IRVING, Texas -- Bill Parcells challenged the Dallas Cowboys by telling them, "It's showtime." They responded by having two touchdowns erased by penalties, throwing two interceptions and losing two fumbles -- all before halftime.
"It was a complete nightmare," Parcells said.
But these are not the Cowboys who went 5-11 each of the past three seasons. With Troy Hambrick and Terry Glenn atoning for early mistakes, and the Washington Redskins failing to take advantage of them, Dallas won 21-14 Sunday for its sixth victory in seven games.
The Cowboys (6-2) improved to 3-0 against division foes to tighten their grip on the NFC East. Dallas also rebounded from a shutout loss to Tampa Bay by opening its crucial November stretch with a victory -- albeit an ugly one.
"I'm just happy to be where we are now," Parcells said. "Hey, we're going to have to play a lot better than we did today if we're going to do something."
The rest of this month, the Cowboys play Buffalo, New England, Carolina and Miami -- teams that are a combined 21-11. The run will show whether Dallas can win the division for the first time since 1998 or miss the playoffs -- which Denver, San Diego and New Orleans did after starting 6-2 last season.
"Parcells has changed things around," said safety Darren Woodson, the lone holdover from Dallas' three Super Bowl championship teams of the 1990s. "Guys are believing."
Hambrick, who had the two early fumbles, finished with 100 yards and two short touchdown runs. Glenn made up for some awful drops, including one that led to Washington's first touchdown, with a nice catch-and-run for a 19-yard TD that gave Dallas breathing room early in the fourth quarter. He also sealed the victory with a 47-yard run on a reverse in the closing minutes.
Washington (3-5), coming off a bye week, lost its fourth straight and fifth in six games. The Redskins were so bad that the Fun 'n' Gun offense had just 11 yards in the first quarter and minus-11 yards passing at halftime, leaving coach Steve Spurrier grimacing and gripping his visor.
"I'm not going to get on my players any more this season," Spurrier said. "We are what we are."
Patrick Ramsey was 16-of-30 for 147 yards and continued to take a pounding, leaving twice with injuries to his non-throwing hand. Backup Tim Hasselbeck, throwing for the first time in his NFL career, went 2-of-3 for 20 yards.
The Redskins found themselves relying on their fourth-string running back.
"It's bad now," linebacker Jessie Armstead said, "but it can always be worse."
Dallas beat Washington for the 11th time in 12 meetings and eighth straight at home, much to the dismay of Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, who watched from a luxury box.
Spurrier did little to impress his boss. In addition to play-calling that didn't work, several decisions backfired.
He declined a penalty so Dallas would have third-and-long, but the Cowboys converted and scored their second touchdown on that drive. Then, after Ramsey threw a 19-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion with 2:30 left, Spurrier opted not to try an onside kick, hoping his defense could hold. It couldn't, getting tricked by Glenn's reverse.
It was a fitting end to a game filled with wackiness:
- Dallas returned the opening kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown, but it was erased by a penalty. So was a 35-yard TD pass to Glenn.
- The Cowboys' first three drives ended in a long interception, a fumble by Hambrick, and another interception when Glenn rolled over trying to control a catch, but instead flipped the ball to Washington safety Ifeanyi Ohalete.
- Two plays later, the Redskins got a 7-yard touchdown pass from Ramsey to Laveranues Coles. The extra point was blocked.
- The Cowboys appeared to get within 6-3 on a 22-yard field goal, but Washington's Antonio Pierce was flagged for unsportmanlike conduct; officials said he was "jamming signals." Given a first down at the 2, Hambrick scored.
- Both teams had faulty flea flickers in the first quarter.
- Dallas' Quincy Carter was 17-of-33 for 196 yards.
- Coles' TD ended a four-game drought.
- RB Chad Morton joined Ladell Betts and Trung Canidate in sick bay, making Rock Cartwright the featured back. He had 44 yards on eight carries.
- Dallas RB Adrian Murrell played for the first time since the 2000 finale; Washington DT Darrell Russell was back after 1½ seasons.
The Associated Press News Service
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