Cowboys Batter Redskins Out of Playoffs
By Leonard Shapiro
IRVING, Tex., Dec. 13 The Washington Redskins ran out of healthy bodies and miracle comebacks today and because of it, for the first time since 1970, they will not make the National Football League playoffs.
With Roger Staubach throwing for two touchdowns and running for another and the Dallas defense knocking Redskins' quarterback Billy Kilmer from the game early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys soundly defeated the Redskins, 31-10.
Staubach provided the breathe-easy points when he killed six minutes on the clock and drove his team 75 yards in 11 plays to a touchdown. His five-yard pass in running back Preston Pearson gave the Cowboys a 24-10 lead with 5:09 to play.
"Dallas played solid football," said Redskin coach George Allen when it was over, his team failing to make it five straight appearances in the playoffs. "Dallas deserved to win. They were a better team . . . That's all there is to it, that's it men."
No matter what happens in both teams' final regular season games next weekend, the Cowboys will be in the playoffs. The Redskins (8-5) were eliminated today because Dallas (9-4) clinched a better record in the NFC East Division. St. Louis leads the division with a 9-3 record.
In the end, Billy Kilmer was on the bench nursing his right shoulder, reinjured with 13:43 to play when he was blind sided by Cowboy linebacker D.D. Lewis and knocked out of the game with the Redskins behind, 17-10. The Cowboys then turned two Randy Johnson interceptions into touchdowns and won breezing.
But the Redskins probably lost the game in the second quarter, when they allowed the Cowboys to make up a 10-0 deficit by surrendering two touchdowns.
Earlier this week Allen complained about sloppy tackling on defense and little productivity from his kick-return teams. Today, those weaknesses came back to haunt him and all of the Redskins.
The Cowboys' first touchdown - a 57-yard pass from Staubach to Golden Richards - should have been just a 17-yard gain.
But Mike Bass, the defender on the play, allowed Richards to spin past him. The swift wide receiver sprinted the final 40 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown that brought the Cowboys to within 10-7 with 13:46 left before the half.
Cowboy special teams set up what proved to be the game-winning points after the Redskins had forced the Cowboys to punt. But return man Larry Jones couldn't handle Mitch Hoopes' high 35-yard kick. Eddie Brown kicked the loose football closer to the Dallas goal line and Randy Hughes recovered at the Redskins' 16.
Three plays later, Staubach was faced with third and four at the Redskin four. He called time out, discussed the play with coach Tom Landry on the sideline, then took matters into his own hands.
He retreated back to his eight, as if to pass, meanwhile center John Fitzgerald was tying up Redskin middle linebacker Harold McLinton. Staubach then whooshed forward, collided with McLinton at the one and drove over for the score with 1:56 before intermission.
Toni Fritsch's extra point made it 14-10. Staubach, shaken up on the play, was replaced by Clint Longley for one series. Then Staubach returned to action in the second half, much to the Redskins' dismay.
With that lead, the Cowboy defense took dead aim at Kilmer and the rest of the Redskins' offense. Rookie tailback Mike Thomas was knocked out of the game for good with bruised ribs in the third quarter, and Kilmer was eliminated with 13:43 to play.
At that point, the Cowboys had stretched their lead to 17-10 on Fritsch's 19-yard field goal 38 seconds into the final period.
Cowboy defenders were covering Redskin receivers exceptionally well, and the front four was putting tremendous pressure on Kilmer, with the aid of an occasional blitz by Cowboy linebackers.
Still, the Redskins were in the game until Kilmer got hurt. On the first play of the game he had injured an index finger on his throwing hand. He was put out for good when Lewis blitzed from the outside and hit Kilmer at full speed from the blind side. "I knew he was coming," Kilmer said, "there wasn't much I could do."
The quarterback writhed in agony on the ground and then minutes later, walked off the field under his own power. The shoulder that had been slightly separated in the game against the New York Giants Nov. 9 was reinjured on the play. Kilmer probably will not play next week against Philadelphia.
Johnson took over and disaster struck again. He threw a screen pass intended for rookie Ralph Nelson, who touched the ball but did not catch it. Officials ruled it was a lateral. Lee Roy Jordan picked up the ball and ran into the end zone, but one a lateral hits the ground, the ball cannot be advanced. The Cowboys took over at the Washington 19.
The Redskins go a momentary reprieve when Robert Newhouse fumbled and Bill Brundige recovered at the Washington 15. But Johnson, rusty from four weeks of inactivity, couldn't move the team and the Redskins punted.
Twice on third-down situation, Staubach ran back in the pocket, saw his receivers covered and scrambled ahead for critical first-down runs of five and 14 yards.
Preston Pearson, the only man on the Cowboys' 43-man roster who has ever played on another NFL team, ran 20 yards up the middle to the Washington 45. Two plays later, Charley Young caught a 13-yard pass to the Redskin nine.
On second and goal at the Redskin five, Preston Pearson ran a sideline pattern at the goal line and caught the pass that assured the Cowboys a spot in the playoffs.
Johnson, trying desperately to get his team back in the game, added to the Cowboys' glee when his pass intended for Jerry Smith was intercepted by Charlie Waters and returned 20 yards down the left sideline for still another touchdown.
All of this occurred on a day that started out so wonderfully for the Redskins. They took an early 10-0 lead in a 32-second spurt at the end of the first quarter on Mark Moseley's 48-yard field goal and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Kilmer to Frank Grant.
Still, the Redskins did not have to work very hard for those points. They had good field position to set up the field goal - Moseley's longest kick of the season. And Mike Bass' 30-yard interception return set up Grant's score - his seventh touchdown in the last seven games.
More disturbing, however, was the coverage on Redskin wide receivers. Charley Taylor managed only two catches for the day, tying him as the leading all-time receiver in the NFL with Don Maynard. Both have 633.
Grant, the Redskins' big-play man, caught four passes, but only one in the second half. In all, the Redskins managed only 222 yards of total offense, 76 of them in the second half.
"It was an overall defensive game," said Dallas defensive end Harvey Martin. "People have been talking all week about how we were just going to show up for the game. If the offense could outscore them, then we could beat them. I was tired of reading about how weak we were."
"They outplayed us," said Taylor, who can break the record next week in the season finale against the Eagles. "I can't believe we lost the game. I wish 'em all the best."