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  Redskins Close Door on RFK, Cowboys

By Dave Sell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 23, 1996; Page D1

On a cold and crisp day, RFK Stadium was sold out for the 229th straight Redskins game for what was the last NFL game in the stadium's 35-year history. Dozens of former Redskins were honored at halftime by a crowd energized from the full and rich history that hangs under the stadium's roof. Even before kickoff, fans shook the stands and chanted, "We want Dallas. We want Dallas." And at the end of a long afternoon, the Redskins had a 37-10 victory over the Cowboys and a winning record for the first time since 1992.

Running back Terry Allen scored three touchdowns and gained 87 yards on 26 carries to set a Redskins single-season rushing record with 1,353 yards. The man whose record he broke is John Riggins, who joined three generations of Redskins for the halftime show. None drew louder applause from the 56,454 fans (there might have been a few no-shows) than Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen and future Hall of Fame wide receiver Art Monk.

The Redskins will take their 9-7 record into the offseason and try to figure out how to reach the playoffs next season. After starting the season 7-1, they went 2-6 in in the second half and were knocked out of playoff contention when they lost to the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday.

The Redskins were disappointed by their collapse, but they played hard out of pride yesterday. Quarterback Gus Frerotte threw for a career-high 346 yards and completed 22 of 31 throws. The defense did not allow a touchdown until Herschel Walker went 39 yards to score in the fourth quarter.

Redskins Coach Norv Turner was a gambler at times, trying a flea-flicker pass early and twice going for it on fourth down. But he also opted for a field goal at the end of the first half that put the Redskins ahead by 16-3. But by then, the Cowboys (10-6) had their substitutes in the game.

With Carolina beating Pittsburgh in an early game, the Cowboys had no way of improving their playoff position. Earlier this week, the Cowboys decided they were not going to risk injuries to key players.

Dallas running back Emmitt Smith had a sore ankle, was not in uniform and was among the players made inactive just before the game. Troy Aikman was in uniform, but he was the third quarterback and, after tossing a few passes in the pregame warmup, did nothing more strenuous than jot down notes on a clipboard.

Left tackle Mark Tuinei (sore knee) was declared inactive on Friday. Starting defensive tackle Chad Hennings was made inactive before the game yesterday. Defensive end Tony Tolbert had a streak of 111 consecutive straight starts, so he played the first series and then departed. Cornerback Deion Sanders played two series and left after appearing to re-injure his back when he tried to hit Redskins wide receiver Michael Westbrook at the line of scrimmage.

The fumbled flea-flicker derailed the Redskins' first drive, but Scott Blanton kicked a 45-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead on the second possession.

The Redskins' defense did not let Smith's replacement, Sherman Williams, do much damage in the first half (eight carries, 16 yards) and it was still 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.

By that point, the Redskins were seven plays into what would be a 10-play, 82-yard drive, but that ended as many late-season drives did: close to the goal line but with Blanton providing the points. On third and goal at the Dallas 5-yard line, Dallas strong safety Darren Woodson blitzed and sacked Frerotte for seven-yard loss. Blanton then booted a 29-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead with 14 minutes 28 seconds left in the second quarter.

Walker returned the kickoff 63 yards and would have scored if Scott Turner had not tackled him from behind. But on third and one at the Redskins 16, Williams was stuffed for a loss of one yard, so Chris Boniol kicked a 34-yard field goal. It was Boniol's 27th straight field goal, which is the third-longest streak in NFL history.

The Redskins put together the sort of drive they could have used in the four previous weeks. They went 69 yards in 15 plays and consumed 7:18. Twice Norv Turner went for it on fourth down, which he might not have done in other circumstances. Frerotte made one fourth-down conversion on a quarterback sneak. Then Turner opted to go for it on fourth and four at the Dallas 42 and Bill Brooks caught a 10-yard pass. The drive was capped by Allen's one-yard touchdown run. Blanton's extra point made it 13-3 with 4:56 left in the second quarter.

When Sanders left the game -- Kevin Smith, the other cornerback did also -- he was replaced by rookie Wendell Davis, who struggled. Westbrook beat Davis and made a spectacular catch for a 45-yard gain. Two plays later, Brian Mitchell gained 32 yards on a draw play that gave the Redskins a first down at the Dallas 3. The Redskins called time out and Turner tried to let Mitchell score, by putting in the three wide receivers.

But Mitchell was stopped a yard shy of the goal line. Allen then tried and thought he got in the end zone -- so much so that he leaped into the stands afterward.

But the officials decided Allen's knee was down. Then on third and goal at the 1, Darryl Ashmore was called for illegal motion. On third and goal at the 6, Dallas safety Roger Harper was called for pass interference. That gave the Redskins a first down at the 1-yard line. But only two seconds were left. And though he gambled before, Turner took the more cautious choice and Blanton kicked an 18-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Redskins a 16-3 halftime lead.

Allen scored on a two-yard touchdown run and, with Blanton's extra point, the Redskins led 23-3 with 11:47 left in third quarter.

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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