtime. Give me those 11, and Cowboys win 28-17 in regulation, as predicted.

         You can't have what seemed like one of those taking-candy-from-a-baby touchdown tosses from the 3 on a slant slip through your grasp, Dez Bryant, who came to the sideline after the Cowboys settled for that field goal apologizing, telling every unit that would listen, that was "my bad."

         But most of all, you can't act as if you have never seen a blitz. Come on, that's what Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has been doing for years to control Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Bring pressure. Bring it up the gut. Bring it from the outside. Bring six. Bring seven. Heck, sometimes eight. Play zero-coverage.

         Might as well have brought 'em all.

         The Redskins, without Brian Orakpo and cornerback DeAngelo Hall, and with former Cowboys defensive lineman Jason Hatcher's defensive line zeroed out, sacked Romo five times. And to think he had only been sacked five times in the previous five games.

And there weren't any polite sacks. These were brutal, every one of them, including the untouched Keenan Robinson sack with 7:50 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing 10-7 that nearly broke Romo in two.

         OK, maybe not, but seriously, that was violent, and Romo paid a high price. While they say he only suffered a "back contusion," the contused part might look like a watermelon by time he woke up on Tuesday morning heading for an MRI. X-rays were negative, so no structural damage, but geesh. Romo admitted to taking a shot to deaden the pain caused by the hit. For sure he isn't practicing on Wednesday this week, and this will be out of necessity instead of being a "Romo Day."

         The Cowboys were so worried about Romo's condition that COO Stephen Jones was seen scurrying down to the field. Down came owner Jerry Jones, too, for the first time in ages. Yep, it was that bad, and looked worse than that every time you watched another replay.

         Says on the stat sheet he was hurried another four times. Ha, that's generous. Seemed hurried all night. And it's not as if the offensive line was simply getting physically beaten. Washington was coming from every which way, oftentimes more than the Cowboys had men to block.

          And if that were not bad enough, those Redskins did not treat Romo with any more regard when he returned to the 17-17 game with 1:52 remaining in the fourth, Dallas hoping to make this grand drive for the winning field goal starting from its own 3-yard line.

         Right, think again. On second-and-1 after a Murray 9-yard run, and the Cowboys realizing they had a ways to go if they were going to reach Dan Bailey's field-goal range in time, safety Brandon Merriweather came on his umpteenth blitz off the edge, of course untouched, nailing Romo for a sack and a fumble, only Murray's recovery preventing shear disaster.

         And darn if the Redskins didn't blitz on the next five plays, the last on third-and-1 from the 32, forcing a Romo throw-away called grounding with only 16 seconds remaining. Overtime.

         Same disregard for Romo's health in overtime following the Redskins field-goal drive, never really giving him a chance to get the ball down the field and the Cowboys progressing no further than 8 yards before their four downs expired.

         As did their six-game winning streak, only part of the carnage that laid in the wake, not only Romo with a sore back, but likely having lost linebacker and defensive captain Justin Durant with a torn biceps and guard Ron Leary leaving with somewhat of a strained groin.

         Nice time for a short week, huh, with the 6-1 Arizona Cardinals heading this way for a noon start on Sunday.

         "It's a long season in this league," Cowboys co-captain Jason Witten said. "This one hurts. It's going to hurt. … We tried to overcome it, but there were too many turnovers, too many sacks, too many pressures and we just didn't capitalize when we had opportunities."

         The shame of it all in a nutshell.

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