Dismal days as Redskins and Cowboys continue to slide

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The Independent Online

Once they were regular contenders for honours, but these days the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys have fallen far from the lofty heights of yesteryear. The Cowboys, winners of three Super Bowls in four years during the 1990s, and Washington, triple champions between 1982 and 1991, are among the weakest teams in the league, and neither improved their status following dismal performances on Sunday.

The Redskins are going from bad to worse under their new head coach, Marty Schottenheimer. Having lost 30-3 to San Diego and 37-0 against Green Bay, Washington collapsed at home to the previously winless Kansas City Chiefs, 45-13. Schottenheimer, winner of 150 games during a 15-year coaching career, found himself booed by the Redskins faithful every time his face appeared on the giant TV screens. Despite releasing the troublesome quarterback Jeff George, the Redskins have scored only one touchdown all season, while their crumbling defence yielded an embarrassing 546 yards to the Chiefs.

Schottenheimer's post-match press conference was full of ramblings about the need to address the team's many problems. Instead, it was left to the veteran defensive end Bruce Smith to articulate the frustrations of a side in free-fall. "It was downright disgusting," he said. "I'd like to use a few more adjectives, but I can't. At times like this, it's best if less is said because a person can fly off the handle."

The Cowboys are faring no better. They have yet to win this year, and never looked capable of ending that streak following a 40-18 mauling in Philadelphia. As ever, self-inflicted wounds continue to haunt the former champions, who conceded four turnovers in the first-half alone. Their quarterback, Anthony Wright, endured another torrid evening, completing just seven of 23 passes for a miserable 35 yards.

"We're averaging around four or five turnovers a game, and if you're doing that, there's no way you can win," said the running back Emmitt Smith. "I think one of the high schools here in Philadelphia could have beaten us at that rate."

The only ray of hope for the beleaguered arch-enemies is that things can change quickly. Last year, the San Diego Chargers managed one victory from 16 attempts. This year, they have won all three of their games, and their 28-14 triumph over the Cincinnati Bengals owed much to the running of the rookie LaDanian Tomlinson, who scored three touchdowns.

A year ago, the Cleveland Browns visited Jacksonville and crept away on the wrong end of a 48-0 humiliation. Evidence of the Browns' resurgence came with their unexpected 23-14 upset of the Jaguars. The Browns also sent Jacksonville's quarterback, Mark Brunell, to the sidelines with a suspected concussion.

The New England Patriots were without their ailing quarterback, Drew Bledsoe, but still contrived to beat the free-scoring Indianapolis Colts, 44-13. The Colts' Peyton Manning had a match to forget, throwing three interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.

The Baltimore Ravens rebounded from the shock of last week's loss to Cincinnati, their smothering defence helping them to a 20-13 triumph in Denver. The New York Giants, beaten by the Ravens in last year's Super Bowl, maintained their recent good form with a 21-13 victory over the New Orleans Saints. Atlanta's victory over Arizona came at some cost: their running back, Jamal Anderson, may be out for the season, after damaging his left knee.

The team to watch, however, could be the St Louis Rams. The champions of 1999 dismantled the Miami Dolphins, with the quarterback Kurt Warner throwing four touchdowns and more than 300 yards against one of the tightest defenses in the game.