To show you how bad it is for the Redskins these days, Larry Cole had a premonition of the dastardly deed he did today. He is a bull of a defensive tackle, 6 1/2 feet tall and heavier than sin, who last scored a touchdown in the first year of Richard Nixon's presidency. He went 0 for the 70's, 11 years without a touchdown, until the fourth quarter today, when, "I really had this eerie feeling I would score."
Now, when Larry Cole thinks he can score against you, you're in a heap of trouble. He can outrun a tree, but notso you'd notice. But it is his habit to hurt the Redskins. He scored three times against them in 1968 and 1969. And the more he saw of Mike Kruczek today the more Cole thought this was the time he would finally tie Bob Lilly's team record of four touchdowns by a defensive lineman.
"We had been stumbling on offense, and we needed a big play from the defense," Cole said. "I noticed that Kruczek threw his passes kind of low and I thought our guys could tip one of them and I'd score with it."
Exactly. Teaming up with the other tackle, Randy White, on a sprint for Kruczek's head. Cole felt this rapping, gently rapping, on the top of his helmet. It was the football wanting in. White had struck Kruczek a blow, separating the quarterback from the ball, and it bounced atop Cole's hat.
Some seasons, the ball would have fallen harmlessly. Some seasons, Cole, with his lineman's taped mitts, would have dropped the twisting spheroid. Some seasons, Cole would have tripped over his tutu before going 43 yards.
Rodney Dangerfield does a joke about his wife in which he says she is so ugly that if you look up ugly in the dictionary, there's her picture. If you check the spelling of forlorn today, the Redskin team picture might be there. In this season of catastrophe, it may have been preordained that Larry Cole would turn pass-catcher/sprinter/hero, just as the previous week a Philadelphia linebacker ran 59 yards with a fourth-and-inches fumble to leave the Redskins suffering.
This is a football team Job could play for.
"Having those four thumbs," Cole said of his heavily-taped hands, "makes it hard to get a handle on the ball. You've got to have a little touch. I saw it coming down off my helmet. You just have to drop your hands and let it fall in, like it was falling in a bushel basket.
"When I had it, I took off. I was amazed that nobody caught me from behind. With 10 yards to go, I could smell the goal line. And as I crossed the line, I was thinking, 'This is four times against the Redskins. It's phenomenal that it's happened this way. It's crazy.'"
The big old lineman thought to celebrate by doing a White Shoes Johnson waddle. But no, "I might throw my back out," he said, smiling. Then Cole thought to leap up and dunk the ball over the goal posts. But no. "I can't jump over my shoes." So what he did, grandly, was spike the ball left-handed, certifying the Cowboys' 14-3 lead and assuring Dallas victory.
No way were the Redskins going to score two touchdowns in the fourth quarter today.
For the last month, the Cowboy defense has been mediocre. St. Louis (in two games), San Diego and the New York Giants averaged 29 points a game against Dallas. While the Redskins were able to run some today -- 184 yards, 128 by Wilbur Jackson -- they were visited by a Jobian plague of calamities any time they sought to throw the ball.
The statistics, for instance, are numbing. The Redskin passers, beleagured Joe Theismann and backup Kruczek, were nine for 18, but for only 38 yards, once the 51 yards of five sacks were subtracted. Kruczek was dumped the first two times he touched the ball as a Redskin first down at the Dallas 16 quickly became a fourth-and-46 on the series ending the first half.
Just as terrible was a third-and-13 play at the same spot earlier. As Theismann retreated to pass, here came Cowboy left defensive end Ed (Too Tall) Jones in eager and hungry pursuit. All day Jones waged honorable war with Redskin George Starke, whom he called "one of the most highly respected tackles in the league." On this play, Jones stepped over a diving Starke and bore down on Theismann.
Well, the Washington center, Bob Kuziel, and fullback, Clarence Harmon, thought they would keep Jones out of Theismann's ear. But as the Redskins threw their blocks, Jones flew by -- and Kuziel and Harmon clanked heads in his wake. Jones never reached Theismann, but his pressure put the quarterback in a rush that left his pass uncatchable.
"I had one of my best days," Jones said.
The cowboys generally were mediocre today. They threw four interceptions and lost two fumbles, after averaging barely two turnovers a game all season. They couldn't handle the Redskin running game outside the ends, and they seemed distracted at times ("It looked like we were playing with our eyes closed and they were doing great," Charlie Waters said).
But the Dallas defensive front four was so good it won this game by itself.
Once a member of the Doomsday Defense that included George Andre, Bob Lilly and Jethro Pugh, Cole keeps that unit first in his heart for effectiveness. But Jones, Harvey Martin and Randy White "have more talent and ability to dominate," Cole said. "You can't beat them."
These Redskins can't, for sure. In two games against Dallas this season they scored only one touchdown, that in the last two minutes today when an interception put the ball at the eight-yard line. So now the Redskins are 3-9, headed for the worst record since the 3-11 year of 1963, and Larry Cole even has a new theory on what's gone wrong wth his old buddies from Washington.
"They put too much emphasis on the opener against us this year," Cole said.
"All through training camp that's all they talked about, getting up for that one game. It became a vengeance thing for them to get even for the way they lost that last game to us the year before. And when we beat them again in the opener, it hurt them more than it should have. It looks like they lost something."