Redskins Bring Out the Big D, 31-10
By Gary Pomerantz
The Redskins defeated Dallas, 31-10, before 65,074 at Texas Stadium, representing Washington's largest margin of victory in this rivalry. Consequently, after 15 weeks of first-place residence, the Cowboys are a chasing posse again.
"We've been chasing them for 14 weeks," said Redskins defensive end Tony McGee. "Only one week left and now they have to chase us."
The story line is that Washington, now a league-best 13-2 with eight straight victories, needs only to defeat the New York Giants (3-11-1) Saturday at RFK Stadium to win the NFC East division, earn a bye in the wild card round and guarantee the home field advantage in the playoffs. A victory over the Giants would end the suspense. Dallas plays at San Francisco next Monday night.
The bottom line is that the Redskins reduced Dallas (12-3) to total frustration today.
History will note that running back John Riggins ran for two short touchdowns (one in each half), giving him 23 for the season, tying the league record set by Buffalo's O.J. Simpson in 1975. He also gained 89 yards on 27 carries and broke the team's single season rushing record held by Larry Brown in 1972. Riggins now has 1,225 yards in 15 games, Brown gained 1,216 in 14 games.
The stat sheet will note that quarterback Joe Theismann threw two touchdown passes, a 40-yarder to tight end Clint Didier in the first half, when Washington built a 14-10 lead, and a 43-yarder to Art Monk in the third quarter.
The shiny truth will note that the game was made Washington's by the gutty defense, which held Dallas scoreless in the second half and below 21 points for the first time in any game this season. Defensive tackle Dave Butz sacked quarterback Danny White three times was clinging to his ankle when White threw his touchdown pass.
In all, Dallas netted 33 yards on 20 carries, its fewest rushing yards in team history. The Cowboys weren't much better with the passing, especially in the second half, when White was intercepted three times. He completed 20 of 35 for 197 yards.
When running back Tony Dorsett, held to a season's low of 34 yards on 14 carries, was asked about his doleful day, he said, "Butz was all over me."
"Everytime I looked up, Dave was there," said Gibbs.
The grim fact is, Dallas netted just 95 yards in the second half. Rookie cornerback Darrell Green intercepted a deflected pass near midfield in the third quarter. On the next play came the 43-yard touchdown pass to Monk and the 21-10 lead.
And reserve free safety Greg Williams intercepted two passes. He was playing only because starter Mark Murphy aggravated his his pulled hamstring in the first half.
Rarely have the Cowboys looked so out of sorts, especially here at Texas Stadium where the Redskins hadn't won since 1976 and only once in 10 previous tries.
"It's been a long time since we played this way," said Coach Tom Landry. "Sure, it's surprising when you get dominated like this. But we didn't play well."
Once, a frustrated Dorsett threw the ball at defensive tackle Darryl Grant after a tackle. And when Monk raced down the left sideline for the touchdown that tore asunder Dallas hopes, defensive backs Michael Downs and Dennis Thurman jumped in the middle of the Fun Bunch end zone dance, trying to stop it. There were a few shoves.
"I personally didn't want them to do," said Downs. " It was a personal insult."
The Redskins reached deep into their bag of strategy today. Because the Dallas safeties had made so many tackles, clogging the middle, and blitzed so often in Dallas 31-30 victory in the \ season opener. Gibbs opted to take out a tight end and used threw three wide receivers. Smurf Alvin Garrett became a starter and said," I found about this Tuesday. I was at home taking it easy on the day off and they called me in to tell me, it worked.
" It took their safeties out of the middle and when they were going to blitz, they had to move up, so we knew it was coming," said Jeff Bostic.
The Redskins scored on their first two drives, taking a 14-0 lead and leaving sulfur burns on Cowboys chins with their fire.
The first drive ended with Riggins outrunning linebacker Bob Bruenig for a three-yard touchdown around the left side, giving Washington a 7-0 lead with 10:43 left in the quarter. The key play of the drive came with Downs was called for pass interference against wide receiver Charlie Brown, giving Washington a 27-yard gain and first down at the seven.
The Redskins second touchdown came off a play fake to Riggins that left safety Dexter Clinkscale confused and fallen to the ground, and left Didier wide open over the middle. The 40-yard touchdown represented a 14-0 lead and the third time this season Didier has caught a touchdown after a play fake to Riggins.
Meanwhile, Butz and defensive end Dexter Manley helped control the line of scrimmage and to keep White out of sorts.
Dallas achieved its only burst of momentum late in the first quarter. It came when the Redskins opted to try for a first down on fourth and inches from their 48. Riggins was held for no gain in a pile-up on the right side.
" We went for the first down because we've been making it all year," said Gibbs. In fact, the Redskins previously were successful on nine of 10 fourth down gambles this season.
Two plays later, on came the Cowboys: White lobbed a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Doug Cosbie, who beat linebacker Mel Kaufman at the right corner of the field. Cosbie dove for the catch at the goal line and rolled into the end zone. Dallas was within 14-7 with 37 seconds left in the first quarter. When Rafael Septien kicked a 35-yard field goal, after a lengthy drive with 49 seconds left in the half, Dallas trailed just 14-10.
The second half played like a sad, slow country song for the Cowboys. Their confusion reached its fretful height on the first drive of the third quarter. On fourth and one from his 49, White tried a long count, hoping to draw the Redskins offsides.
With four seconds left on the 30-second clock and Landry on the sideline yelling, No!" White did a no-no: he took the snap and handed off to surprised running back Ron Springs, who was hit for a two-yard loss. Butz said he heard White arguing with center Tom Rafferty.
The Redskins didn't capitalize here. Neither did they capitalize on their next possession, which was chock full of possibility after Virgil Seay, replacing Mike Nelms after the latter's knee was bruised, returned White's punt from the end zone a quick-step 42 yards, to the Dallas six.
Three plays later, Theismann, who completed 10 of 17 for 203 yards, threw an interception at the goal line. He was searching for running back Joe Washington, who curled over the middle. It was the same pattern the running back used to beat the Los Angeles Raiders, 37-35, with a touchdown catch. This time, Downs stepped in front of Washington and returned the ball to the Dallas 23.
One possession later, the Redskins at last capitalized on a Dallas blunder. Dropping back from his 28, White threw a pass that deflected off Cosbie's raised hands into the arms of receiver Drew Pearson near the Dallas 35. Cornerback Vernon Dean slammed into Pearson, causing him to fumble the ball into the air and into the intercepting arms of cornerback Green, who fell to the ground at the Dallas 43.
On came the touchdown pass to Monk and the 21-10 lead. Then came Williams first first interception, which led to a one-yard dive by Riggins on fourth, giving the Redskins a 28-10 lead with 11:19 to play.
After Williams second interception ended a long Dallas drive, Mark Moseley kicked a 38-yard field goal that made it 31-10 with 2:37 left to play. And so, Doomsday became Gloomday in Dallas.