Staubach gained a measure of redemption against his nemesis in the final regular season game of his career, rallying the Cowboys from a 13-point deficit with less than four minutes left for a 35-34 win at Texas Stadium on Dec. 16, 1979. The victory, coupled with the Chicago Bears’ 42-6 win against the St. Louis Cardinals, sent 11-5 Dallas into the playoffs as NFC East champions while the Redskins, at 10-6, missed the postseason.
Dallas defensive end Harvey Martin tossed a funeral wreath into the Redskins’ locker room shortly after the win, the only time the teams played head-to-head in the final week to decide the NFC East.
The teams played in Week 15 in 1983, when both were 12-2. The Redskins trampled the Cowboys, 31-10, at Texas Stadium behind 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns by running back John Riggins and Art Monk’s 119 receiving yards.
Washington won its last 11 games that season, including the playoffs, to advance to Super Bowl XVIII, won by the Los Angeles Raiders. Dallas dropped consecutive games heading into the postseason, where it lost to the Los Angeles Rams, 24-17, in the first round.
In 1984, the Cowboys and Redskins met in Week 15 at Texas Stadium, again with major playoff implications. Trailing by 15 points at halftime, the Redskins forged ahead at the end of the third quarter, but the Cowboys reclaimed the lead on a 43-yard touchdown pass from Danny White to Tony Hill.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Riggins scored on a one-yard run to seal a 30-28 victory, and the Redskins moved into first place in the NFC East. Washington beat the Cardinals the next week to end the season with four straight wins and the division title. Dallas lost its final game and failed to qualify for the postseason.
“It’ll be special for everyone involved, and it’s the type of game you’ll remember for a long time,” Cooley said of Sunday’s encounter, whose kickoff time was moved to 8:20 p.m. to accommodate a national television audience. “It’ll be one of those games that can really change a franchise.”
Mike Jones contributed to this report.