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  Davis Answers Call in 21-16 Victory

By Richard Justice
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 14, 1997; Page C1

With a nation watching and first place in the NFC East on the line, the Washington Redskins played their best game ever under Coach Norv Turner. And they did it in style, rushing to an early lead, then holding off the Dallas Cowboys in dramatic fashion to win, 21-16, last night in front of a roaring crowd of 76,159 at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.

The victory left the Redskins with a 4-2 record and sole possession of the division lead. It pushed the Cowboys a game behind at 3-3, and with their schedule becoming easier in the coming weeks, the Redskins hope last night was a changing of the guard in a division the Cowboys have won five straight seasons.

The Redskins did it without running back Terry Allen and wide receiver Michael Westbrook. Both of them suffered knee injuries early and were not factors in the victory.

Stephen Davis stepped in for Allen and played brilliantly, gaining 94 yards on 22 carries. He also scored a pair of touchdowns that helped the Redskins run up an early 21-3 lead.

The Redskins had a host of other heroes. Linebacker Ken Harvey led a big-time defensive effort and forced a fumble by Troy Aikman early in the second half that helped the Redskins seemingly blow the game open with their third touchdown.

Cornerback Cris Dishman did a nice job in a long evening with Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin, and safety Stanley Richard made the final big defensive play of the night.

The Cowboys closed it to 21-16 with a pair of touchdowns, and they had third and 11 at the Washington 39. Richard blitzed into the backfield and forced Aikman to unload the ball. On fourth down, Aikman threw downfield to Anthony Miller, who was covered by Darrell Green.

That final incompletion came with 2:23 remaining and sealed the victory. The Cowboys didn't give up after falling behind 21-3. Rookie linebacker Dexter Coakley picked up a Brian Mitchell fumble early in the third quarter and ran it in from 16 yards out to get the Cowboys within 21-9. They went for two points but Aikman failed to connect with Michael Irvin.

Then Aikman fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to Irvin with 9:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and it got the Cowboys within five at 21-16. That's where it stayed after Richard and others mounted a final defensive stand.

Redskins quarterback Gus Frerotte played solidly, completing 12 of 23 passes for 155 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions. Wide receiver Leslie Shepherd caught two passes for 60 yards.

Westbrook caught two passes for 32 yards before injuring his left knee. Allen carried four times for 12 yards before spraining his left knee. Both their injuries were be re-evaluated today to determine the severity.

Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith gained 27 yards on his first two carries, but finished the game with just 61 yards on 17 carries.

The Cowboys steamrollered the Redskins on their first possession, driving from their 19 to the Redskins 2-yard line. Smith gained 27 yards on his first two carries.

Aikman threw a 42-yard completion to Michael Irvin, giving the Cowboys a first down at the Redskins 12. Smith gained four yards to the 8. Smith got the ball again, but linebacker Ken Harvey dropped him for a loss of two.

On third and eight, Aikman threw an eight-yard completion to Stepfret Williams for a first down at the 2. The Cowboys have been plagued by penalties inside the 20 all season, and close to a touchdown, they committed a big one when rookie tight end David LeFleur was flagged for a false start.

That penalty put the Cowboys on the Redskins 7. Smith gained two, then Aikman couldn't connect with Anthony Miller, who was covered nicely by Darrell Green in the right corner of the end zone.

On third and goal from the 5, Aikman had no receiver open, so he scrambled to his right and attempted to leap into the end zone. He landed on his head at the 2, and the Cowboys settled for Richie Cunningham's 19-yard field goal.

That drive was the 22nd time this season the Cowboys had driven inside the 20-yard line and the 16th time they've been unable to score a touchdown.

Suddenly, the Redskins came awake, driving 80 yards in eight plays for their first touchdown. On first down from the 20, Frerotte scrambled away from pressure and was sacked by Godfrey for a four-yard loss.

Stephen Davis, subbing for Allen, gained two yards.

On third and 12, Westbrook made a terrific leaping catch for 17 yards. Two plays later, he went to his knees to catch a 15-yarder. It was on this play that he apparently injured his left knee-the same knee he hurt three times last season.

Frerotte was just getting warmed up. With great pass protection, he waited, waited, waited, then fired a beautiful 48-yard completion to Leslie Shepherd. Davis scored on a two-yard touchdown run to give the Redskins a 7-3 lead with 2:12 left in the first quarter.

The Redskins held the Cowboys without a first down on their next two possessions, and on the second try, the Redskins got another 80-yard drive cranked up.

Davis gained seven yards and three yards on consecutive carries, and with a first down at the 13, tight end James Jenkins slipped between defenders and caught Frerotte's touchdown pass.

That play gave the Redskins a 14-3 lead with 7:16 left in the second quarter and clearly had the Cowboys on their heels.

On the third play of the second half, Redskins linebacker Ken Harvey roared into the backfield and smashed Aikman from behind. Aikman fumbled, and Rich Owens recovered at the Cowboys 25-yard line.

Davis got the ball six straight times and got the touchdown on the final try. His four-yard scoring run made it 21-3 with 10:49 left in the third quarter.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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