The key to beating Dallas, according to Redskins safety Mark Murphy, "is to make them work for everything. If you do that, they'll self-destruct, fumble or something. But if you let them hit you with the big ones, you're in real trouble. We did what we wanted in the first half, but not in the second."
The Cowboys, down by 23-3 at halftime, used two long touchdown passes from Danny White to Tony Hill to spark a 28-point second half that resulted in a 31-30 Cowboys victory.
Dallas' first touchdown came only 2 minutes and 40 seconds into the third period when White completed a 75-yard pass to Hill over Vernon Dean.
"That's the play that got them going," said Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs.
Murphy, who calls the Redskins' defensive signals, said Dean had trouble hearing the call at the line and was caught out of position.
"They ran motion and we adjusted with an audible, but the noise was so loud, Vernon couldn't hear the call. He went to the outside, but in the coverage we wanted, he should have stayed inside and deeper."
It was another breakdown, this time by the offense that proved to be one of the biggest plays of the game. The Cowboys had just scored the go-ahead touchdown and the Redskins got the ball back, trailing by a point with 2:25 remaining.
On second down, Theismann, who completed 28 of 38 passs for 325 yards and two touchdowns, threw the ball where he thought Charlie Brown was going to be, but Dallas' Ron Fellows was there instead. He intercepted at the Redskins' 37, returned to the four and the Cowboys scored three plays later to seal the victory.
"Everyone thought it was Theismann's fault, but it was mine," said Brown, who caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from Theismann in the second quarter. "I was supposed to run a comeback and didn't. I ran a fly instead. It was just a mental breakdown. I didn't read things right."
Said Theismann: "I threw the ball where I thought he'd be. I didn't know what had happened until I got to the sidelines."
The Redskins were put in the catch-up position partly because Mark Moseley, who kicked three first-half field goals, missed a 31-yarder with 9:24 left.
"I just missed it," Moseley said. "It's one of those things that isn't supposed to happen. I just pushed it off to the right. One official signaled it good and the other said no, but I knew I had missed. It wasn't even close."
Theismann called his performances one of his best, but also said he was more tired after the game than he had ever been before.
"It was draining," he said, "and I bet the Cowboys are just as tired. We aren't down or anything like that. We lost to one of the best teams in football, and this wasn't for the NFC championship. We aren't going home for the rest of the year. This is only the beginning of the season."
The Redskins said there was nothing any of them could have done about White's 51-yard touchdown pass to Hill, which, after Rafael Septien's conversion, made it 23-17 midway through the third period.
The Redskins were in their nickel defense and Hill, with Anthony Washington leaning against him, stuck out his right arm, grabbed the ball, then ran the final 20 yards to the end zone.
"He just made a great catch and used his speed," said Gibbs. "There's nothing you can do about plays like that."