The Dallas Cowboys were whipped, hurt and almost humiliated. And they were mad to boot. So in the wake of their 34-20 loss to Washington today -- their third licking by 10 or more points in four weeks -- they talked.
"I'd say we're in a lot of trouble," said Coach Tom Landry, normally stoic. "We haven't looked good . . . not enough emotion . . . may be we're not hungry enough. . . maybe our leadership is lacking.
"Washington played as good as they can do it . . . a lot of emotion . . . enthusiasm and big plays.
"It's easier for them; it always is w hen you're on the way up, when nobody expects anything out of you. Rising to the top is a long process of gradually building up. But you can go down that hill much faster than you came up it. I hope we realize that. We have to show a lot more emotion."
Then Landry, that apostle of the computer who almost never mentions the word "emotion," cut his eyes devilishly when the Redskins' obvious rub-it-in tactics were mentioned.
"When you're on top, enjoy it," he advised the Redskins, "because they'll find out it's hard to stay there."
Few Cowboys felt so generous.
"The next time we see 'em (in four weeks)," said Harvey Martin, "we'll bite their heads off.
"Where do guys like Coy Bacon get off doing those dances and waving their fingers in the air? He gets two sacks off our second-string tackle at the end of the game and he acts like he's an All-Pro," said Martin, an All-Pro.
Told of Martin's threat to bite off heads, Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann said, "I guess we'll just have to wear double chin straps."
That was the mood of this game's closing minutes. When Theismann completed a fourth-quarter touchdown pass for a 31-13 lead, he ran 10 yards out of his way to taunt linebacker D. D. Lewis, whose blitz he had beaten for the score.
Theismann leaped into the air and shook his fist inches from Lewis face.
"I wasn't about to take that from him," said Lewis, who knocked Theismann on his duff with a forearm to the chest. "Theismann knew he'd done wrong and he jumped right up and apologized. He should have, too."
The Cowboys were even more furious when Washington called time (Cowboy arch-enemy Diron Talbert doing the honors) with 14 seconds left to kick a final 46-yard field goal.
"We were all pretty hot about it," Lewis said. "Nobody likes to have their face rubbed in it. I guess afterward we realized they have a reason to do it, so we've cooled down a little."
Nonethless, Dallas wasn't about to apologize for the shot Aaron Mitchell took on that final field goal -- blasting both Mark Moseley and Theismann into a heap on a roughing-the-kicker penalty. As Theismann lay on the ground, Mitchell picked up the yellow flag and threw it down on him..
"Mithchell was justified," said Dallas veteran Cliff Harris. "We were frustrated and they asked for it.
"I'm glad to hear Tom (Landry) say we need emotion," said Harris, aware of the irony that Landry does not use the word often.
"In the last few weeks, we've done a lot of talking and not much performing.
We've got a lot of good talkers on this team. But what we need now is some quiet excellence.
"We've got to realize that teams like Washington hate us. We've been too nice. We were too friendly today."
What the Cowboys saw today was the face of unleashed hostility.
"We're seeing a different face on the Redskin team," said defensive end Larry Cole. "George Allen's teams wouldn't have taunted us or made predictions that they'd beat us.
"That final field goal . . . that was a Pardee touch. I hope we remember it and pay'em back.
"The Redskins remind me of us back in '75 when we were young and sometimes confused, but we'd hit-move-swarm and something good would happen," said Cole, veteran of more than 20 Redskin games.
"In fact, Theismann reminds me of Roger Staubach back in '71 when he was yelling and screaming and didn't kn ow what the hell he was doing half the time. But he had the will.
"Theismann's a winner. He's got that positive killer instinct. He'll challenge you. He doesn't have Terry Bradshaw's talent, but he's got the same guts. He has our respect."
The Cowboys must quickly find their self-respect, since they face tough Houston on Thursday. Injuries are Dallas' biggest problem -- center John Fitzerald and tackle Randy White were hurt today, both missing almost all of the game.
"Our injured people aren't just people," Cole said. "They're our all-pros. When you're playing king of the hill, it helps to have all your kingpins."
"When the computer starts breaking down," concluded Harris, "you got to reach down and start playing like people."