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Redskins Turn Back Clock, Cowboys

By Richard Justice
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 2, 1995; Page C01

The only true believers wore burgundy and gold yesterday. The only people who thought the Washington Redskins had a chance against the Dallas Cowboys were on the south sideline at RFK Stadium, players and coaches united in an unlikely quest. And the Redskins' 27-23 upset victory over Dallas before 55,489 frenzied fans was theirs and theirs alone to enjoy and savor.

It was a day of big plays and emotion, and hanging on at the end for the Redskins, who were 13-point underdogs coming in. Running back Terry Allen provided a clinic in running between the tackles, finishing with 121 yards on 30 carries rushing behind a bruising offensive line. Allen, individually, and the collective line received game balls.

With frequent eight-man fronts, Washington's defense held Dallas's all-pro running back Emmitt Smith to 95 yards on 22 carries. The Redskins also got a break when quarterback Troy Aikman went out on the opening series with a strained right calf and didn't return. Aikman is expected to miss two to three weeks.

But the Redskins' defensive line produced two sacks of Aikman's backup, Wade Wilson, with tackle William Gaines and end Sterling Palmer having big days against the run and pass.

"There's a lot of guys with a lot of pride in that locker room," Redskins Coach Norv Turner said. "It may not have been a great rivalry over the last three games {which went to Dallas by a combined score of 107-17}, but it is a great rivalry, and I think that was proven today."

Despite its relative success with Smith, Washington (2-3) was still gasping at the wire. But the Redskins persevered, with Tom Carter picking off a Wilson bomb at the Washington 21-yard line with four seconds left.

"People counted us out," linebacker Ken Harvey said. "We knew what type of team we had, but it's good to finally put it on paper. If you know the answers to a quiz, it doesn't mean anything until you finally get it done."

The Redskins were lucky yesterday. They didn't lose any of three fumbles, and two potential Dallas interceptions were dropped. And television replays indicated that Allen was out of bounds before scoring on a five-yard touchdown pass from Gus Frerotte late in the first half that gave Washington a 20-10 halftime lead.

But they were also quite good. From the opening play of the game -- an incomplete bomb to Michael Westbrook -- the Redskins attacked Dallas's defense. They picked on Cowboys linebackers and on the Dallas cornerbacks in the middle of the field. Their defense was not pushed up and down the field.

"We were focused from Monday . . . there was no fear," said fullback Marc Logan, whose nine-yard scoring pass from Frerotte in the second quarter erased a 37-yard interception return by Cowboys safety Darren Woodson in the first quarter that had put Dallas up 10-3. Logan's touchdown was set up by a magnificent 59-yard kickoff return by Brian Mitchell that put Washington in business at the Dallas 38.

Allen didn't gain more than nine yards on any carry. But the Redskins controlled the line of scrimmage throughout the afternoon, especially in the second half, running Allen behind left guard Ray Brown and left tackle Joe Patton. Patton, making his second career start, did a first-rate job (with help from tight end James Jenkins) on all-pro defensive end Charles Haley.

When Allen scored from a yard out with 8:38 left in the third quarter, the Redskins enjoyed a 17-point lead at 27-10.

"It all starts up front," said Allen, who has 461 yards rushing in five games. "No matter what those guys know on the other side, if our guys up front do what they're supposed to do, we're going to get positive yardage. They {the linemen} were talking more in the huddle than Gus was. But that's good when those guys get fired up like that."

But Dallas (4-1) came storming back, with the suddenly hot Wilson (16 of 20 in the second half for 179 yards) consistently finding wide receivers Michael Irvin and Kevin Williams open. The Cowboys, who had hardly run Smith in the first half, started giving him the ball, and he started making yards.

Chris Boniol's 34-yard field goal made it 27-13 late in the third. On their next series the Redskins pinned Dallas on its 4-yard line following a Matt Turk punt, but six plays and two minutes later, Dallas was in Washington's end zone after a patient 96-yard drive. Wilson finished it with a 28-yard pass to Irvin in front of Darrell Green for the touchdown, and Boniol made it 27-20 with 13:35 left in the game.

Dallas quickly got the ball back at its 30, and was inside the Washington 10 in a matter of minutes on a 14-yard run by Smith, a 16-yard Wilson pass to Irvin, an 18-yarder to tight end Jay Novacek, a 15-yard rip up the middle by Smith and 11 more yards on a pass to Irvin, giving the Cowboys first and goal at Washington's 9.

"We were saying, Let's just settle down; let's do what we have to do to get off the field,' " said Gaines, who started in place of injured Tim Johnson (neck).

On second down from the 5, Smith was corralled on a swing pass for no gain by linebacker Marvcus Patton and safety Keith Taylor. And on third down, Wilson hesitated a beat in going from his first look, Irvin, to his second, Williams. It gave Green enough time to slip around Williams and tip away Wilson's pass. Dallas then chose a 23-yard Boniol field goal to get within 27-23 with 4:20 remaining instead of going for the touchdown.

"In this league, with such high-caliber offenses throwing the ball, I need everything I can get to buy me a second," Green said. "And if he did that, that's that second I needed."

Cowboys Coach Barry Switzer didn't second-guess himself for a second on kicking the field goal.

"We had four minutes to go," he said. "We were running the ball. I thought we could win . . . what do you want me to do, get both teams back out on the field?"

There was plenty of time for another Dallas drive. But Washington's offense, which had been shut down on its last few drives, came up with a huge drive. On second and seven from his 33, Turner didn't play it safe, calling a pass over the middle. Frerotte threw a strike to Henry Ellard for 16 yards and the first down at the Washington 49.

"It was just because of a coverage they'd been giving us the whole game," said Frerotte (13 of 24, 192 yards). "They gave us that coverage again and Henry was wide open. . . . It was there all game, I just had to make the throw. It's not a tough throw. It's one I've just got to make."

From there, the line and Allen went to work, forcing Dallas to use all of its timeouts and driving to the Dallas 30 before being stuffed on fourth and one. But Dallas only had 45 seconds to work with and 70 yards to go. A possible third consecutive last-second loss loomed, but Carter out-fought Williams for the ball on a pass from Wilson, and the Redskins had their improbable victory, easily the biggest of Turner's brief two-year tenure.

"It's been so long," Brown said. "The guys that have been able to stay here as long as I have, who've been a part of {success}, now we can transfer that to what we have now. What they had back then was special, but at the same time, we can have something special, too."

© Copyright 1995 The Washington Post Company

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