Monday, September 13, 2010

Hold everything: Dal 7, Was 13

I sat on the floor against the wall, staring to the left of the television, replays of a blatant holding call in my periphery. And Chris Collinsworth said it best, noting that referees hate to have to throw a flag on the last play of a game, but there was no gray area on that play. Tony Romo's touchdown pass to Roy Williams with no time on the clock, a play that would have tied the game and set up a game-winning extra point, was nullified.

The Dallas Cowboys suffered through a rash of penalties and still had a chance to win in the game's final moments. Instead, Washington emerged with a deep exhale and the 13-7 win.

As for Dallas, they are 0-1.

The offensive tackle who that offensive tackle of a hold, Alex Barron, was highlighted throughout the NBC broadcast as the most penalized player in the NFL in recent seasons, even more so than former Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams. And while Adams may now be a Pittsburgh Steeler, even he wouldn't have made that costly play to negate the game-winning touchdown (but perhaps only because the play is blown dead and reset on a false start, and Barron committed a holding penalty).

Washington's season-opening win will be remembered as the "glorious beginning" of the Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan era, but for Dallas it's a gut punch loss to begin a season of Super Bowl aspirations.

Dallas has no one to blame but themselves, and it starts - as always - at the top. Yes, Mr. Fix It had his defense ready to play, limiting the Redskins to three field goals, one of which Shanahan took off the board after the Cowboys jumped offsides on the made kick. While the Cowboys only had one sack on McNabb, the secondary came through on multiple occasions, specifically Mike Jenkins who combatted consecutive throws to the end zone to keep Washington down.

But Wade Phillips, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, and the rest of the Cowboys coaches have to be responsible for a team that not only commits 12 penalties for nearly 100 years, but also for calling plays that put the team in a position to fail. Getting the ball back before the half, the Cowboys did have a legitimate chance to get into field goal range, and in a 3-0 game, it's understandable the Cowboys would want to get points on the board before the half.

But on 1st and 10 from nearly midfield, a Barron holding penalty -- if only they we knew then what we know now, right? -- pushed Dallas back to their own 36 with :04 seconds left in the half. At that point, a 60-yard bomb to the end zone isn't really necessary and the three point deficit at he half isn't as big a deal. Now you just take a knee and go to the locker room, unless you're playing Madden, and the Cowboys were.

Romo drops back, gets flushed out of the pocket, flips to Tashard Choice who gets stood up by the defense and stripped by Dante Hall, who picks up the loose ball and takes it 32 yards the other way for Washington's only TD of the day. Whose fault is it? You can blame Romo for not just sliding when he knew the play wouldn't result in anything or blame Choice for not falling down with the ball after Romo's pitch. But the more appropriate culprit are the coaches that told the competitors on the field to "swing for the fences" when there was no need to even step to the plate.

The Cowboys had the opportunity to win the game. And when it came to the end of each half, with no time on the clock, the Cowboys made two of the biggest blunders this side of Leon Lett.

It's not my place to say whether Barron should or shouldn't have a job by Week 2. Coaches and an owner who places winning above all else will decide his fate. But the line du jour came from Collinsworth in the moments immediately following his game-losing holding call.

Mark Colombo, get well soon.

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