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Novak kicks winning field goal in wild ending

Nov 5, 2006 - 9:39 PM LANDOVER, Maryland (Ticker) -- Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells have seen many wild things in their coaching careers. But they had never seen an ending quite as bizarre as this.

Nick Novak made good on a second chance, kicking a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the game after Mike Vanderjagt had a 35-yard attempt blocked as the Washington Redskins posted a 22-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in a battle of NFC East rivals.

First it appeared the Redskins (3-5) would snap a 19-19 tie when Novak lined up for a 49-yard field goal with 31 seconds left. But Novak missed the attempt wide to the right.

Tony Romo, who was making just his second NFL start, then showed the aplomb of a veteran, completing three passes for 44 yards to put the Cowboys (4-4) in field goal range. Tight end Jason Witten caught a 28-yard pass over the middle, setting the stage for Vanderjagt to attempt a 35-yard field goal with six seconds left.

Vanderjagt entered the season as the most accurate kicker in NFL history, but may be best known for missing a potential game-tying field goal in the final seconds of the Indianapolis Colts' 21-18 playoff loss to Pittsburgh last January. In the offseason, Vanderjagt signed as a free agent with Dallas after the Colts signed Adam Vinatieri.

This appeared to be a chip shot for Vanderjagt, but his kick was blocked by Troy Vincent, who was signed by the Redskins on October 16 after being released by Buffalo. The ball bounced around before it was picked up by Sean Taylor, who ran 30 yards to the Dallas 44 as time expired.

The game appeared to be headed to overtime, but Kyle Kosier was called for a facemask penalty on the return, tacking on another 15 yards. Along with the extra yards, the penalty also awarded the Redskins with an untimed down.

Gibbs immediately called for Novak to try a 47-yard field attempt and he came through this time, sneaking the ball inside the right upright.

"Gosh, I don't know if I've experienced anything like that," said Gibbs, a Hall of Fame coach and three-time Super Bowl winner with the Redskins. "There were so many plays at the end that could have gone either way."

Parcells, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach, may not have experienced a more heartbreaking regular-season loss.

"It's a really tough pill to swallow because after closing all that distance to get a shot at winning and then have it just reverse itself, it's very disheartening," Parcells said.

Of all the plays in the last 31 seconds, Gibbs especially praised Taylor for his aggressiveness.

"If I was going to put the ball in someone's hands it would be his," Gibbs said of Taylor. "He has an unusual way of making things happen. I think he would make a great running back."

On the other hand, Parcells was most disappointed with the blocked kick.

"We just had to execute that one play and we didn't do it," Parcells said.

Vanderjagt had earlier kicked field goals of 33 and 30 yards before watching his last attempt get blocked.

"It was blocked two feet in front of me," Vanderjagt said. "I didn't see what happened. I'm concentrating on my kick and not paying attention to the rush. There was nothing I could do."

Vincent is a five-time Pro Bowler in his 15th year in the league. He had never blocked a kick in his career.

"I'm not on the block team, but I was out there and Witten went out to block Carlos (Rogers) and I came free," Vincent said. "I came free, they blocked out and I saw the ball and tried to make a play. They make the field goal and they win, so it was our last effort."

The block and return gave Novak a second chance and he took advantage of it.

"I was upset I missed the first one, but it's a short walk from the outhouse to the penthouse," Novak said. "This is better than anything in my entire life. It's a dream to hit that game-winner. To see my teammates come on the field and have them tackle me, it was a great feeling."

Kosier's facemask made the kick possible. It was the 11th penalty of the day for the Cowboys, totaling 153 yards.

"To have another chance at the field goal at that field goal after we blocked theirs and got the penalty, it was amazing," said Redskins quarterback Mark Brunell, who was 14-of-23 for 192 yards and one touchdown.

Terrell Owens caught a four-yard touchdown with 10:17 left in the third quarter, giving the Cowboys a 19-12 lead.

But later in the quarter, Owens dropped a long pass after he got behind the defense.

"I let the team down," said Owens, who caught seven passes for 76 yards. "It was a lack of concentration on my part and I took my eye off of it. I had my chance to make a big play and break the game open. I have to take this on my shoulders and come back next week."

The Redskins tied the game when Brunell threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Cooley 55 seconds into the fourth quarter. The pass deflected off cornerback Anthony Henry before Cooley hauled it in.

After an impressive first start last week in a 35-14 win at Carolina, Romo was 24-of-36 for 284 yards and two touchdowns with zero interceptions.

"I don't feel good," Romo said. "I am not here to put up numbers. I am here to win games for this team. Losing leaves a bad taste in your mouth."

Washington started the game with a 14-play, 78-yard drive which consumed 8 1/2 minutes. But the Redskins failed to score after having 1st-and-goal at the Dallas 2. Clinton Portis rushed for one yard and was stuffed for no gain. Ladell Betts was also stopped for no gain before Portis was tackled short of the goal line on fourth down.

After the Cowboys took over at the 1, running back Julius Jones was tackled in the end zone for a safety by linebacker Lemar Marshall with 6:29 left in the first quarter.

Mike Sellers returned the ensuing free kick 22 yards. Brunell then hit James Thrash over the middle for 27 yards to set up a 28-yard field goal by Novak with 4:28 left in the first quarter.

The Cowboys took the lead when Romo hit Terry Glenn with a 10-yard touchdown pass with 12:55 left in the second quarter. However, Parcells opted to go for two points instead of the extra point and Romo failed to hit Patrick Crayton in the end zone.

"I go by the chart," Parcells said of his decision to go for two points.

Vanderjagt kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:27 remaining in the second quarter to give Dallas a 9-5 lead.

Portis scored on a 38-yard run around left end to give the lead back to Washington, 12-9 with 2:23 left in the half.

Vanderjagt kicked a 30-yard field goal with three seconds remaining to tie the game, 12-12, at halftime.

The loss dropped the Cowboys two games behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East.

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