Redskins' rally from 31-0 hole falls short Cardinals emerge with 45-42 victory

November 23, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

LANDOVER -- Coach Norv Turner said it was a backyard call.

Cornerback Darrell Green labeled it a possible makeup call to the Arizona Cardinals from last week, when apparent interference against Rob Moore in the end zone was not called on the final play of the game.

And linebacker Derek Smith simply said it was a bad call.

Regardless how any of the Washington Redskins felt, the result was another bitter defeat, 45-42, to the Cardinals yesterday in a wild NFC East game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

The goal-line call late in the fourth quarter was just one element of a game during which the Redskins nearly overcame a 31-0 deficit, scoring touchdowns on six consecutive possessions, and the teams totaled 857 yards of offense.

Arizona led 38-35 with a little less than four minutes left and had third-and-goal from the 1. As quarterback Jake Plummer tried to score, the ball came loose. Officials ruled neither that he had crossed the goal line nor that he had fumbled, instead saying he was down by contact.

On fourth down, Plummer bulled his way into the end zone for a 45-35 lead with 3: 49 left. Though the Redskins added a touchdown with 1: 46 remaining, they couldn't overcome that last Cardinals score.

After the game, Turner railed against the call.

"Back when you were 8 years old and you used to play in the back yard and you're playing with your buddies, you have five on each side, and you are not sure what it was, you called it a do-over," Turner said. "You know, you play it again and that is what that [call] was.

"They couldn't make a decision if the ball crossed the plane or if it was a fumble, so they made no decision. They said it was down wherever they put it down. They may as well have made it third down. You would just like to see them make a call. Hey, we are all out there -- players, coaches and officials. There are some tough calls and tough decisions, but you have to make them."

Referee Mike Carey said: "Plummer went on top of the pile with the ball extended toward the goal line, and neither one of the two wing officials [head linesman and line judge] who were responsible for the call could see the ball in the end zone. Forward progress was stopped, therefore we can't give him a touchdown and we couldn't determine when the ball came loose, so by mechanics, we determined that we're supposed to put the ball in the field of play downed by contact."

So the Cardinals (6-5) are probably headed to the playoffs and the Redskins (2-9) are further doomed to help the Philadelphia Eagles anchor the bottom of the NFC East standings.

Smith, who came out of the pack with the football when Plummer lost it, said: "Someone punched the ball out of Plummer's hands before he broke the plane, and I came up with it. I don't know who hit it. I was paying too much attention to the runner, but I do know it was a fumble and not a touchdown."

The call or no-call spoiled a dramatic Redskins comeback and helped negate the best performance in quarterback Trent Green's NFL career.

Green riddled the Cardinals for 382 yards and four touchdown passes on 30-for-49 passing despite being sacked five times. He also ran 2 yards for a touchdown with 1: 46 left in the game, reducing the lead to 45-42.

"Every time I looked back at Trent, he was pulling grass off his uniform," said Redskins wide receiver Leslie Shepherd.

The loss also helped wipe out a career-best performance by Washington's silent wide receiver, Michael Westbrook, who had 10 catches for 135 yards and three touchdowns.

All the Green and Westbrook heroics still might have produced a victory if the Redskins had not handed the Cardinals a field goal in the opening minutes of the game, when usually reliable Brian Mitchell muffed a punt at the Washington 29-yard line, and if kicker Cary Blanchard did not have a 33-yard field-goal attempt blocked early in the second quarter.

Pub Date: 11/23/98

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