Some of Washington had gone to bed, drifted off to dreamy bliss after having seen a fantasy leap to life. Came a near-midnight phone call to one Northwest apartment; a sleepy answer caused her football-zealous father to wonder, long distance, about misplaced priorities, this being Redskins-Cowboys Night.

Not to worry, she said. Victory over Dreaded Dallas was assured, and a decent night's sleep would make the morning even merrier.

Slowly and indirectly, in the gentle manner one expects from any bearer of gloom about a loved one, the father said: "Ah, maybe you ought to turn the television back on."



It was that way even for the masses whose minds stayed tuned to RFK Stadium despite a 20-point halftime spread. Dallasite and Washingtonian. Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs. How could the Redfaces go from champs to chumps so quickly? The mourning after will last for days. Truth be known, the town may be more down than the team.

Glee was spilling beyond belief the first 30 minutes. Here was Landry surrounded by a bunch of Redskins with no credit card, or players, to bail him out. He had turned tough during training camp; he had turned human before the game, going out of his way to shake hands with each starter before the introductions.

For grinding haughtiness into the grass, nobody did it better than the Redskins the opening half. The Cowboys had seemed vulnerable during the offseason; now they seemed helpless. Some of them allegedly had broken curfew before the last massacre here, the NFC title game; most of them had broken down in early prime time Monday.

Their only points were not very satisfying.

Just when Tony Dorsett was flying down the left sideline, about to score the touchdown that would narrow the Redskins' lead to 10-7 early in the second quarter, he was bounced out of bounds by a football-seeking missile named Darrell Green. Dorsett was going at Indy-car speed; with an angle, Green was at warp speed.

"Darrell's the only defensive back in the league who could have caught Tony," Redskins safety Mark Murphy said. "To me, it was like Dorsett was standing still. I had a very good view of it (while also in pursuit), although both of them kept getting smaller."

Miners trying to sift precious answers from a panful of whys need not look much further than that play and one early in the second half. The Cowboys will zoom at least half the field in a single bound a few times each game as surely as an only child gets spoiled at Christmas.

The trick is to keep these flights from regularly landing in the end zone.

Dorsett's ended at the six, after 77 yards, and the Cowboys mustered only a field goal; one by Tony Hill early in the third quarter could have skipped past the goal line and on to Dulles.

The halves, the two different games as Landry saw it, showed each team's strength. The overachieving Redskins gave the Cowboys a dizzying dose of Smurf 'n turf, short passes to Alvin Garrett spaced around inside blasts by John Riggins.

Control the ball, control the scoreboard, the Redskins reasoned.

So well were Washington's Hogs hogging the line of scrimmage that some assumed at halftime that Doomsday had arrived after all--for the Cowboys. Had Too Tall Jones and John Dutton missed the flight? They were as seldom seen as fresh air.

Possibly, Dallas had been dominated more thoroughly sometime in its history. But nobody could quite remember when. Fortunately, the halftime wisdom among scribes was not recorded and we can remain hindsight experts. Most were certain of another Redskins' rout; many were beginning to question Dallas' player selection in recent drafts; some were guessing about the texture of Danny White's spine.

Danny White was wonderful the second half. Even Dexter Manley would be forced to admit it. But another White concerns Washington more just now. That would be Jeris. As expected, the Redskin secondary got bombed, although Anthony Washington seemingly had Hill covered well on his second long touchdown catch.

"Because we play nickel (five backs) so much," Murphy said, "we've actually had a 60 percent turnover in a short time. We've lost Joe Lavender, Tony Peters and Jeris. That's an awful lot to make up. We've got great players replacing them, but it'll take time to adjust."

Even worse, potentially, are the shoulder miseries of left guard Russ Grimm. Riggins behind Grimm and left tackle Joe Jacoby on short yardage plays for a first down is about as safe as triple-A bonds. Grimm suffered a partial separation, he said, two weeks ago against Miami; it was bad enough that the offensive line coach, Joe Bugel, penned him on the sideline for good late in the first half.

For the first game, the new season brought a change in Redskins' luck. A year ago, Mark Moseley would not have missed the 31-yard chippie with nine-plus minutes left that might have put the game out of reach. A year ago, the offense would have found a way to give Moseley another chance, instead of yielding an interception on an incorrectly run pass pattern.

"Murf joked on Friday that, if the offense held the ball 40 minutes, we'd have a chance," quarterback Joe Theismann said. He pointed to the stat sheet: in fact, the Redskins were only 2 minutes 42 seconds shy of doing just that. Against a very good defense, the Redskins controlled the ball more than 37 minutes; against an even better offense, the Redskins allowed the Cowboys less than 23.

And still lost.

"Fifteen more games to go," each Redskin volunteered.

The Eagles have one more day to prepare, we have one less, Gibbs fretted.

One or two Redskins ducked reporters after the game. Manley was manly in defeat.

Do you regret anything you said before the game? a Dallas television interviewer asked.

"What did I say?" Manley replied.

"That you don't like the Cowboys."

Smiling, Manley shot back: "I still don't like 'em."