So close, yet so far: Redskins 0-for-road Cardinals triumph on TD with 1:16 left

October 16, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Close Losses R Us.

That seems to be the theme of what is rapidly becoming a nightmarish season for the Washington Redskins.

The Redskins, who beat Arizona in the opener at RFK Stadium, lost to the Cardinals, 24-20, at Sun Devil Stadium yesterday, when Garrison Hearst caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Dave Krieg with 1:16 left.

For the Redskins (2-5), it was the fourth time they lost on the road in the final 76 seconds this year.

On top of everything else, their $18 million rookie receiver, Michael Westbrook, was knocked out in the second quarter with a sprained knee. He'll have an exam today to determine how serious the injury is.

Coach Norv Turner is now 5-18 as Redskins head coach, with 13 of the losses coming by eight points or fewer and 10 of them coming when the Redskins were ahead or tied in the fourth quarter.

Turner, who said he'd never gone through a stretch like this when he was an assistant coach, said the close losses haven't shaken his belief in what he's doing.

"You have to have a philosophy of playing, and you have to believe in it," he said. "I know what we're doing works. Shoot, it's worked in a number of other places. We're so close that I think if you change the things you believe in, then you do start going backwards. You have to be more determined, more persistent and just keep trying to get better."

Before yesterday's loss, John Elway beat the Redskins in Denver with a 43-yard touchdown pass on the final play, Martin Mayhew intercepted a pass in Tampa with two seconds left to preserve a victory, and the Redskins lost in overtime in Philadelphia last week.

What is particularly frustrating for the Redskins is that they thought they had turned a corner when they upset the Dallas Cowboys two weeks ago to go to 2-3.

This time, they jumped to a 7-0 lead on a 60-yard drive that was capped by Gus Frerotte's 46-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ellard.

Even though the Cardinals came back to have a 37:20-22:40 edge in time of possession, the Redskins still took a 20-17 lead with 45 seconds left in the third period on Frerotte's 29-yard pass to Coleman Bell, who caught the ball on the 4 and rolled into the end zone when Seth Joyner failed to touch him.

The Redskins then forced the Cardinals to punt two straight times, but the Redskins had to punt it back both times when they misfired on third down.

Ellard dropped a third-down pass on the first drive and was wide open deep on third down on the next drive, only to have Frerotte overthrow him.

"I said, 'Henry's going to get to this one,' and it's just out of his reach," Frerotte said.

The Cardinals then put together a 58-yard drive in nine plays for the game-winning score capped by Krieg's touchdown pass.

Krieg, who passed for 207 yards, surpassed Phil Simms and John Hadl and is 10th on the all-time passing list with 33,562 yards.

The Redskins got the ball back with 1:10 left and no timeouts because Frerotte had burned them when he wasn't comfortable with the plays.

"I didn't want to be confused and make something worse. I'm just learning," Frerotte said.

(Turner said he'll stick with Frerotte against the Detroit Lions next week.)

The Redskins got to the Cardinals' 34 when time ran out.

The Cardinals were helped by the return of Eric Swann from a knee injury and put a fierce rush on Frerotte, although they only sacked him twice.

In the first game, a 27-7 Redskins win, Tre Johnson neutralized Swann, but Johnson missed yesterday's game with a sprained ankle and Swann dominated Vernice Smith.

"It's obvious the difference the man makes," Cardinals defensive coordinator Ronnie Jones said of Swann.

The Cardinals also held Terry Allen to 42 yards on 17 carries after he got 131 in the first game.

It was a sweet win for coach Buddy Ryan, who's been under fire in Phoenix because of the team's 1-5 start.

Only 42,370 fans showed up, and another 7,489 bought tickets and didn't attend. Some of the fans who did come had "Buddy Must Go" signs.

Ryan said: "It was a great win. We needed it bad."

The Redskins, meanwhile, are left looking for answers.

Cornerback Darrell Green, who was beaten on Frank Sanders' )) 20-yard diving catch that set up the winning touchdown, said that looking for one thing is like "chasing ghosts."

MA Green added: "The answer is that there just isn't one thing."

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