Redskins Safeties Saw Turning Points Coming
By David DuPree
The play came on fourth down from the Redskins' four-yard line with 24 seconds left in the game when Houston wrestled the Cowboys' cowboy, Walt Garrison, to the ground six inches from the goal line.
"I was looking for that play," said Houston. On the play, Garrison swung out of the backfield then drifted to the center of the field and caught the ball at the one-yard line.
"They had been trying to hit that flare all night," Houston said. "He (Dallas quarterback Craig Morton) made a pump and I came up. As strong as he (Garrison) is, I thought he should have scored, but I managed to keep him out."
Houston actually stood Garrison up and , as he tried to twist for that last half a foot, Houston bulldogged him to the ground. Ironically, Garrison is an off-season rodeo cowboy who specializes in bulldogging steers.
"I knew exactly where he was and exactly where I was," Houston added. "They were on the four, so I lined up on the goal line and came up as he threw it."
On a night when the offense barely mustered one touchdown, the entire defense stood out. The front four sacked Roger Staubach seven times for 45 yards in losses, with Verlon Biggs credited with three of them.
"This was the turning point of the season for both teams," Biggs said. "There is no way to justify our loss to St. Louis, so we had to win this game to remain a contender at the end of the season."
Along with Houston's game-saving tackle, the big play was turned in by his safety mate, Brig Owens. Owens stepped in front of Cowboy tight end Bill Joe DuPree, intercepted a Morton pass in the fourth period and galloped in untouched 26 yards for the winning touchdown with 3:39 left.
"It felt good," Owens said. "It just read the quarterback. The tight end was my man. I laid back and as soon as Morton raised his arms, I made my move. It's a big interception for me, but we put pressure on their quarterbacks all night."
Owens added that it was somewhat to the Redskins' advantage that the Cowboys had the ball on the four-yard line on their last series instead of on the 20—"When they have the ball that close to the goal line it cuts down on their working area and limits what they can do."
Coach George Allen was jubilant as he conducted his postgame interview sipping his customary cut of milk.
"I don't think we've ever had a team that showed more character than tonight," he said." We're so proud of the Redskins, and what a game for the nation to see."
"Our last nine plays were just guts," he added, referring to the Redskins nonpareil stand that for nine plays kept the Cowboys from scoring after they had a first down on the 21. The Cowboys were given their opportunity when Marv Bateman's punt apparently hit either Frank Grant or Jerry Smith after its first bounce and was recovered by Mary Washington.
The Redskins also used what Allen calls his "quarter defense" with good effect.
"After we tied the scare we went to the quarter, where we use five rush men, for two downs and then substituted for the nickel (defensive backs). It worked out real well," Allen said.
Allen was critical of an official's call on roughing the punter on Bill Malinchak that led to the Cowboys' touchdown.
"Malinchak was blocked into the kicker, it wasn't his own momentum," Allen said. "That was a poor call and it gave them a TD. It was easy to see, in my opinion," Allen added. "Just wait until he sees the instant replay."
Then all of a sudden a big grin flashed on Allen's face. "I feel just as happy as New Year's Eve," he said.
"Just like New Year's Eve."