Redskins Beat Cowboys in Overtime, 30-24
By Leonard Shapiro
Billy Kilmer, who passed for 301 yards yesterday, leaped six inches over right guard Walt Sweeney into the end zone to propel the Washington Redskins to a dramatic 30-24 sudden-death overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys at RFK Stadium.
Kilmer's touchdown was recorded - enthusiastically by 55,004 fans - six minutes and 34 seconds into overtime, climaxing yet another epic struggle in this classic series.
The Redskins' victory gave them a 5-2 record, the same mark as Dallas and St. Louis, and put the National Football conference Eastern Division into a three-way tie at the season's halfway point.
Kilmer, who completed 21 of 39 passes for three touchdowns, brought the Redskins to within one point with a seven-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Jerry Smith with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter.
Mark Moseley's conversion tied the score, but Dallas still had one more chance to win in regulation when Toni Fritsch tried a field goal from 38 yards with 13 seconds left. He missed badly.
The game turned - as Redskin victories usually turn - on one large defensive play, this one early in the 15-minute overtime period.
The Cowboys had second and 12 at the Redskins 50 and Staubach dropped back into his shotgun formation. Chris Hanburger blitzed from his outside linebacker position, and whacked the Cowboy quarterback just as he released the football.
The ball fluttered harmlessly into the waiting arms of Ken Houston at the Dallas 36. "It just seemed to stay up there forever," Houston recalled. "I almost took my eye off it, but I got it. Thank God. I got it."
He also returned it 14 yards to the 50. Meanwhile, Staubach was infuriated by what many Cowboys claimed was a late hit by Redskins Pat Fischer. He swung at Fischer in anger. An official spotted the punch, and walked off 15 more yards to the Cowboy 35.
From there, Kilmer, who had been burned for four interceptions in the game, began a 10-play, 35-yard march that culminated with his first quarterback sneak in three years.
On the drive Charley Taylor picked up a critical first down with a clutch catch on third and six at the 19, and Larry Brown got another important first down with a one-yard gain on third and one at the two.
As he dove for the game-winning touchdown, Kilmer was popped by Cowboy middle linebacker Lee Roy Jordan, who later insisted the quarterback had not scored.
Kilmer felt otherwise. "I think my body crossed the plane," he said, "and right now, that's all that counts."
The Redskins probably should have been given the last rites in this game late in the fourth quarter. Cliff Harris intercepted a Kilmer pass - "the worst throw I've made all year," he said - intended for rookie Mike Thomas and ran 27 yards to a touchdown with 5:03 left to play.
"But this team just wouldn't give up," Kilmer said. "We knew what we had to do, and we did it."
With the score 24-17, they marched 60 yards in nine plays before Kilmer hit tight end Smith with the seven-yard game-tying touchdown pass.
Smith's touchdown was preceded by still another critical play almost obscured in the wild finish. Thomas, the rookie who had lost two fumbles earlier in the day, atoned for those errors with a six-yard first down run on fourth and two at the Dallas 13.
The Cowboys, using the shotgun effectively, marched right back to a first down at the Washington 21 with 52 seconds to play. But the Redskins' defense stiffened, and Fritsch was called on. His low line drive kick was very wide left. "I'm really sorry, I'm really sorry," he said. "To be a kicker is to be a gambler."
Despite his interceptions, Kilmer finished his afternoon and evening with 21 completions in 39 attempts for 301 yards and three touchdowns. In addition to his fourth-quarter pitch to Smith, he hit Frank Grant with a 46-yard gem in the second quarter and Taylor with a three-yard score to tie the game at 17-all 5 1/2 minutes into the third quarter.
Staubach, the man Allen said earlier last week couldn't read defenses, was literate enough to complete 17 of 29 for 217 yards and two touchdowns.
He admitted afterward that Allen's words had, indeed, disturbed him somewhat. "I thought Allen's talk was going to work the other way and help us," he said. "But he's a con artist. Once you know that, nothing he says bothers you."
Staubach admitted his punch at Fischer "was a stupid play," but Jordan saw it another way.
"I think Fischer ran 40 yards to get Staubach, and that tells you something about Fischer," Jordan said angrily.
And then he looked ahead to the next Redskins-Cowboys encounter in Dallas Dec. 13. Said Jordan: "They have to come back to our place."