The Washington Redskins lost a football game and several key players today as the Dallas Cowboys used two long scoring passes and a bone-crushing defense to prevail, 34-16, in a brutally hard-hitting affair.
The Redskins may have lost both of their fullbacks - John Riggins and Bob Brunet - for the season and quarterback Billy Kilmer also suffered a badly bruised left shoulder that caused him to miss the second period and finally forced him to the sideline in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, used Staubach touchdown passes of 50 yards to Golden Richards and 59 yards to Drew Pearson and field goals of 44 and 52 yards by Efren Herrera to take a commanding two-game lead in the NFC Eastern Division.
The Cowboys are now 5-0, while the Redskins fell to 3-2.
The Redskins opened an early 6-0 lead, and managed to take a 16-14 advantage early in the third period on a club-record 53-yard field goal by Mark Moseley.
But Herrera hit his two field goals late in the third period and Staubach put the game-clinchign points on the board with a magnificent 59-yard pass to Pearson three minutes into the final period.
The Cowboys opened a lead during a wild and brutal first half that saw three Redskin offensive players leave the game with injuries.
Bob Brunet was the first Redskin victim. In for a play at fullback, he was hit in the neck by Randy White's knee as he a tempted to block for Mike Thomas. Brunet lay flat on his back on the field as medical men from both teams worked on him, and was taken off on a stretcher.
He was placed in an ambulance and sped to the Baylor University Hospital for X rays. The extent of the neck injury was not immediately known.
Four plays later, fullback John Riggins had to be helped off the field when he injured his right knee on a three-yard gain up the middle. The preliminary diagnosis was a stretched ligament, and Riggins did not return to action.
Five plays after that, still on the same Redskir offensive series, quarterback Billy Kilmer suffered a bruised left shoulder when he was hit trying to pass by Jethro Pugh and Harvey Martin.
Kilmer was twisting and trying to get away from Martin and even managed to get off a pass that was very nearly intercepted by the Cowboy's Randy Hughes on third down.
Mark Moseley, who earlier had convered a Harold McLinton fumble recovery at the Cowboy 11 into a 25-yard field goal, kicked a 40-yard field goal for a 6-0 Redskin lead with 3:16 left in the first quarter.
Joe Theismann replaced Kilmer on the Redskins' next offensive series. Early in the second period. Theismann got wonderful field position at the Redskin 47 after Jake Scott recovered receiver Butch Johnson's fumble on the left sideline.
But on first down, Theismann's third pass of the day was intercepted by Cowboy safety Charley Waters at the 50.
Roger Staubach wasted no time taking advantage of that opportunity on first down. He sent wide receiver Golden Richards down the right side. Richards faked a move to the outside, then cut back in and up the field with a maneuver that left Redskin corner-back Gerard Williams frozen in his tracks.
Richards caught Staubach's pass at the 19 with Williams five yards behind him and zoomed into the end zone for a touchdown. Efren Herrera added the extra point and the Cowboys led, 7-6, with 10:36 in the half.
Theismann continued to have his problems on the next two Redskins series, and Dallas took over at its own 30 late in the second period.
On first down from there, Tony Dorsett pulled up after taking a pitchout on an apparent reverse and threw a pass to Drew Pearson for a 34-yard gain to the Redskin 37.
Six plays later, on second and four from the Redskin seven, Robert Newhouse took a handoff on a trap play and rolled up the middle for a touchdown to pad the Cowboy lead to 14-6 with 3:11 left in the half.
Late in the second quarter, the Redskins pinned the Cowboys deep in their own territory and forced a Dallas punt from the Cowboys 13.
Rookie safety Mark Murphy came barreling in from the side and blocked Danny White's kick. Dallas Hickman recovered the ball for the Redskins at the Dallas one.
From there, Theismann crossed up everyone by calling a pass play. He dropped straight back against the Cowboys' goal-line defense and sent rookie running back Clarence Harmon angling toward the left flat.
The Cowboys, anticipating a run up the middle, were caught napping and Harmon was alone in the end zone for the touchdown catch his first score in the National Football League. Harmon had entered the game when Riggins hurt his knee.
Mosley added the extra point, and the Redskins trailed, 14-13, with 33 seconds left in the half. The Cowboys managed to move to midfield before the gun sounded for intermission.
Dallas dominated the first half statistically, with 11 first downs to the Redskins' foul. They also had 227 total yards while the Redskins manged only 76.
The two Redskin quarterbacks combined for only three completions in 17 attempts for 17 yards although at least four passes were dropped by wide-open Redskin receivers. Staubach was 10 for 18 for 157 yards.
Punter Mike Bragg helped the Redskins stay in the game by knocking three of his six punts inside the Cowboy 20-yard line.
Kilmer, meanwhile returned to action at the start of the second half and celebrated his return by throwing his first pass of the period complete to Charley Taylor for an 18-yard gain to the Redskin 47.
The Redskins managed a first down at Cowboy 30, but stalled from there. Randy White sacked Kilmer for a nine-yard loss back to the 37 on third down, and Allen gambled by sending in Moseley for a long field-goal attempt.
The move paid off when Moseley popped a 53-yarder barely across the crossbar for a 16-14 Redskin lead with 11:11 left in the third period. The kick was Moseley's best ever and also set a club record by a yard.
The Cowboys suffered a major blow when cornerback Aaron Kyle suffered a fractured wrist late in the second half and was held out the rest of the way.
A Redskin spokesman reported midway through the third quarter that Brunet did not have a broken neck but may have some sort of vertebrae injury. He will be kept in the hospital for further tests. The spokesman also reported Brunet had full movement, meaning there was no paralysis.
It was also reported that Riggins may be out for the season with ligament damage.
The Cowboys moved back into the lead when Herrera kicked a 44-yard field goal with 6:59 left in the third period for a 17-16 advantage.
The Cowboys drove from their own 24 to set up the score. A 19-yard pass from Staubachto Preston Pearson and Staubach's 16-yard scramble up-field helped produce the points.
A clipping call on the Redskins on the ensuing kickoff pushed them back to their own eight, and there straight Thomas runs gained nothing. Bragg punted 29 yards from deep in his own end zone after a heavy Dallas rush and the Cowboys took over at the Redskin 37.
The Redskins held, and Herrera came on again. This time he kicked a 52-yard field goal and the Dallas lead jumped to 20-16 with 3:09 left in the third period. It was also a career-best kick for Herrera.
Later in the period, the Redskins got a break when Houston forced Dorsett to fumble with a high, ball-hawking hit.Gerard Williams recovered for Washington at the Redskin 44.
The Redskins gave the ball back eight plays later when Thomas fumbled running up the middle and line-backer Thomas Henderson recovered at the Cowboy 45.
The Cowboys again quickly capitalized. On third and 14 from his own 41, Staubach looked out over what appeared to be an 11-man Redskin line. He checked off and lofted a bomb down the right sideline that Drew Pearson ran under for a spectacular 59-yard touchdown pass.
Again, comerback Williams was two steps behind on the coverage. Herrera's extra point gave the Cowboys a 27-16 lead with 12:43 left in the game.
Kilmer apparently reinjured his bruised shoulder early in the fourth quarter when he was sacked hard by Randy White and did not return.
The Cowboys tacked on a take-that touchdown in the final minutes for the final 34-16 margin with a determined 83-yard, 19-play drive that included several key pass completions by Stauback.The longest was an 13-yard strike to Preston Pearson.
Newhouse got the touchdown on a six-yard blast up the middle.