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  Cowboys Don't Let Shuler, Redskins Get Started, 34-7

By David Aldridge
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 3, 1994; Page C1

Any questions?

Does anyone have a doubt about how far the Washington Redskins have to go after the Dallas Cowboys came into RFK Stadium yesterday and laid a 34-7 pasting on them before 55,394?

Is there any uncertainty about where this team is now? The thrashing was total, from start to finish. Washington's Heath Shuler got his first career start at quarterback, and it was the kind of nightmarish performance the Redskins' braintrust was hoping to avoid -- 11 completions in 30 attempts for 96 yards. He had no help -- Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley was in his face all afternoon -- and the Redskins produced a meager 110 total yards.

But even when Shuler had time to throw, he didn't deliver the ball where it was supposed to be.

But Coach Norv Turner took the blame.

"I'm going to put it in a nutshell," Turner said. "The way I look at it, it's my job to have this team ready to play. They weren't ready to play. So in evaluating it, I didn't get my job done today. Now we go back and make sure I do a better job at getting us ready to play. We start {Monday} and we get ready for our next football game."

Turner cut short his postgame news conference shortly after he was asked how it felt to play against the team for whom he was offensive coordinator for three seasons.

"It felt -- excuse me -- it felt like {expletive}, to be honest with you," he said.

Singling out Shuler would be like blaming Walter Mondale's 1984 presidential defeat on the loss of North Dakota. Shuler's long afternoon was but one factor in a big, big rout. There were so many culprits among the Redskins, so many mistakes, so much Cowboys dominance.

Halfback Reggie Brooks fumbled away the ball twice and was involved in a bad handoff from Shuler that resulted in another turnover in the first half. Dallas began its first three drives, on average, at the Washington 32-yard line. Defensive end Leonard Marshall roughed Troy Aikman on third and 16 at the Redskins 31 after the first Brooks fumble; three plays later, the Cowboys were in the end zone.

Washington's offensive line couldn't get Haley blocked no matter where he lined up on the field and, once again, couldn't open any holes.

"It wasn't one of our better efforts as an offensive line," said tackle Jim Lachey, beaten by Haley on several occasions. "I know I can do better. Those guys are good; I'll give them that. But we've gone against these guys before and had success. It's just not a good way to get started and I wish we could have gone out and protected a little bit better for Heath, being his first time out, and {let him} show what he could do."

And there was a defense that had more than a dozen missed tackles and couldn't lay a glove on Aikman (20-of-28 passing for 181 yards).

"They're a good football team; we all know that," said linebacker Monte Coleman, playing in his record-tying 205th game as a Redskin. "But it's not like David and Goliath. ... I missed tackles, we all missed tackles. The thing we have to do is take the ball away, and we're not doing that now."

The Redskins had entire packages of plays for Shuler -- some bootlegs and things of that nature -- that they never got to because the game got out of hand so fast. But they never thought about lifting Shuler for John Friesz. They've made their commitment to their $19.25 million man, and there's no looking back now.

"I stood over here at halftime and I told those linemen, 'Listen, I'm a fighter,' " Shuler said. "I'll be the first one to crawl, if that's what I need to do. They know how I feel. They know I'm a tough person. I don't have to express that to them. I'll just get back up and fight."

"This is where either the quarterbacks get worse, or better, from this point on," Shuler added. "Do you build character and build yourself as a person, as a human being, and go out and fight and do all you can, or do you put your head between your legs and call it quits? I'm not that person."

Brooks fumbled on Washington's fourth and 16th plays from scrimmage, and he and Shuler botched a handoff that Darrin Smith recovered on the team's eighth play.

The Cowboys needed eight and seven plays to produce 10 points on two of the miscues, and drove 43 yards for another touchdown -- capped by a six-yard run by Emmitt Smith (48 yards on 16 carries before leaving with a strained hamstring).

It was 17-0 with 10:22 left in the first half, and any hopes the Redskins had of a quick start were dashed.

Now, Washington had to throw. Haley and friends made them pay. The Cowboys came with stunts and blitzes and never gave Shuler throwing lanes. They took Henry Ellard (three receptions, 51 yards) completely out of the passing attack. And their speedy linebackers made dumpoffs and flare passes exercises in futility.

"Lachey's a great tackle," Haley said. "Our entire defense just played great today. We didn't do anything special against them. We just played hard. Coming off a loss against Detroit, we wanted to show that our defense was better than that."

The Redskins then punted after three plays; Dallas got the ball back at midfield after Kevin Williams's 38-yard return. And they marched to another score in nine plays, with Aikman throwing a three-yard score to tight end Jay Novacek with 4:12 left.

Kicker Chris Boniol made it 24-0 and the Cowboys were prancing.

Just to show it could go a long ways too, Dallas went 90 yards before the end of the half for another touchdown.

Aikman hit Alvin Harper for 46 yards to the Redskins 31, and a controversial pass interference call on Darrell Green moved the ball to Washington's 7.

Lincoln Coleman, Smith's replacement, took it in on the next play, and Boniol made it 31-0 with 1:10 left in the half.

It was Washington's biggest halftime deficit since Nov. 9, 1980, when it trailed Chicago 35-0.

Dallas called off the dogs for the most part in the second half. But it didn't make the day any better.

Shuler took a couple of big hits, including a blast under the helmet from fellow rookie Shante Carver in the third quarter that left him on the ground for several moments.

He got up and went on, producing a cosmetic score and keeping Washington from setting an all-time record for fewest yards in a game.

Through three quarters, the Redskins had 41 total yards, threatening the 64 yards produced against Cleveland in 1954. Team officials said they believe that the 110-yard total is the lowest since Washington had 97 against the Baltimore Colts in 1961 -- the previous time Washington's starting quarterback was a rookie (Norm Snead).

That is the abyss the Redskins are in. That is the reality.

© Copyright 1994 The Washington Post Company

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