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  Redskins Envelop Undeveloped Cowboys, 30-7

By Tom Friend
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 25, 1989; Page C1

IRVING, TEX., SEPT. 24 -- Besides a rocky coin flip and another one of those haunting 77-yard fumble returns, the Washington Redskins today took an unimpeded path through the Dallas Cowboys at Texas Stadium, 30-7.

In winning their first game of the season, even though running back Gerald Riggs sat out two-thirds of the game with a painfully sore bruise of a pectoral muscle in his chest/shoulder area, the Redskins' defense pitched a shutout, a week after Philadelphia's Randall Cunningham pitched for 447 yards,

"Some college teams could beat us right now," Cowboys safety Ray Horton said.

The absence of Riggs, who said he expects to play against New Orleans Sunday, was hardly felt because Dallas's pair of rookie quarterbacks were unprepared for Washington's strange defensive configurations, which were varied from start to finish. Barry Wilburn made his debut as a nickel back, Ravin Caldwell made his debut as a middle linebacker and Alvin Walton made his debut in the Dallas end zone, with a 29-yard return off an interception to make it 7-0.

The Cowboys' lone touchdown came two minutes later courtesy of the Redskins' offense. After rookie A.J. Johnson's rush kept Dallas's Mike Saxon from punting (with Terry Orr eventually decking Saxon short of a first down), Washington (1-2) moved to second and nine at the Cowboys 13. Quarterback Mark Rypien, gazing left into the end zone, never expected Horton blitzing from his right, was toppled and fumbled.

End Jim Jeffcoat, fielding it on one knee-high hop, scooted 77 yards for the tying touchdown (of course, Philadelphia's Wes Hopkins had gone 77 controversial yards in last week's 42-37 Washington loss). "It was like, 'Oh we're not going through this again,' " guard Russ Grimm said.

Instead the Redskins turned rather methodical, even without Riggs. Earnest Byner's first carry of the year was a 12-yard touchdown to make it 14-7, and Jamie Morris charged for 100 yards on 26 carries in a mini-Riggo drill, scoring too on a 12-yarder that made it 27-7 in the final quarter.

"We go from the biggest back in the league to the littlest," Coach Joe Gibbs said of the Riggs-to-Morris transition.

Time of possession favored Washington, 39:13 to 20:47, and Dallas was so wracked by game's end that rookie coach Jimmy Johnson re-opened his quarterback quandary by switching from rookie starter Troy Aikman to rookie backup Steve Walsh. Renowned running back Herschel Walker spent much of the day as a lead blocker, meanwhile going 33 yards on 11 carries, as Dallas fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1963.

"Herschel never got into the game," Aikman said. Wide receiver "Michael Irvin never got into the game. {Wide receiver} Kelvin Martin never got into the game. I never got into the game."

Johnson wants his troops to remember this Redskins cakewalk for a long time.

"I want them to remember just how awful they are," he said. "I don't want them to fool themselves into thinking they're a good football team, because they're not. They've got to move up to a new level. I can't live with this, and I can't let them live with it. We've got to be better than this."

Owner Jerry Jones almost pulled a fast one right before kickoff, escorting actress Elizabeth Taylor out for the coin toss and asking referee Pat Haggerty to let her call it in the air. Haggerty said, "Captains of Dallas meet the captains from Washington; captains from Washington meet Liz Taylor and Jerry Jones."

All shook hands with Taylor and Jones but defensive end Dexter Manley.

"I didn't want to shake their hand," Manley said. "This is football, man, not Hollywood."

Taylor called heads, it came up heads, and Haggerty gave the ball to the Cowboys. But visiting teams always call tosses, so the ball should have been Washington's. Haggerty realized this after Reggie Branch loudly objected, re-tossed, and Washington won with another call of heads.

"Hey you've got to be alert," Branch said. "It's the first time I'd met her in person, and she's a beautiful young lady. But this is no act; this is the real thing. This isn't the HBO show, 'First and 10.' "

Spewed Gibbs, "First time I've ever gotten mad at the coin flip."

Right off the bat, Washington was deploying unusual defensive sets. In third-and-long nickel packages, strong safety Walton would leave with linebackers Wilber Marshall and Neal Olkewicz and entering with the regular secondary would be linebacker Monte Coleman, safety Clarence Vaughn (who'd inch close to the line like a linebacker) and Wilburn.

Wilburn, who did not play in nickel packages the first two games, would stand as a deep free safety, and regular free safety Todd Bowles was clear to blitz. On Dallas's first possession, Bowles sacked Aikman on third down. Vaughn would blitz with Bowles too and Aikman was yanked early in the fourth quarter, finishing with a six-for-21 day for 83 yards and two interceptions. Walsh completed nine of 18 passes for 100 yards with two interceptions.

Walton's interception came on a pass thrown to Walker in double coverage, and Walton, who was being benched in nickel packages because he's a better tackler than coverer, slipped in front. Aikman "didn't know what defenses we were in," Walton said. "He's young. He'll figure it out later on. We were using window dressing. You know, disguising coverages."

In second-and-10 type situations, Coleman would replace Olkewicz, and Caldwell, who started at left linebacker, would slide over to the middle. This way Coleman could cover Walker, and Caldwell was free to create havoc; he's more fleet than Olkewicz. The Redskins also showed a 3-4 defense, with Caldwell and Kurt Gouveia the inside linebackers.

They blitzed about 95 percent of the time, though it probably wasn't necessary. Left defensive end Charles Mann was eluding right tackle Kevin Gogan as often as he pleased, and had a sack (his third of the season) and five tackles.

Manley noticed immediately that Walsh "had a quicker release and that made him harder to get" than Aikman. Walsh's first pass was a 15-yard completed slant to Irvin, but his second throw zipped off running back Broderick Sargent's hands and into defensive tackle Darryl Grant's.

Morris spurted in for the touchdown six plays later, angling wide behind the kick-out block of guard Raleigh McKenzie on counter gap, to make it 27-7. McKenzie was replacing starter Grimm, who'd had a minor sprained ankle.

Chip Lohmiller later converted a 33-yard field goal, and he'd also been true with previous kicks of 26 and 37 yards. Lohmiller enjoys working off of artificial turf.

Rypien completed 15 of 37 for 216 yards and no interceptions on an offensive day that Gibbs called "real spotty."

One large play that set up a field goal to make it 17-7 was a 40-yard pass-and-run to Art Monk (six catches, 114 yards), when wide receivers Monk, Ricky Sanders and Gary Clark lined up in single file on the same side to confuse the Cowboys secondary.

Rypien's only complaint was his fumble. "My fault," he said. "They came with a weakside blitz, and as a quarterback I've got to see it and give the receiver a hand signal {to be ready for a quick pass}. I didn't see it; totally my mistake."

© Copyright 1989 The Washington Post Company

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