With massive tackle Dave Butz on his heals and the sideline a step away, Dallas quarterback Danny White resorted today to what he called a "cardinal sin" of football.

But as far as the Cowboys are concerned, White's sin was heaven sent: it probably was the turning point of their 24-10 triumph over Washington.

White unleashed a 34-yard pass to Drew Pearson on the third and 18 play at midfield. Five plays later, Dallas scored on White's 10-yard pass to tight end Doug Cosbie and had a 17-10 lead.

"It was all I could do to get it to him," White said about the offbalance, across the body pass to Pearson. "I still needed to pull it back further to the left. It was a very dangerous throw. It's a cardinal sin to run one way and throw back the other way, because those are the balls that get intercepted.

"But when you have a guy like Drew Pearson, it's different. I was looking for someone to break open and he makes such great catches in traffic."

Otherwise, White was hardly pleased with Dallas' offensive performance. Despite producing 470 yards, the Cowboys weren't able to score a third touchdown until the game's final minute.

"We move the ball all over the field and then somebody makes a mistake and gets a penalty and it's all over," he said. "That's the pattern all season. We sputter and then we sputter some more. This year has been a good offensive year, but we haven't scored nearly as many points as we should have. Today it was penalties; tomorrow, you don't know what it wll be."

Said safety Charlie Waters, "We were on the edge of domination. But when you get down to the goal line and somebody jumps offside, it's something you have to overcome. Believe me, this team would like to be perfect, but we are not."

The Cowboys were not complaining about how much the Redskins missed injured halfback Joe Washington in the second half. Washington did not play the last two quarters because he had torn rib cartilage.

"Not having Joe Washington in the second half was a big difference," linebacker D.D. Lewis said. "He is a big breakaway threat. They just don't have a replacement for him. He's such a threat, because he can cut across the grain well and do so much with so little room to work with. Let's give him the game's most valuable player award."

With Washington out, end Ed Jones said, the Dallas front four was able to concentrate more on rushing quarterback Joe Theismann.

"In the early part of the game, when it was close, getting pressure on Theismann was difficult because he likes to nickel and dime you, throwing a lot of quick stuff to his backs, and that makes it tough to go after him.

"He was throwing the ball in two or three seconds and he kept going to Washington. But we felt once we got ahead, we were able to tee off and go after him."

Jones helped by batting away three of Theismann's passes.

"That's just habit," he said. "You try to get your hands up, at least I do. I do it every day when I'm being blocked in practice. Of course, being 6-9 helps, so if I'm in the right place at the right time, I can bat some balls down.

"Washington (as a team) has improved a lot since the first game (in September). We knew they would be tougher and that we had to play a good game. It has to help our confidence to come back and win like this after losing a tough one to Detroit last week."

Coach Tom Landry said the afternoon was frustrating. "We made a lot of yardage but we had a lot of long yardage situations. We ended up winning the game on some of those third down situations. And the scramble by White and good throw to Pearson was the big play of the second half.

"I thought our defense played well. We did a good job of stopping a high-octane offense that had been playing good ball and scoring 27-28 points a game. We moved the ball and controlled it and I felt good about that. But we couldn't put the game away.

"We made too many penalties. That's what made it look so sloppy. All we want to do now is play good solid football. That's what you have to do to get into the playoffs."