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  Redskins Make It a Double Down in Dallas, 24-17

By Dave Sell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 4, 1995; Page C1

IRVING, TEX., DEC. 3 -- Who knew the snow that hit Washington early last week was the first sign that hell would figuratively freeze over and the down-in-the-mouth Washington Redskins would upset the overconfident Dallas Cowboys for the second time this season?

The Redskins, who had lost six of seven games since surprising the Cowboys in Washington on Oct. 1, shocked the Cowboys again today by winning, 24-17, in front of 64,866 at Texas Stadium.

"This is my Super Bowl," Redskins safety James Washington, a former Cowboy, said with a mix of emotions.

"We have their number," said another former Cowboy, Redskins tight end Scott Galbraith. "I wish we had the number of a few other teams."

With three games left in the season, the Redskins are 4-9, which is one victory more than they had in 1994.

The Redskins were 17-point underdogs. In winning for the first time in six road games this season, the Redskins kept the contest close by keeping the Cowboys off balance and overcame a 10-7 halftime deficit with 17 second-half points. There were other significant numbers, such as Terry Allen's two touchdowns and 98 yards rushing, which made him the seventh Redskin in history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in a season.

But it was mostly about a team pulling disparate elements together to play a cohesive game that fooled and frustrated the Cowboys (10-3), who were prevented from clinching a playoff spot.

Coach Norv Turner was criticized by some fans for switching to quarterback Heath Shuler from Gus Frerotte, but the move looked good today. Shuler, who was booed mercilessly in Washington just two weeks ago, directed the team to the most significant victory in his brief career by completing 11 of 24 passes for 154 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions.

Early in the week, Washington and fellow safety Stanley Richard criticized the defensive line on Washington's radio show. It caused quite a stir in meetings during the week, but perhaps it also inspired the defense, which frustrated the Cowboys all day.

"Of course it got guys pumped," defensive tackle Marc Boutte said. "We know Stanley and James don't mean any harm by what they said. Heat-of-the-moment type of thing. But we came together as a defense. Stanley made some great plays."

Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith looked slightly hampered by his knee sprain of 10 days ago, and the Redskins held him to 91 yards on 21 carries. Troy Aikman was forced to throw 48 passes for the Cowboys, completing 29 for 285 yards. No pass went for more than 23 yards and the only touchdown was late in the game, on the last of Michael Irvin's 10 receptions. Earlier in the fourth quarter, Richard intercepted a pass intended for Irvin and his return set up the Redskins' final touchdown. Then Richard stripped the ball from Smith near the Redskins' goal line, foiling a Dallas drive with just less than six minutes left.

"We came together as a defense," said Richard, who led the Redskins in tackles for a second week in a row. "A lot of things were said earlier in the week. Maybe that's what we needed to say to get things rolling together. {Defensive coordinator} Ron Lynn did a good job calling plays. All week long I give credit to Norv because he got us prepared. We came out with the attitude that we don't care what their record is, we're going to beat them. We beat them the first time {27-23} and we're going to beat them again."

Turner, who engineered the first Redskins sweep of the Cowboys since 1987, had a great offensive game plan. As he said, it was a lot like the one used in the 14-7 loss to Philadelphia last week. There were a few more wrinkles, but also more well-executed plays and fewer wasted chances. The receiving corps got Leslie Shepherd back for spot duty and he had a key fourth-quarter reception, but with Michael Westbrook and Tydus Winans still injured -- and Shuler's proclivity for throwing interceptions -- Turner's plan was to run the ball, control the time of possession and keep it close.

Turner did have his tricks, such as a shovel pass to Brian Mitchell and having his second tight end, rookie Jamie Asher, go in motion.

"We plagiarized a little off San Francisco," Galbraith said of the 49ers, who are the only other team to beat Dallas this season. "{The Cowboys} have a lot of trouble when you spread them out and motion people. They get lost. Their linebackers are not the smartest."

But sooner or later, Shuler was going to have to make a big throw. After Olanda Truitt bobbled a perfect pass in the end zone in the third quarter, Shuler hit Henry Ellard for a score. After running right on bootlegs early in the game, he rolled out to the right late in the fourth quarter and threw left to Shepherd on a 44-yard pass, which set up Eddie Murray's 47-yard field goal and gave the Redskins a 24-10 lead.

"It gives you confidence that you can go into a big game and win, be comfortable and be patient," Shuler said.

The best early sign for the Redskins was that Cowboys punter John Jett trotted on to the field on Dallas's first four series. Another was that Redskins punter Matt Turk had a great day, as did the coverage teams.

Smith had just four carries for 20 yards in the first half, but one was a seven-yard dash for a touchdown that put Dallas ahead, 7-0, with 8:22 left in the half. Three Irvin receptions and a questionable 21-yard pass interference penalty on Darrell Green set up the score.

The Redskins responded, however. Allen gained 41 of 73 yards on the drive, capping it with a two-yard touchdown run for a 7-7 tie with 1:22 left in the second quarter. Chris Boniol's 37-yard field goal as the half ended gave Dallas a 10-7 lead.

But in the third quarter, the Redskins went ahead to stay. After the Cowboys' initial drive fizzled because Smith lost 10 yards fumbling the ball out of bounds, Shuler took the Redskins 83 yards to score. After completions of 13 and 20 yards to Shepherd and Asher, Allen carried four times. Three plays after Truitt's bobble in the end zone, Shuler found Ellard open for a 10-yard score and a 14-10 lead with 5:01 left in the quarter.

"Deion {Sanders} lined up on the wrong guy," Dallas Coach Barry Switzer said.

With 12:03 left in the game, Richard glided across the field, leaped and intercepted Aikman's post-pattern pass to Irvin. The 24-yard return to the Dallas 27 set up Allen's two-yard run for a 21-10 lead with 8:45 left.

Now desperate, Dallas moved downfield with passes. But on fourth and one from the Redskins 3, Richard stripped Smith of the ball. Smith collected the bouncing ball and crossed the goal line, but the officials ruled he did not have possession before going out of bounds. The Redskins got the ball at their 20.

"It was absolutely, clearly a fumble, and obviously it was a key play," Turner said with a Cheshire cat smile.

Indeed it was. Irvin's three-yard touchdown reception cut the deficit to 24-17, but Dallas got no closer and was embarrassed.

"This team had no business beating us," Sanders said. "I wouldn't say the best team won today. The better team today won."

The Redskins, in their hearts, might not argue Sanders's latter point. But the fact is they displayed considerably more heart than the Cowboys.

"If there were 53 guys in this state that thought we could win the game, they had to be in our room because no one else thought it," Turner said. "And, as I told the team . . . if we don't think we can, we've got no chance."

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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