LANDOVER - The Washington Redskins nearly spoiled cornerback Darrell Green's ride into the sunset.
Committing five turnovers, losing two touchdowns on a replay challenge and a penalty, and receiving a poor outing from rookie quarterback Patrick Ramsey can ruin a party.
Despite that, Washington still found a way to hold off the Dallas Cowboys, 20-14, in their season finale before a jubilant crowd of 84,142 at FedEx Field yesterday.
"It was an ugly victory, but I'll take the victory," said left tackle Chris Samuels.
Coach Steve Spurrier also wasn't ecstatic about what he saw.
"We had a chance to beat Dallas by three or four touchdowns today, but we had a lot of bad plays here and there," he said. "We almost let them get back into the game."
But the Redskins had enough positives to outweigh the negatives.
A stingy defense that surrendered just 186 yards of total offense, another solid performance by running backs Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson, and a LaVar Arrington fumble recovery in the end zone were all the ingredients Washington (7-9) needed to whip up a victory for Green, who is retiring after a 20-year career - all with the Redskins.
That the win came against the hated Cowboys and halted a 10-game losing skid to the NFC East rivals made it even more special to Green, who started for the first time this season and returned a punt 35 yards on a reverse in the second quarter.
"I thank all those who set up the schedule that way," Green said with a laugh. "Can it get any better? I don't think so."
True to form, however, the Redskins nervously allowed Dallas to turn a seemingly lopsided affair into a nail-biter. The offense took five drives inside the Cowboys' 40-yard line, but all five ended with Washington turnovers.
The most costly were a second-quarter interception by free safety Roy Williams that he returned 85 yards to tie the score at 7 and a fumble by Betts that rolled out of the side of the end zone and gave the ball to Dallas.
Originally ruled a touchdown, the play was reversed after video replays showed that defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban stripped Betts of the ball before he crossed the goal line.
Another Redskins touchdown was negated in the third quarter after kicker Jose Cortez converted the first of two field-goal attempts.
On the ensuing kickoff, Redskins linebacker Lemar Marshall smacked into returner Woodrow Dantzler at the 12-yard line and jarred the ball loose. After a few seconds during which neither team realized the ball was on the turf, fullback Bryan Johnson picked up the ball from under Dantzler's legs and ran into the end zone untouched.
But officials ruled that several Washington players had walked onto the field during the play and assessed the team a penalty for having too many men on the field. The ball was returned to the Cowboys and the touchdown was wiped out.
"I think somebody said Fred Smoot bumped the ref on the way out and they called illegal participation," an incredulous Spurrier said. "I've never seen that one in all my days. I said, `Don't we just get the ball back right there?' The guy said, `Nope.' "
Ramsey's two-start string of solid performances came to an end. After passing for five touchdowns and zero interceptions in his past two starts, he completed just 17 of 31 attempts for 209 yards and threw zero touchdowns and two interceptions yesterday.
But the Redskins persevered due, in part, to their running game and defense. Betts (17 carries for 98 yards) and Kenny Watson (17 for 58) led a ground attack that compiled 151 yards. Watson's 5-yard plow into the end zone gave Washington a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
The defense held Dallas to a season-low 38 rushing yards to help saddle the Cowboys with a third straight 5-11 season.
The defense sacked rookie quarterback Chad Hutchinson five times and intercepted him once, recovered three fumbles, and limited running back Emmitt Smith to just 13 yards on 18 carries, which left the NFL's all-time leading rusher 25 yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard plateau for the 12th consecutive year.
"We knew Emmitt needed  yards to get 1,000, and anybody would've said, `He's going to get that easy,' " said defensive end Renaldo Wynn. "But we were so determined to say, `Emmitt, you're not going to get it.' We told him in the huddle, on the field, when guys were tackling him."
The defense also supplied a touchdown when defensive end Bruce Smith collected his 195th career sack and dislodged the football from Hutchinson at Dallas' 5-yard line, and Arrington pounced on the rolling ball to break a 7-7 tie.
"We were getting such a good push up front all game, I was like, `Pay attention. Don't relax because something could happen,' " Arrington said. "Sure enough, it popped out, and I was hoping and praying that I was going to be the one that got there."
Only the New York Giants and the Cleveland Browns boasted larger winning streaks against Washington. The Giants owned a 13-game unbeaten streak (12 wins and one tie) between 1958 and 1964; the Browns had a 12-game trend between 1963 and 1971.
The Redskins also avoided going winless in the division for only the second time in 30 years by beating Dallas. The last Washington team to get swept in the division was the 1994 squad that went 0-8 against the Cowboys, Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Philadelphia Eagles.