Redskins Storm Past Cowboys, 34-20
By Leonard Shapiro
They remembered being caled "turkeys" by the Dallas Cowboys a year ago. They remembered Tom Landry calling play-action, bombs-away passes in the fourth quarter with his team ahead by 27 points. They remember a humiliating 37-10 loss in Dallas on Thanksgiving day.
So yesterday, these romping, ravenous Redskins, led by Joe Theismann's three touchdown passes, gained sweet revenge, converting mistake after Dallas mistake into a 34-20 triumph. It was a victory Coach Jack Pardee admitted was the most satisfying in his two years in Washington and it moved the Redskins (8-4) into a three-way tie with Dallas and Philadelphia for first place in the NFC East.
These also were the rub-it-in Redskins before a howling mob of 55,031 at RFK. Mark Moseley kicked a 45-yard field goal with nine seconds remaining for the final three points, which all the Redskins insisted could have significance in playoff tie-breaking procedures down the line (scoring margin in division games is fifth of nine categories). But don't believe it.
"They gave us no excuses last year after what they did to us," Moseley said, "and I'm not gonna make any excuses for kicking that field goal. Sure it could make a difference later on. But it was sweet to win like that, no question about it. And they would have done the same to us."
But the Cowboys never got that chance, not with Theismann playing what he later described as his best game as a profesional, completing 15 of 24 passes for 210 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
He started off by completing a four-yard scoring pass to John McDaniel in the first quarter, added a 10-yarder to CLarence Harmon in the third and finished up with an 11-yard throw to Ricky Thompson for the breathe-easy points a 31-13 lead with 5:23 left in the fourth.
John Riggins ran three yards for a touchdown and Moseley kicked a 46-yard field goal to go along with his 45-yarder. The last field goal, Landry insinuated, would make the Cowboys remember, too.
"The Redskins are playing for the tie breaker," a troubled Landry said after his team's third loss in its last four games, "but when you're on top, enjoy it, 'cause it's hard to stay there."
At the moment, the Redskins, Eagles and Cowboys are all 8-4 going into the final four weeks of the season. If the season had ended yesterday, under NFL tie-breaker procedures for determining playoff positions, Philadelphia and Washington would be tied under step one, head-to-head competition, with 2-1 records to Dallas' 0-2 in meetings among the three; under step two, best percentage in games played within the division, Philadelphia is 6-1 (one game left against Dallas), Washington 5-1 (New York and Dallas to play), Dallas 3-2 (New York, Philadelphia and Washington to play).
The Redskins, however, were more inclined to savor this triumph than look into the future. In their locker room there was unrestrained jubilation over their most lopsided victory over Dallas since they beat the Cowboys, 26-3, in 1972 to advance to the Super Bowl. The Redskins also scored more points yesterday against the Cowboys than they had since1966, t hey forced the NFC's top-rated offense into five turnovers and they held Dallas' vaunted ground attack to 83 yards, including 43 by Tony Dorsett.
Landry looked back at his team's final series of the second quarter as the game's turning point, when his team had a first and goal at the Redskin eight-yard line with 47 seconds left and got no points.
The Cowboys had marched from their 29 with the aid of two illegal chucks called against Redskin defenders, the second on Lamar Parrish putting Dallas on the Redskin eight.
On first down, blitzing Brad Dusek and Monte Coleman sacked quarterback Roger Staubach for an 11-yard loss. Staubach got 16 yards back on a slant in pass to Drew Pearson, but that was all.
With the crowd chanting "DEE-FENSE, DEE-FENSE," the Redskins blitzed again, making the decision on the sideline during a Dallas timeout.
This time safety Ken Houston slammed into Staubach, forcing a fumble. Coy Bacon recovered the football, ending the threat and, according to Landry, the Cowboys, as well.
"I just went by a back, yeah, I'm sure it was a back," Houston said. "Richie Petitbon (assistant coach) called it on the sidelines. It was a six-point play."
That play loomed larger as the afternoon wore on, especially after the Cowboys drove to Rafael Septien's 37-yard field goal that cut the Redskin lead to 14-6 with 9:11 left in the third period.
But Theismann, picking at will on Cowboy cornerbacks Aaron Mitchell and Aaron Kyle, quickly struck bac. A 19-yard pass to Ike Forte on third down earned a first down. A 21-yard pass to Danny Buggs gave the Redskins a first down at the 15.
Three plays later, on third and five from the 10, Theismann aimed at his favorite big-play receiver, Clarence Harmon. The third-year running back slipped into the left flat, got a step on Mitchell and caught the ball at the five. He dragged the Cowboy cornerback the rest of the way to the end zone, and Moseley's extra point provided a 21-6 lead with 4:31 left in the third quarter.
On Dallas' next possession, Staubach threw over the middle to Butch Johnson, but Redskin cornerback Joe Lavender tipped the ball and safety Mark Murphy got the interception, returning it 16 yards to the Dallas 45.
Six plays later, Moseley connected from 46 yards. The Cowboys came back to 24-13 on Staubach's 19-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson 2½ minutes into the final period.
But once again, a Redskin defense that intercepted three passes in all and had two fumble recoveries came through.
On first down at midfield, Staubach aimed for Drew Pearson over the middle. This time, Houston tipped the pass and Dusek made a diving interception at the Dallas 39 with 8:34 remaining.
Now Theismann and Co. were at it again. On third and five, Harmon gained eight yards on a counter play to keep the drive alive at the Dallas 48.
The Redskins then lined up in a formation they used for the first time yesterday, deploying three wide receivers and one running back. Ricky Thompson was split wide to the right. The play was called waggle 71, quick post and go. And Thompson went.
He had two steps on Mitchell when he caught the ball and went out of bounds at the Dallas 13, a gain of 35 yards. Riggins picked up two yards on first down to the 11 before Theismann threw to Thompson again.
The Cowboys had called a safety blitz on the play, and Theismann spotted it, even if Thompson did not. Theismann rolled to his right and Thompson ran his pattern to the right corner of the end zone, making a spectacular diving catch with 5:22 remaining.
At that point, Landry preferred to bench Staubach rather than risk him further on a field with all those wild and crazy Redskin tacklers. Danny White came into the game and hit Drew Pearson with a nine-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 31-20 with 1:52 remaining, but it was far too late.
The Redskins got their chance to add to the margin after Bacon sacked White at the Dallas 27 on fourth down. Diron Talbert, an old Cowboy hater, rushed out onto the field to call a timeout. Moseley trotted on to the field to kick the final field goal.
Mosele paid for it. Aaron Mitchell, the frustrated cornerback, came slamming into him, drawing a roughing the kicker call that was moot because the kick was straight and true.
"I can take the licks," Moseley said, "but it was definitely a cheap shot, no question. We had an idea they'd probably do something like that. I tell you what, it's gonna make for an interesting game down there."
Pardee defended the decision to kick, saying, "The way the division is going, there's a little point differential. They gave us the ball at the 27 and that's a gimme field goal, for Mark Moseley. Running it up is what they did all last year. Play-action passes and putting the ball in the air."
Bacon had no qualms about beating the Cowboys when they were down.
"I've been saying this all along. We've got to have that killer instinct. When you've got a team down, you just have to stomp on them, and that's just what we did today.
"And I'll tell you something else. We're going down there and we're gonna beat them again."