Cowboys Spread It On in ‘Title’ Game, 27-7
By Leonard Shapiro
DALLAS, Dec. 9 The Dallas Cowboys took the NFC East championship out of the clutches of an NFL computer with a devastating 27-7 rout of the Washington Redskins today.
The Cowboys scored three second-half touchdowns and a field goal to take the lead, slightly, for the division title. They now need to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals next Sunday to assure themselves the Eastern championship and the home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Redskins still have the same season record as the Cowboys, 9-4, and can win the title if Dallas falters. Washington can take the conference’s wild-card berth in the playoffs by defeating or tying the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.
The Redskins today suffered perhaps the worst defeat in George Allen’s three years with the franchise. The team’s first shutout since 1971 was avoided only because rookie Ken Stone recovered a blocked punt and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown in the final four minutes.
The Cowboys, and particularly quarterback Roger Staubach, consistently confounded the Redskins with a variety of play-action passes, screens and scrambles that left Allen’s once-proud defense a shambles.
Staubach ran five yards for one touchdown and hit 16 of 25 passes for 223 yards, exploiting Redskin linebackers at will and never really having to worry about the so-called Washington pass rush. In the teams’ last meeting, Cowboy quarterbacks were sacked seven times. Today, Staubach went down only twice for losses of two yards.
The Redskins also had considerable difficulty dragging down Calvin Hill, who went over the 1,000-yard mark on his third carry of the day and finished with 110 on27 rushes, including touchdown runs of one and two yards.
His second touchdown run gave the Cowboys a 24-0 lead with 10:31 left to play, and the Redskins were out of it.
They could only blame themselves. Their three lost fumbles led to 13 Cowboy points - Toni Fritsch’s field goals of 9 and 27 yards and Staubach’s five-yard touchdown run. Staubach’s scamper gave Dallas a 10-0 lead with 9:34 left in the third quarter.
The man who will have the worst dreams will be kicking specialist Curt Knight, who missed fieldgoal tries of 23, 28 and 37 yards, all in the second quarter. The Redskins could have led, 9-3, at intermission. They trailed, instead, 3-0.
Going into today’s game, Knight had not missed inside the 30 in 12 kicks this season. Today he botched two from that range, and he now is 0-for-6 against the Cowboys this season.
Allen started Sonny Jurgensen today, the man who was supposed to be able to put points on the scoreboard, despite his painfully swollen left knee, and finished him.
Limping noticeably all afternoon, Jurgensen managed only 11 completions in 24 attempts. Bill Kilmer, the man he replaced in the starting lineup, never saw action.
The Cowboy defense limited the Redskins to a meager 59 yards rushing, although the day’s telling statistic was the total number of offensive plays. The Cowboys ran off 74 to the Redskins’ 49.
Larry Brown, gang-tackled wherever he went, managed 29 yards in 14 carries while Charley Harraway had 30 in eight. Harraway also lost two fumbles, and the day became a total loss when he was knocked out early in the fourth quarter after a wicked hit by Cowboy linebacker Dave Edwards.
D.D. Lewis picked up the ensuing fumble and set up Fritsch’s 27-yard field goal with 6:49 remaining for a 27-0 Dallas lead.
Until that time, Allen steadfastly refused to substitute for either Brown or Harraway.
In recent games against the Cowboys, the Redskins managed to exploit the Dallas secondary, particularly with wide receivers Charley Taylor and Roy Jefferson.
Today, the pair had only five catches between them for 71 yards. The first pass Jurgensen threw to Taylor was dropped, and it was a portent of things to come. At least five other went in and out of receivers’ hands.
"First of all," said a despondent Allen, "I have to give credit to the Cowboys for playing a super game. We made mistakes today we don’t usually make. We lost as a team.
"On defense, we didn’t play well at all and kept giving them good field position all afternoon."
Indeed, in the second half, when the Redskins weren’t fumbling, they allowed the Cowboys two long scoring drives.
The Cowboys moved 70 yards in seven plays with Hill going over from the one for a 17-0 lead with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cowboys later drove 70 yards in 10 plays, scoring another touchdown on Hill’s two-yard plunge over left guard, for a 24-0 edge with 10:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
For Staubach, the victory was especially delightful. He had been the quarterback in the Redskins’ 26-3 devastation of the Cowboys for the NFC title last year, and also in the 14-7 loss to the Redskins earlier in the year. Today he finally had his revenge.
The Cowboys moved close to their eighth straight playoff berth. They will host the Los Angeles Rams in the first round, either Dec. 22 or 23 - provided, of course, they prevail over the Cardinals next week.
If the Redskins gain the wild-card berth, they will play their first playoff game at Minnesota on either of the same two dates. The Redskins, of course, still could win the division if Dallas loses next week. That is not considered likely. The Cowboys prevailed over St. Louis, 45-10, on Sept. 30.
"If we have a letdown, we’re crazy," said Cowboy coach Tom Landry. "If you don’t beat St. Louis, you don’t win anything. We’ll have to be ready."