The Washington Redskins activated six new receivers tonight: Everson Walls, Michael Downs, Bill Bates, Ron Fellows, Victor Scott and Dennis Thurman.
Each of these members of Dallas' defense intercepted passes as the Cowboys waffled the Redskins, 44-14, at Texas Stadium.
Quarterback Joe Theismann threw five interceptions, the most in his 12-year NFL career. He completed only 15 of 35 passes and was lucky it wasn't seven interceptions since Dallas defenders dropped two.
Reserve Jay Schroeder entered at game's end and his first pass was intercepted and returned 21 yards by Thurman for Dallas' last score. In a negative way, Theismann plus Schroeder equaled the legendary Sammy Baugh, who, believe it or not, holds the Redskins' record of six interceptions in a game.
"We were working so damn long for these guys, maybe we got a little stale," Theismann said. "We started working for this game six weeks ago. And I'm damn glad it's over. Enough already.
"It should have been 10-7 at the half when it was 17-7," he said, referring to rookie cornerback Barry Wilburn's allowing Cowboys receiver Mike Renfro to beat him for a 55-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the half.
"It took a little air out of our balloon," Theismann said. "You make throws you shouldn't make when you fall behind."
Asked to evaluate his performance, Theismann said, "I'm not into evaluations."
Theismann said his protection was good and that he saw the defender on all his interceptions. "On the one that Scott returned (26 yards for the 37-7 touchdown), I thought Clint (Didier, tight end) could circle him. But Scott just cut in front of him. A couple of the others were batted up. The interception that Downs made (in the first quarter) was just a great play. And I contributed to some of them.
"It just seemed like we had to go an awful long way all of the time. I've been playing for 12 years and I've played against some of these guys 24 times. Maybe we get to know a little bit about each other."
Schroeder described the nightmare thusly: "Just one of those nights where everything was six inches off, one way or the other. It just kept snowballing."
Tackle Mark May described it this way: "Chalk it up as a bad day. I thought Joe would have a great game. He had a great week in practice and a great preseason. Maybe that was a bad omen."
Russ Grimm, the all-pro guard, said, "I really don't know what happened. Maybe we got all of the kinks out in the first game. Joe might not throw another interception for the rest of the year.
"All I know is that I still want him as my quarterback."
The Redskins used an unbalanced formation at the start (right tackle May was lined up on the left side, leaving guard Ken Huff and two tight ends on the right). It opened up running room for fullback John Riggins at the start.
"It was something we worked on for the first time this week," May said. "We were kicking their butts with it. But we fell behind and had to catch up."
Actually, the Redskins still were in contention early in the third quarter, trailing just 17-7. They held the Cowboys' offense on its first series in the quarter.
But Riggins, suffering from a strained right hamstring, was unable to play. (He made only one short-yardage run in the second half.)
Riggins' infirmities are not unexpected by the Redskins. That's part of the reason they acquired George Rogers in the offseason. Given his chance in the third quarter, though, Rogers muffed it.
He lost a fumble at the Redskins 36, and Rafael Septien followed with his second field goal of the quarter. It was 23-7, and Redskins officials again were left to wonder how a player who fumbled only twice in 239 carries for New Orleans in 1984 can't seem to hold the ball now.
Theismann's 36th birthday was today. By game's end, he must have felt 76. At game's end, the quarterback who had been largely responsible for the Redskins beating Dallas four of the preceding five times the teams met was being tormented by Texas Stadium zealots.
After Schroeder's interception, came the chant, "We want Joe!" As the final seconds ticked off, came the chorus, "Happy Birthday, Dear Joe . . . " They even showed Theismann on the big screen, arms folded, face stoic on the sideline.
Fifteen weeks short of playoff time, Theismann was keenly aware of the taunting. "They even played 'Happy Birthday' on the organ," he said.