No Thanksgiving turkey ever got plucked quicker or more cleanly. The Redskins were out of it against the Cowboys early in the second quarter yesterday, victims - as usual - of blockers who failed to block and tacklers who failed to tackle.
Later, after the 37-10 rout in which the Cowboys had outgained the Redskins by a mind-jolting 305 yards, there was the usual small parade of public fingers pointers - led by one of the defensive problems, Coy Bacon.
Bacon probably is correct when he said Coach Jack Pardee is not getting the respect he should, that assorted players are not snapping to attention mentally or physically. But there has been no more inviting place for the opposition to run lately than Bacon's side of the defensive line.
"That was the plan," said a Cowboy offensive lineman as he trotted happily off the field.
Defensive problems have been most alarming of late, because Washington usually could stop nearly everyone in past seasons - even when their records were similar to this team's 8-5. One veteran admitted there has been "confusion" of late, at times indecision on when to use the 3-4 defense and what to do when it is used.
Also, the injury to Diron Talbert came at a most inopportune time, not because he was playing defensive right tackle especially well but because of his ability to smooth out the internal friction between the younger and older players.
"We've got to come up with a Talby-type guy," one player said. "And in a hurry."
To add to all the Redskin woes, the Cowboys were inspired yesterday. And a fine team with its mind on business, as Dallas has been of late, is tough regardless of the opposition.
This Dallas attitude was best personified by quarterback Roger Staubach, not with his arms, though he passed well, but with his legs. Three times Staubach was forced to run - and he did it defiantly, head up, daring the Redskin to take their best shots.
Each time he got a first down.
Redskin sins were the familiar ones of the defensive line not allowing room for the runners to run or enough time for quarterback Joe Theismann and his receivers to develop patterns. Any movement forward th first half was unusual, first downs a cause for celebration.
"The difference between now and when we won (9-5) at home," Theismann said, "is that here we never took charge - speaking for the offense. You can't expect to come out and score right away, but you've got to move the football.
"You've got to get a first down rushing and a first down passing, get your heads in the game and get them thinking. We never got in that situation. We never made them adjust."
Theismann had been in tears, at one time burying his face in his hands and saying: "I hate to lose worse than anything else in the world." Composed, he added: "There's no mystery about what happened.
"Those four guys (on the Cowboy defensive line), when they want to play . . . there's nobody like 'em in the NFL. But you keep backs in to help block 'em and they have enough speed in the secondary to double the deep people.
"Maybe it was a little lifeless out there. I wish I could put my finger on it, I wish anyone could. When you play well and get beat, that's one thing. But when you get your tail handed to you, that's no fun at all.
"I only know one way to play - with all my heart - and I go in the bathroom after something like this and say; "There's no reason to cry; you're a grown man.'"
Near the end of the second quarter too Tall Jonus and Randy White smacked Theismann so hard "I just couldn't breathe. I thought the whole right side of my chest was gone - and my left shoulder was going numb."
Theismann missed one play but returned for nearly as much punishment in the second half. Of his being on the run so much of late, he said: "I'm livin' and dyin' with those guys up front. All I can do is drop back and throw."
Still, the Redskin defense was embarrassed more. Fullback Robert Newhouse missed the game with an injury, so somebody named Scott Laidlaw ran wild. The longest Laidlaw had ever ran in his pro career had been 28 yards ("on three carries," a Dallas cynic said), but he ripped off a 59-yarder on the final play of the first quarter.
Laidlaw had 103 yards rushing in the first half.
Early on, Redskin faithful could only hope history would be repeated. Once the Redskins jumped ahead, 28-0, in Wahsington and barely won. Dallas experienced a similar letdown here a few years ago.
That the Cowboys would not be generous yesterday became clear midway through the third quarter, just after the Redskins got a field goal and narrowed the deficit to 20-3. On the large score-board appeared a sign that said: "Wanna Start Something?
Immediately, Dallas drove far enough for a 44-yard field goal. A few minutes later, after a Stauback interception proved no problem, the Cowboys scampered more than half the field in three plays for the touchdown that settled matters for good.
Said defensive tackle Larry Cole to the team president, Tex Schramm, as both were preparing to leave the stadium: "That's not a bad way to spend the day."