September 10, 1991: Redskins Win Shootout With Cowboys, 33-31
IRVING, TEX., SEPT. 9 -- The Washington Redskins took all the body punches the Dallas Cowboys could offer tonight. They absorbed the best of Troy Aikman and some of the best of Emmitt Smith, and they punched out a Dallas defense that had been on a two-year roll. They survived four injuries to starters.
In a wild game that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones compared to a Super Bowl, the Redskins (2-0) rallied from an 11-point, first-half deficit to win their second straight game. The Cowboys dropped to 1-1 and the Redskins play the NFC East’s only other 2-0 team, Phoenix, Sunday at RFK Stadium.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said. “I’m going to have to go back in and count the problems we have. But thank goodness we got out of it. That was a great job by our guys. They didn’t give up and it looked bleak there at the beginning.”
The Redskins survived a lot of jinxes, winning only their second night game since 1986 and winning a nonstrike game on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in almost five years. They also gained 332 yards on a defense that had a seven-game streak of not allowing 300 yards.
It didn’t look that way in the first half when the Cowboys put together touchdown drives of 80, 80 and 84 yards on their first three possessions and led by 21-10 with 5:44 left in the half.
Smith had a 75-yard touchdown run and a five-yard touchdown catch, and Aikman hit 13 of his first 17 passes. But a Redskins defense that has always made excellent in-game adjustments made another, limiting the Cowboys in the second half to one field goal until a meaningless touchdown with two seconds remaining. The Cowboys gained 237 yards the first half, 109 the second.
The Redskins made some breaks and they got some breaks. A fumble forced them to drive only 28 yards for their first touchdown and another put them in position for Lohmiller’s 45-yard field goal (and their first lead) at the start of the second half.
Smith finished with 112 yards on 11 carries, but he got 104 on his first five carries before a stomach ache sent him to the sideline for long stretches. “He was sick and dehydrated,” Cowboys Coach Jimmy Johnson. “He wasn’t feeling good at all. We got beat by a more experienced team, but we gave them some gifts. Give Washington credit for coming back, but you can’t help them along like we did.”
Smith gained seven yards on his final six carries, leaving Aikman to throw. He completed 27 of 42 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
Lohmiller kicked field goals of 53, 52, 45 and 46 yards, tying his NFL record with two of 50 yards or better. Mark Rypien played solidly, completing 14 of 26 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
It was a one-yard touchdown run by Gerald Riggs with 12:48 left in the fourth quarter that gave the Redskins the lead for the final time. That finished a 14-play, 85-yard drive that ground up 8:20 for a 30-24 lead. Rypien hit four big plays, but it was up back Brian Mitchell gaining three yards on fourth and one from punt formation at the Washington 48 that was the biggest play. Lohmiller’s 46-yard field goal with 5:39 left gave them enough to win.
By that time, they were playing without right tackle Ed Simmons, who sprained a knee, and left guard Joe Jacoby, who had back spasms. Mark Adickes filed in for Simmons and Raleigh McKenzie subbed for for Jacoby. The Redskins also lost both strong safeties -- Alvin Walton and Danny Copeland -- to injuries. Free safety Terry Hoage finished at strong safety.
The Redskins rallied only after hanging on for their lives in the first half, especially when they were trailing 21-10 with 5:44 left in the first half.
”We really didn’t make any adjustments,” middle linebacker Matt Millen said. “We were a little too conscious of their cutbacks, but once we settled in, we were okay. We didn’t miss tackles on Emmitt Smith. He’s one of those guys who makes you miss.”
The Cowboys took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards in 11 plays and 6:37. Aikman completed six of seven for 53 yards.
But probably the biggest moment of the half wasn’t a play at all. It came on third down and three at the Washington 38 when Johnson boldly elected to go for the first down. Tight end Jay Novacek beat Alvin Walton for 17 yards to the Redskins 21. Three plays later, Aikman faked a handoff to Smith and hit Novacek for a three-yard touchdown.
The Redskins ran three plays and punted, then got their first big break of the night when Kelvin Martin fumbled Kelly Goodburn’s kick at his 45-yard line. The ball was kicked all the way back to the Dallas 28, where Ravin Caldwell fell on it.
Three plays later, Jimmie Johnson caught a three-yard touchdown pass from Rypien to tie it, 7-7.
The Cowboys were just getting warmed up. Smith broke a 75-yard touchdown run on their second play of their second drive, but the Redskins responded with a 53-yard field goal. The Cowboys drove 84 yards, with Smith catching a five-yard touchdown pass from Aikman with 5:44 left in the half to make it 21-10. The Redskins rallied again, with Rypien hitting Monk on a 37-yard pass to make it 21-17 with 4:18 left.
Lohmiller’s 52-yard field goal with eight seconds left in the half made it 21-10.
”I had a good stroke going and I thought I’d have a good night if I got a chance,” said Lohmiller.
The Cowboys again sprinted right down the field, going 84 yards in 16 plays and 9:18 to make it 21-10 with 5:44 left in the first half. It ended with Smith catching a five-yard touchdown pass -- the first of his career. But Smith missed most of the drive, and Aikman picked the Redskins apart, hitting Novacek for 17 on third and fifth, Michael Irvin for 10 on third and eight and Alexander Wright for 11 on third and six. Smith came back in to catch a three-yard touchdown pass.
On the verge of being swept off the field, the Redskins responded with a 74-yard drive that took three plays and 86 seconds. Rypien hit Monk for 12. Byner broke loose for 25. Then Monk beat Issiac Holt on a hitch-and-go and caught a 37-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-17.
The Redskins finally stopped the Cowboys on back-to-back possessions, and Jeff Rutledge saved a bad snap to allow Lohmiller’s 52-yarder with eight seconds left in the half.
The Redskins got a 23-21 lead early in the third quarter when Monte Coleman knocked the ball from Novacek and Markus Koch recovered at the Washington 29 with 12:52 left. The Redskins went nowhere, but Lohmiller’s 45-yard field goal gave them a two-point lead with 11:53 left in the quarter.
The Redskins struck again with their best drive, grinding out 85 yards in 14 plays and 8:20. They converted two third-down plays and one fourth down. The fourth down came on fourth and one at their 48, and with Kelly Goodburn in punt formation, McKenzie made a direct snap to up man Mitchell, who ran three yards to the Dallas 49.
”They gave us the look we were looking for,” Mitchell said.
The Redskins finished up the drive impressively. Riggs gained six on first down. Rypien hit Terry Orr on a slant for 23 to the 20. Byner gained one, then Clark got alone in the middle and caught an 18-yarder to the 1. Riggs scored with 12:48 left.
”The way they started out, it was a matter of hanging in there,” Rypien said.