Cowboys Win, 14-7, on Dorsett's TD
By Leonard Shapiro
It was an all too typical Sunday for the Redskins. They botched scoring opportunities, incurred numerous penalties, dropped five passes and cruelest blow of all that usually dependable scoring machine, Mark Moseley, missed three of three field goals, from 41, 40 and 43 yards.
No one took this loss harder than Pete Wysocki, the bubbly, ebullient reserve linebacker charged with being downfield too soon on one Redskin punt and with jumping offside as the Cowboys were preparing to snap the ball and kick it away in the fourth quarter.
Leading 7-0 at halftime and winning the overall statistics in this twilight battle, the Redskins were bidding strongly to split the season series with Dallas for the seventh consecutive year of George Allen's coaching regime. Then those errors led to Dallas touchdowns on Golden Richards' four-yard catch from quarterback Roger Staubach and Dorsett's score with 10:08 to play.
"I can never repay the team for that mistake," Wysocki said, referring to the offside call against him that gave the Cowboys new life, a vital first down at the Redskin 44-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Several Redskins charged that Wysocki was drawn offside by a tactic used by Cowboy punt-snapper D.D. Lewis, a flex at the knees and a tilting of his head without snapping the football.
But the game officials detected no foul until Wysocki was unable to avoid contact with Cowboy tight end Billy Joe DuPree. The Cowboys capitalized on keeping the ball, plus the five-yard penalty, to drive to the deciding touchdown.
But in truth, the Redskins once again went a long way toward beating themselves. A change-of-heart decision by Tom Landry to gamble for a first down on fourth and a foot at the Washington two-yard line also contributed mightily to the Redskins' fifth defeat in 11 games.
For the Cowboys, this first triumph in their last three outings put them at 9-2 and two full games ahead of St. Louis in the race for the NFC East title.
Dallas needs to win but one of its last three games to clinch a playoff spot.
The Redskins fell a game behind the 7-4 Cardinals in the contest for the NFC wild-card playoff berth. Chicago and Atlanta, like the Redskins , are 6-5, and still in contention.
"What does it mean?" asked Redskin linebacker Harold McLinton. "It means we have to win our last three games and I still think our game with St. Louis in two weeks will settle it all."
Allen wasn't saying much of anything, orther than the chronic, "We had a lot of opportunities, and we flubbed them."
But he did second-guess quarterback Joe Theismann's decision to call a running play on first down deep in his own territory with 64 seconds left as the Redskins were trying desparately to beat the clock and drive for a tying touchdown.
Theismann called a draw play, running back Mike Thomas was stopped for no gain at the Redskin 36, and 10 precious seconds had been lost. Theismann had been criticized for calling almost the same play late in the 10-3 loss three weeks ago in Baltimore, and Allen said last night, "That was his (Theismann's call). I'd rather be throwing the ball, but that didn't beat us."
Theismann, who completed 17 of 35 passes for 231 yards and ran six times for 35 yards and a touchdown, defended the call.
"There was plenty of time left and I had two time-outs left," he said. "It wasn't similar to the Colt game. I thought it was a good trap call. If Mike breaks it we have the ball at midfield. The fact I had timeouts left is important. What are you saving them for, Christmas?"
The Redskins were guilty of many other sins on a raw, cold afternoon and evening that also saw the Cowboys fail to take advantage of a 67-yard bomb on the third play of the game.
When Pearson was shoved out of bounds at the one by Gerard Williams and Diron Talbert recovered Robert Newhouse's fumble on the following play, the Redskin faithful, 55,031 strong, shook the stands with a deafening roar.
And when Staubach began floating wobbly or otherwise badly thrown off-target passes at his talented and sometimes wide-open receivers in the first half, the Redskins' collective confidence seemed to soar.
Even after Moseley missed kicks of 41 and 40 yards in the first period, the Redskins were all floating on air when Theismann led his team on a merry touchdown march that covered 94 yards in 12 plays in the second quarter, burning six minutes off the clock.
This was the Theismann that Allen once traded away a No. 1 draft chouce to acquire, hitting tight end Jean Fugett with a beauteous 45-yard bomb down the middle for a first down at the Cowboy 11.
And there was Theismann on the next play, dropping back to pass, then sprinting up the middle and sliding for a 10-yard gain, inches short of the goal line. He sneaked over for the touchdown on the following play.
Moseley's extra point gave the Redskins a 7-0 lead with 2:36 left in the half.
The lead didn't last long. Washington was forced to punt from midfield on its first possession of the third quarter, and Mike Bragg's kick was fielded on a fair catch by Butch Johnson at the Dallas 14.
But Wysocki was flagged for being illegally downfield, the Redskins were penalized five yards and Bragg duffed a kick 10 yards, the ball going out of bounds at the Cowboy 41.
"I didn't feel I was downfield," Wysocki said.
The Cowboys thereupon launched a scoring march, aided considerably by a 19-yard defensive holding call on the Cowboys' favorite target, cornerback Williams.
Williams almost tore Butch Johnson's pants off as the Cowboy receiver tried to make a move upfield, and the Cowboys had a first down at the Redskin 17.
Four plays later, Staubach lofted the ball to Richards, just over safety Jake Scott's hands, for the touchdown that brought about a 7-all score with 7:43 left in the third period.
On the third play of the fourth quarter, the game turned in Dallas' favor on the snap that never was.
"They all told me D.D. (Lewis, the snapper), moved his body without moving the ball," said Redskin special teams coach Paul Lanham. "Sure, it's illegal. If they (the officials) see it, it's illegal. Obviously, they didn't."
With that resuscitation, Staubach suddenly regained the touch that has made him No. 1 in the NFC passer standings.
On third down and five at the Redskin 39, Staubach smartly but barely eluded blitzing linebacker Brad Dusek, who was clinging to his ankle when he found tight end Jay Saldi open and connected on a 16-yard pass for first down at the 23.
Four plays later the Cowboys faced fourth and one foot to go at the Redskin two. And Landry sent Efren Herrera and the field goal unit onto the field only to reconsider and call time.
"I just felt like the consensus was to let 'em go," Landry said. "If we had missed it, it would have been a terrible error. It was just a general feeling, and then my consensus. That's the chance you take. I'm kind of conservative. I don't take many of those chances."
In this case, it paid off handsomely when Staubach slithered a yard for the first down, and Dorsett dove over for the game-winning score on the following play.
The Redskins rallied with a drive to a first down at the Cowboy 26 on the following series, but could get no closer. Moseley came on for his third miss, wide right like the previous two.
The Cowboys got the ball back with 6:07 left, then killed off 4 minutes 20 second before Danny White's 43-yard punt was taken by Eddie Brown and returned 12 yards to the Redskin 15 with 1:47 left in the game.
Theismann's moved his team to a first down at the Cowboy 43 with 30 seconds left, but his final pass, intended deep for Danny Buggs, was intercepted by veteran cornerback Mel Renfro.
Buggs caught five passes, but his biggest reception, for 14 yards to the goal line early in the game, was nullified for offensive pass interference on him. "I got nothing to say," said Buggs. "Nothing."