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The 12th man comes to Dallas

9/29/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Unfortunately, there are (misguided) Cowboys fans across the nation this morning attempting to blame Sunday's 26-24 loss to the Redskins on an illegal participation penalty with 6:58 left in the game.

Apparently it didn't strike safety Pat Watkins odd that he was standing next to the man who replaces him in short-yardage situations, and the Cowboys were flagged for having 12 men on the field. Coach Wade Phillips grabbed for his red flag and threatened to challenge -- until he realized the officials were correct.

"I can't understand how two players playing the position could be standing out there," said a befuddled Phillips. "I can't fathom that."

If the Cowboys had managed to stop the Redskins with the traditional 11 on that play, Shaun Suisham would've attempted a 49-yard field goal. There's no guarantee he misses from that distance, but it would've made it more challenging than the 29-yarder he eventually made. But as Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News points out this morning, it's not fair to make Watkins the goat in this loss. He simply had too much company.

And the play I haven't written enough about was the Chris Horton interception late in the third quarter. The rookie safety has become one of the Redskins' top playmakers. The Cowboys trailed 20-17 when quarterback Tony Romo attempted to throw a 10-yard out to Miles Austin. Horton had gotten caught too far inside on the play, but when he saw Romo looking toward Austin, he took off in a dead sprint. He intercepted the pass and the Redskins soon kicked a field goal to make it 23-17.

The Redskins didn't want to rush Horton, a seventh-round draft pick out of UCLA, but he hasn't really cooperated. He's forced his way into the starting lineup. Now, he's emerging as one of the defense's best players.