ARLINGTON, Texas - Before and after every snap, Tony Romo felt the throbbing in his back, the result of an accidental blow suffered while making a first-quarter tackle, of all things.
While he could block out the pain during most plays, he couldn’t stop it from affecting his throws — at least, not until the game was on the line.
Given a break by a missed field goal, Romo scrambled for a first down, then completed seven straight passes, the last a 10-yarder to Patrick Crayton for a touchdown with 2:41 left that gave the Dallas Cowboys a 7-6 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday and preserved their spot atop the NFC East.
“I’ve always felt like, no matter what is really wrong — as long as it’s not a broken bone or something that’s going to keep you out — just on the adrenalin of the game, you can always do it,” Romo said. “That’s just part of football, part of understanding that’s the only way to play the game.”
This was the second straight week the Cowboys (7-3) didn’t score until the final minutes. Doing it on the road against the desperate Green Bay Packers was one thing; this time, it would’ve been humiliating considering they were at home and the Redskins (3-7) were down to third-stringers at running back and right guard and came in without their expensive defensive tackle and star tight end.
Washington overcame it all to lead 6-0 on field goals of 45 and 31 yards from Shaun Suisham. He missed a 39-yarder just before halftime, then a 50-yarder that would’ve made it 9-0 right before what proved to be Dallas’ winning drive. Those were Suisham’s first two misses of the season.
Even after Crayton scored, the Redskins had a chance to pull out a second straight win. But Jason Campbell threw a pass that was tipped and intercepted with 1:46 left, then had a heave fall incomplete as time expired.
“To lose it like that in the end in a hostile situation, it’s just so hard,” Washington coach Jim Zorn said. “Yet, we hung in there. I believe this is a special team of players who will not just chuck things in being 3-7. ... We’re going to look at our roster, patch it up and go again.”
They have a lot of patching to do. Running back Clinton Portis (concussion) already has been ruled out next week and backup Ladell Betts is having an MRI to determine the extent of the ligament damage in his left knee. Right guard Chad Rinehart broke his right leg and likely is lost for the season. Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth missed this game with an ankle injury, as did tight end Chris Cooley.
The Cowboys seemed headed for an early lead when Marion Barber led a run-filled second series. Then Barber fumbled inside the 20, Washington’s DeAngelo Hall recovered and Romo brought him down. As Hall was falling, his knee conked Romo in the back.
Romo was so bad after that it was obvious something was bothering him.
He didn’t complete a pass to a receiver until the final play of the third quarter. Dallas coach Wade Phillips was so desperate to get something going that he went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 39 early in the fourth quarter. Romo threw an interception.
Suisham’s second missed kick gave Romo one more chance, and he took advantage — despite having completed only eight passes up to that point.
Facing third-and-3 from his 47 with 6:23 left and the Cowboys trailing 6-0, Romo scooted up the middle for 5 yards and a first down, then hit Miles Austin three times and Jason Witten twice to get to the Washington 10. On second down, Romo scrambled left to get away from trouble and had enough room to run most of the way to the goal line. But he saw Crayton shaking off his coverage and drilled a pass into his chest in the middle of the end zone.
“Everyone in the stands saw it coming,” Phillips said, “and he put it right in there.”
Crayton’s celebratory spike was so emphatic it was as if he was trying to take out a game’s worth of frustration.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Campbell was 24 of 37 for 256 yards. He avoided sacks and other mistakes but wasn’t able to stretch the meager lead he held most of the game.
“Other than a couple of plays, we pretty much beat them,” he said. “It’s been a crazy season. We keep losing one player after another.”
Rock Cartwright, who had 68 yards on 17 carries all season coming in, had 67 yards on 13 carries, and seven receptions for 73 yards.
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