WASHINGTON -- It was a familiar plot line for the Washington Redskins yesterday.
They opened the annual revolving door for their quarterbacks, and they found they still haven't figured out how to play well at home against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins, who lost to the Cowboys at home the past two seasons, spent all week saying things would be different this time. Instead, the Redskins played poorly enough yesterday to make it three straight.
Despite eight dropped passes and 11 penalties, they escaped with a 19-15 victory only because cornerback Darrell Green ran 18 yards for a touchdown with an interception and Chip Lohmiller kicked four field goals, including a 55-yarder.
It didn't help that the Redskins lost their quarterback, Mark Rypien, late in the second period with a sprained knee. Stan Humphries finished and is expected to start next week.
Not that this is anything new. It's the fourth straight year -- since Jay Schroeder took the team all the way to the National Football Conference title game in 1986 -- that the starting quarterback has failed to make it to the second half of the year.
Schroeder injured his shoulder in the 1987 opener and was benched twice after that. Doug Williams underwent an appendectomy after the third game in 1988, and Rypien was benched after eight games last year and came back two games later.
"We've got to try and repair and patch up in the next few days," coach Joe Gibbs said.
They'll also sign a new backup quarterback today, because Jeff Rutledge is on the injured reserve list and ineligible to return for another week.
Meanwhile, the Redskins have to discover why they can't play better against the Cowboys.
Just in case you missed a decade, these aren't the Tom Landry-Roger Staubach Cowboys. These are the Jimmy Johnson-Troy Aikman Cowboys. They're 2-17 since Johnson took over and 3-28 in their past 31 games.
The Redskins, though, seem to start stumbling at the mere sight of their uniforms.
"I don't know how to explain that," Gibbs said. "Everything in the world happened."
Guard Mark Schlereth, who blocked Dean Hamel on the play when Rypien was injured, said, "We just played really lousy."
"There's no excuses," Redskins offensive guard Russ Grimm said. "The defense won the football game. I don't know what it is [the Redskins' problems], to be honest with you."
The Redskins were quick to credit their defense, but Johnson blamed "mistakes and penalties" for the Cowboys' loss.
Even after Green scored his touchdown to give the Redskins a 19-6, fourth-period lead, the Washington defense wasn't able to take control of the game.
Aikman led the Cowboys on a 71-yard touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 19-13, and the Redskins had to take a safety with 1 minute, 51 seconds left after they were backed up on their 2-yard line.
Ralf Mojsiejenko punted to the Dallas 21. On fourth-and-one at the Dallas 39, Aikman went deep to Dennis McKinnon. Brian Davis climbed up McKinnon's back and was called for pass interference.
That gave the Cowboys a first down on the Washington 40 with 1:03 left. They had enough time to pull it out.
On the next play, Aikman's inexperience cost the Cowboys. Todd Bowles picked off a pass to clinch the game.
Bowles, who said he was supposed to cover Jay Novacek, said: "After my man stayed in, I drifted over to help. He [Aikman] didn't telegraph the pass, because I don't think he ever saw me. He's a good quarterback who's going to be a great quarterback."
Aikman may have a great future, but the future isn't now.
"I'm upset," Aikman said. "We've got to learn what it takes to win those games down the stretch."
The Redskins (2-1), meanwhile, can't play this way if they expect to compete with the New York Giants for the National Football Conference East title.
Last week, the Giants beat the Cowboys, 28-7, and had a 41:40-18:20 edge in time of possession. Against the Cowboys yesterday, the Redskins trailed in first downs, 19-11, yardage, 234-214, and time of possession, 36:07-23:53.
Wide receiver Gary Clark, who dropped two passes, said, "I'rather win ugly than lose pretty."
What kind of a day was it?
On Humphries' first play after Rypien was injured in the second period -- when Hamel fell on his leg -- the Redskins had a first down on the 24.
Humphries threw a 24-yard pass in the end zone right into Sanders' arms. It was the stuff of storybook starts.
But it didn't quite work. Sanders, who dropped three passes, failed to catch it. It didn't make any difference, because Earnest Byner was called for holding on the play.
That set the tone for Humphries' day. He called his play "mediocre" and said, "I don't think I played well."
Humphries, who completed five of 13 passes for 58 yards, said he is eager to play after throwing just 10 passes in his second pro season in 1989.
"It's my chance," he said. "I've got to take advantage of it."