Mistakes, Cowboys Defeat Redskins, 30-6
By Christine Brennan
IRVING, TEX. -- What more could have gone wrong today for the Washington Redskins? Two controversial calls by officials hurt them badly, Herschel Walker tore them apart early and often, and their own mistakes beat them in the end.
It was another miserable day for Washington in Texas Stadium, and when it was over, the Dallas Cowboys (4-2) had thoroughly defeated the previously unbeaten Redskins, 30-6, before 63,264. It left Washington (5-1) tied for the lead in the NFC East with the New York Giants.
The game took its toll on the Redskins in many ways. Mark Moseley, who missed a 37-yard field goal and an extra point to remain in a terrible four-game slump, tearfully said he thought this might be the last game of his 16-year career.
Moseley, 38, who has missed six of his last nine field goal attempts, said he planned to meet with Coach Joe Gibbs tonight or Monday to discuss his future with the team.
Gibbs said the team's three missed field goals -- 37 yards by Moseley, 50 and 51 by Steve Cox -- "cost us dearly." But, when asked about the prospects of replacing Moseley, Gibbs said, "I don't want to talk about that right now."
It was, to say the least, the Redskins' worst day in 10 months, since their last loss, a 35-8 defeat to San Francisco in 1985. Jay Schroeder completed just 12 of 29 passes for 132 yards. He had one interception, several overthrown passes and, uncharacteristically, was sacked four times.
The Redskins fell behind, 7-0, in the first five minutes on Walker's one-yard run, and at halftime were staring at a scoreboard reading 16-0 after three field goals by Rafael Septien.
"We didn't have the ball very much in the first half," Schroeder said, "and we got away from what we were doing best early in the game. We knew we could run against them but we got away from that."
Washington began the second half with a 65-yard drive and George Rogers' two-yard touchdown run, but never got closer to the end zone than the Dallas 25 the rest of the game. With 12:38 left in the game, Mike Sherrard scored on a highly debated, instant-replayed, 27-yard pass from quarterback Steve Pelluer for a 23-6 lead, then Walker scored on another one-yard run two minutes later, after Ken Jenkins fumbled a kickoff, to put the Redskins out of their misery.
When they returned to their locker room after the game and shut the door, emotions ran high and a chair or two was thrown, guard R.C. Thielemann said. "It was our first loss, and we didn't know how to take it," Thielemann said. "Especially losing to Dallas. It kills."
Could it be this game was over almost as soon as it began? The Cowboys' Robert Lavette couldn't handle the opening kickoff and managed to reach only the 5-yard line. On first down, Tony Dorsett was stopped for a two-yard loss by defensive end Dexter Manley. On second down, a quick start by Manley forced left tackle Mark Tuinei to false start. As penalty flags flew, Manley blew into the end zone and sacked Pelluer. But the rules say the play stops when an offensive player moves illegally before the snap, so the Redskins took a two-yard penalty to the 1.
On the replayed second down, Dorsett lost 35 of the Cowboys' remaining 36 inches in the grasp of defenders Dave Butz and Ken Coffey. Then, on third down, Pelluer backpedaled into the end zone and threw a pass way over the heads of receiver Tony Hill and cornerback Barry Wilburn, out of bounds.
The Redskins thought they had forced the Cowboys to punt from their end zone. But back judge Jim Kearney called Wilburn for pass interference and the Cowboys had a first down on their 19.
"The pass was not catchable," said Wilburn. "It was a bad call. There seemed to be a few more."
Five plays later, Dallas scored a touchdown. "That's about as big an emotional swing as you get," Gibbs said.
Pelluer, who completed 19 of 30 passes for 323 yards, first threw 11 yards to Mike Renfro, then, after no gain on a Dorsett run, Pelluer threw long to Walker down the middle for what turned into a 69-yard gain to the Washington 1.
Pressured by the Redskins line, Pelluer scrambled to buy time, then spotted Walker deep. The third-year quarterback from the University of Washington underthrew his man, but that only gave Walker more options once he caught the ball. He broke out of the grasp of safety Curtis Jordan and rumbled toward the end zone. Cornerback Darrell Green chased him down at the 1.
Two plays later, Walker cut in over the right side of Dallas' line for the touchdown at 10:13 of the first quarter and a 7-0 lead.
After Jenkins' kickoff return to the Dallas 38 was nullified by an illegal block, the Redskins drove from their 10 to the Dallas 20 in the next six minutes. Rogers, who missed the fourth quarter with a twisted left ankle that doesn't appear to be serious, gained 27 yards in four straight rushes.
But after Keith Griffin dashed 28 yards with a swing pass to the Dallas 22 (Washington's longest play of the day), the Redskins gained just two yards in the next three plays, bringing in Moseley, whose kick drifted wide right.
Septien kicked field goals on three of Dallas' next four possessions: 21 yards, 38 yards, and, on the last play of the first half, 36 yards. For the Redskins, it could have been worse: linebacker Rich Milot wisely chose to shove Walker as he waited for a pass inside the Washington 10 at the beginning of the second quarter. The pass interference penalty gave the Cowboys a first down at the Washington 7, but they had to settle for Septien's 21-yard field goal. If Walker had caught the ball, he probably would have scored a touchdown.
Walker gained 45 yards on 13 rushes and 155 yards on six receptions. "If you put a cornerback or a safety on him, he could run him over," said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz, who started after recovering from a sprained knee last week. "If you put a linebacker on him, he can run by him. He presents a unique problem."
After the 65-yard drive to Rogers' touchdown with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter (Moseley's extra point was wide left), the Redskins defense shut down the Cowboys when Manley was credited with a five-yard sack to break Diron Talbert's team career record of 56.
Jenkins returned the ensuing punt 15 yards to the Washington 45. Soon, the Redskins had first down at the Dallas 33 with five minutes left in the quarter. The crowd was screaming for its defense. The next play, Art Monk was a step behind cornerback Everson Walls, streaking for the end zone, when Schroeder overthrew him.
On second down, Griffin couldn't catch a low screen pass. On third down, Monk again slipped behind Walls, only to have the cornerback bat down the pass in the end zone. On fourth down, Cox entered to try a 50-yarder. It was wide left, and, minutes later, after a Wilburn interception, he missed the 51-yarder, also to the left.
As CBS-TV switched to its special report on the Iceland summit, the Cowboys marched from their 34 to the Washington 27, where they faced third and 12 early in the fourth quarter. Pelluer went for the touchdown, throwing the ball toward rookie Sherrard, covered by Green. They both jumped, and both came down with the ball, according to referee Jim Tunney. In the NFL, a tie goes to the receiver.
The instant replay proved inconclusive, and the reverse angle was not immediately available because CBS was in its special report, said replay official Art McNally, adding that it, too, was inconclusive. Touchdown, Dallas.
Though the mood was glum in the Redskins locker room, there still was cause for optimism. "The best part of this game," said Rogers, "is that we get to play them again."