Redskins Turn Back Cowboys, 28-21
By Leonard Shapiro
As daylight turned to darkness yesterday at RFK Stadium, the Washington Redskins played one of the most extraordinary first halves of football during this or any other season. They will always remain thankful they did.
For the Dallas Cowboys very nearly came all the way back from a 28-0 halftime deficit before finally succumbing, 28-21, when the Redskins came up with a stirring goal line stand in the game’s final three minutes.
"I am in shock," Tex Schramm, Dallas team president and general manager, said at halftime after the Redskins had scored one touchdown in the final 30 seconds of the first quarter and three more in a span of four minutes five seconds of the second.
The much-maligned Billy Kilmer was spectacular in the first half. He hit on seven of 10 passes for 135 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown, a 31-yard pass to Roy Jefferson with 4:29 left in the second. The defense has rarely played a more inspired 30 minutes, as well.
But the Redskins let the Cowboys off the proverbial hook in the second half. Roger Staubach threw touchdown passes of 10 and four yards to his tight end, Billy Joe DuPree, and Robert Newhouse chugged over for another score from three yards out.
DuPree’s second touchdown pass came with only 5:33 to play, and the Cowboys got their greedy little hands on the football again with 4:15 to play.
Five plays later, they had moved from their own 39 to the Redskins’ seven, and the 54,395 fans in attendance had all but prepared themselves for a sudden death showdown.
But the Redskins, and particularly Mike Bass, came up with a superb series of defensive plays to hold off impending doom and move Washington, now 7-3, a giant step toward the wild card playoff berth in the National Football Conference.
On first down, Staubach handed off to Robert Newhouse, who had come on the field earlier in the quarter to replace a hobbled Calvin Hill. He gained one yard up the middle to the six.
On second and six, Newhouse tried to sweep right end. But Pat Fischer came up from his position and the little running back was held to no gain by the little cornerback. Then it was Bass’ turn.
On third and six, Staubach dropped back and winged a quick pass to Drew Pearson, the league’s leading receiver, two yards in front of the end zone in the left corner. Bass, who earlier had intercepted a pass to kill a drive, came up and knocked the ball away, very nearly intercepting.
On fourth and six, Staubach again went to Pearson, who ran a quick post pattern. The ball and Bass seemingly arrived at the same time, and Pearson watched in complete dismay as it hit his arm and dropped harmlessly to the turf.
And with that drop, the Cowboys’ playoff hopes also took a dramatic plunge for the worse. They are 5-5 now, (so are Green Bay and Detroit) and trail the Redskins by two full games in the race for the playoffs with four games left.
The Cowboys did get the ball one final time at their own 18-yard line with 45 seconds remaining. By that time, however, they had no more timeouts, and the Redskins never let them get beyond the 25, sacking the quarterback twice. Golden Richards caught a pass at his own 23 as time ran out.
"We have to do everything the hard way," Redskins’ coach George Allen said when it was over. "It seems like every game we play isn’t decided until the last minutes.
"When you’re ahead by 28 points at the half, it’s hard to tell your players they have 30 more minutes of football. Yes, at one time, I was thinking overtime."
The Redskins won this wacky affair in the first half. A 31-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Roy Jefferson with 4:29 left before intermission proved to be the decisive score.
In the first half, the Cowboys were totally inept against a Redskins’ defense that had at least one new alignment - six defensive backs (the six-pack perhaps?) on long passing situations.
At one point, the Cowboys failed to convert any of nine straight third-down attempts into a first down, and the Redskins seemed well on their way to a rout. They simply could do no wrong.
Kilmer had completed seven of 10 passes for 135 yards in the first half. His 43-yard toss to Jefferson set up Joe Theismann’s three-yard touchdown run for the game’s first score.
Theismann was used as the pinch-runner quarterback yesterday in a most unusual move. On third and one at the cowboy three, Redskin coach George Allen pulled Kilmer out of the game in favor of his more mobile third-team quarterback.
Theismann rolled out to his right, hesitated a moment, then ducked into the end zone behind blocks thrown by guard Paul Laaveg and fullback Charlie Evans. It was his first-ever regular season score, and only his second carry of the season.
The touchdown came with 30 seconds remaining in the first period, and the Redskins scored the next three times they had the football.
They drove 77 yards in 12 plays before Evans zipped over untouched from six yards out, 6:26 into the second quarter.
Evans, who had only three carries all season until yesterday, replaced starting fullback Moses Denson took a wicked whack on the head on a first-quarter carry, and could not remember the plays.
After the Cowboys were forced to punt on their next series, the Redskins had another first.
Ken Houston returned Duane Carrell’s punt 58 yards for a touchdown, the Redskins’ first score on a punt return in five years.
Houston seemed bottled up when he caught the ball near the right sideline but hurdled a Cowboy tackler at his own 40, broke another tackle by the Cowboys’ Charles Young 10 yards up the field, then veered back to the left side of the field and easily outraced punter Carrell to the goalline.
Jefferson’s game-winning touchdown reception came as a direct result of another spectacular series of plays by his defense.
On second and 20 from his own 17, Staubach was hit by Deacon Jones as he backpedaled. The ball squirted loose, only to be recovered by Rayfield Wright at the one.
Two plays later, the Cowboys punted for the seventh time in the first half. Larry Jones returned Carrell’s 38-yard kick nine yards to the Dallas 31 and Kilmer wasted no time taking advantage of that marvelous field position.
Jefferson ran a simple post pattern on the Cowboys’ beleaguered cornerback, Mark Washington, his victim on the 43-yard reception earlier, and was five yards ahead of his man as he caught the ball for the decisive score.
The Cowboys had only one serious scoring opportunity in that awful first half. Kicker Efren Herrera was accurate on a 28-yard field goal attempt with 1:17 to play, but Bruce Walton, the brother of basketball’s Bill, was called for illegal motion. Herrera then missed a 33-yard attempt.
At the time, it hardly seemed to matter, but the Cowboys made enough of a game of it in the end for Allen to once again replace Kilmer, who hurt his left elbow, with the hobbling Sonny Jurgensen.