If the Redskins were purposely trying to tank their final three games, as some had speculated, by starting Rex Grossman at quarterback in place of Donovan McNabb, then it appears the team can't even intentionally lose effectively.
While Grossman committed the key blunders that have come to typify his NFL career, the quarterback played admirably overall and quieted many of the critics who felt that benching McNabb was unfair or worse.
Of course, it didn't seem that way from the outset. The Redskins came out passing on the opening drive, a curious move given that the team had a new starting quarterback and all. Three passes and only one was completed. The last two were poorly thrown and incomplete, leading to a punt. When Grossman threw an interception on the Redskins second drive, it seemed like the 'Skins were headed for a lop-sided defeat.
When the Cowboys recovered a Grossman fumble on the first drive of the second half and scored to push their lead to 27-7, the 'Skins could have packed it in and gone on with the tank job -- if that's actually what they had wanted.
But Grossman and the offense rallied, scoring touchdowns on each of the next three possessions, driving more than 70 yards each time to do so. Grossman also converted two two-point conversion attempts.
Grossman was the first Redskins quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game since Mark Brunell did it in December 2005. That could have been five had Santana Moss reeled in a wide open pass down the sideline in the fourth quarter. The would-be 75-yard would also likely have put Grossman over 400 yards passing on the day.
Alas, though Grossman and Moss connected for two touchdowns in the game, Moss let what might have been the game-winner slip out of his grasp.
Getting his second chance this season to drive for a potential victory -- the first coming after McNabb's controversial benching in Detroit --Grossman came up short again, throwing an interception on the 'Skins final drive, when the team needed a field goal to tie.
Failing to get a victory but playing better than expectations is a hard way to go about justifying a change at starting quarterback, but Mike Shanahan doesn't look entirely foolish in the aftermath of Grossman's first start.
Still, even had the Redskins won, many in the locker room would not approve of the way the coach handled the abrupt benching of McNabb and his reasoning for doing so. That is a high price to pay for a new quarterback who is just good enough to lose competitively.