Redskins Never Look Back, 41-14
By Christine Brennan
Now we know.
Fed up after losing three consecutive games to the Cowboys, the Redskins jumped to a series-record 34-point halftime lead and coasted to an incredibly one-sided 41-14 victory before 55,642 yesterday at RFK Stadium.
With their most satisfying win of the season, the Redskins improved their record to 10-2 and remained tied with the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East with four games to play.
The Cowboys fell to 7-5 and are all but out of the race for the division title, and their playoff hopes are pinned on a wild card berth.
The only sour note for the Redskins was a lengthy injury list, headed by tight end Clint Didier, who suffered a broken metacarpal bone (below the index finger) in his left hand and will miss at least Sunday's game in St. Louis.
Guard Russ Grimm sprained his neck and is expected to miss the St. Louis game. Running back George Rogers, who scored the first touchdown and went over 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season, sprained his left shoulder and is questionable for the Cardinals game.
This was the Redskins' biggest victory ever over the Cowboys, who still lead the series, 31-21-2. With quarterback Jay Schroeder throwing for 325 yards, completing 16 of 31 attempts with two touchdowns, the Redskins put 41 points on the board, the most scored by Washington in the rivalry. The 34 points that the Redskins scored in the first half, as they took a 34-0 lead, were the most in a first half in the series, and the most points ever given up by Dallas in a first half. In six weeks, the Redskins went from 30-6 losers to 41-14 winners over the Cowboys.
Reasons for the Redskins to celebrate? Absolutely, said offensive tackle Mark May. "There are about three great things in life," he said. "Winning the lottery, having a baby and beating the Cowboys this badly."
For a game so important, this one was over quickly. Unlike last month in Dallas, the Redskins got some breaks yesterday. Proof positive was on the opening kickoff. Cowboys returner Darryl Clack ran 26 yards to the Dallas 28, where he fumbled on a hit by Tim Morrison and Terry Orr. Barry Wilburn recovered for the Redskins at the 30.
The Redskins scored in three plays. Coach Joe Gibbs said his team "just exploded." Working out of the I-formation, Rogers gained four yards to the 26. On second down, Gary Clark, crossing over the middle, caught a pass from Schroeder in front of cornerback Ron Fellows for 12 more yards to the 14.
Rogers then burst over the right side of the Redskins line on the team's tried-and-true 40 Gut play and cut back into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown with 13:22 left in the first quarter. It was Rogers' 15th touchdown of the season, which leads the NFL. On that play, Didier said, he hurt his hand, but he stayed in until he reinjured it in the third quarter.
Soon the Redskins got the ball back, in good field position at the Dallas 45. A 13-yard pass to Clark put the ball at the 32, but wide receiver Art Monk dropped two straight passes, one in the end zone.
Steve Cox missed a 50-yard field goal wide right, the only bad thing he did all day. He averaged 50.8 yards on his five punts, much better than Dallas' Mike Saxon, who had his troubles and had a 37.8-yard average.
But the Redskins got the ball right back as their defense continued to hammer Dallas' indecisive quarterback, Steve Pelluer. After being sacked 11 times last week by San Diego, he was sacked five times yesterday, twice by defensive end Dexter Manley.
That drive ended quickly with another Washington mistake, this one a juggle and drop of a perfect swing pass by Kelvin Bryant for what would have been a first down.
The Cowboys had allowed only six points in the first quarter of their first 11 games. The Redskins more than doubled that on their next possession, on which they took 12 seconds to score.
The Redskins had a first down at their 29 at 3:55 of the first quarter. The Cowboys called a safety blitz, with Michael Downs doing the honors. Schroeder stepped back quickly, then threw off his back foot as the Cowboys crashed in on him.
Didier was covered by safety Bill Bates on the right sideline. As the ball came toward them, Bates said he turned away from Didier, which, he said later, was not the right thing to do. Didier caught Schroeder's pass at the Dallas 47, then shook Bates and started down the sideline. At the 15-yard line, Everson Walls caught up to him, but Didier broke away from him and made it to the end zone for Washington's second touchdown, this one 71 yards, with 3:43 left in the quarter.
Schroeder stayed hot as the day grew cooler, averaging more than 20 yards per completion against the NFL's best pass defense. On first downs in the first half, he went six for seven for 196 yards. He said the Redskins were looking for the big play yesterday, and simply connected when the opportunities arose.
"I felt it was my worst game of the year down there last month," he said. "I wanted to show them I could throw the ball."
The score remained 14-0 until 10:19 was left in the second quarter, when Max Zendejas kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead.
The Redskins took possession at their 13 after another Dallas punt. Several plays into the drive, Clark, who caught eight passes for 152 yards, beat two Cowboys defenders for a 53-yard gain to the Dallas 22.
On a short hitch route, he fooled Fellows. Then, running deeper, he got behind Downs, and Schroeder found him for the deep completion.
The Redskins reached the Dallas 7 with a third down, but Bryant dropped a certain touchdown pass near the left sideline, and Zendejas came in to kick his field goal.
There were to be better moments for Bryant, and soon.
Zendejas added a 41-yard field goal four minutes later for a 20-0 lead. In that possession, Rogers ran 37 yards to the Cowboys 8, but fumbled when he was hit by Downs and Vince Albritton and Clark recovered at the 5. Rogers went over 1,000 yards for a second straight season on that run (he now has 1,024), but he also hurt his shoulder and left the game.
Soon, Saxon shanked a punt 25 yards to the Washington 43 with 4:09 left in the first half, and Schroeder completed a 35-yard pass to Monk to the Dallas 22 on first down. On the next play, he handed off to Bryant, who dashed around right end, breaking tackles and spinning around, for a 22-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the half and a 27-0 Washington lead.
The Redskins still were not finished. On third and 10 at the Dallas 11 with 17 seconds left, Schroeder threw a high popgun pass to Clark, running a fade route, in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown with 13 seconds remaining to be played, and the score was 34-0.
Walls, trying to defend against Clark, said he never saw the ball.
Meanwhile, the Redskins defense was going crazy. Dallas running back Herschel Walker, who gained 200 yards receiving and running six weeks ago against Washington, had 18 this game. The Redskins credited "a shadow," a defender who was assigned especially to Walker. If the score wasn't telling enough in the first half, the total yardage was: Washington 336, Dallas 43.
The Cowboys showed signs of some life in the third quarter, scoring a touchdown on Walker's one-yard run with 9:53 remaining after an 80-yard drive.
At the end of the quarter, Bryant ran one yard for a touchdown. The Cowboys added their final touchdown when reserve quarterback Reggie Collier replaced Pelluer late in the game and threw an eight-yard scoring pass to Robert Lavette with 4:01 remaining.
The second half was a moot point, because of that first half. "We put it all together," said Schroeder. "It's a nice time for things to be coming together."