IRVING, Texas -- George Allen would have treasured this victory like few that had come before it.
He would have regaled in its grandeur, rejoiced in its ebb and flow.
Washington 33, Dallas 31.
Just like the old days.
It was Allen, as coach of the Washington Redskins, who once made beating Dallas a cause in the nation's capital. It was Allen who made the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry one for the ages.
The nation was reminded last night of how good that rivalry was, and can be again, even if Allen is no longer with us.
The Redskins walked into an ambush at Texas Stadium on prime-time TV, but escaped with a classic victory that bore all the trademarks of an Allen-inspired plot.
There was gimmickry and subterfuge: The Redskins sprang a successful fake punt on the Cowboys, as well as four -- count 'em -- end-arounds.
There was rock 'em, sock 'em football: Four Redskins were knocked out of the game with injuries, and two Cowboys were rendered ineffective because of dehydration in the humid Texas night.
There were big plays and little plays, and almost no inconsequential plays. Even the snap for a field goal became a big deal last night.
There were several critical plays by the Redskins' special teams, aided by more than a little good fortune. As the Cowboys were threatening to blow the Redskins out of the stadium in the first quarter, Kelvin Martin fumbled a punt without being touched at midfield. It took a propitious Redskin bounce and was covered by Washington's Ravin Caldwell on the Dallas 28. Three plays later, the Redskins had a touchdown and 7-7 tie. As it was, Dallas still managed a 21-10 second-quarter lead before the Redskins whittled it down to 21-20 by the intermission.
"To get a win and keep those guys from cleaning us up, we have to be satisfied," said Washington cornerback Darrell Green, who played another marvelous game in the secondary.
"Everybody on the Washington side is totally exhausted," said Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. "Their guys went down the field so fast in the first half, our defense was gassed."
The Redskins, 2-0 and tied for first in the NFC East, started slowly but caught up fast. They got 101 yards rushing from Earnest Byner, 85 yards on five receptions from Ricky Sanders, and 203 passing yards, on 14-for-26 accuracy, from quarterback Mark Rypien.
But they won the game with special teams that played to uncommon distinction:
* Chip Lohmiller was his own rocket-launcher with four field goals, from distances of 53, 52, 45 and 46 yards. The 53- and 52-yarders both came in the second quarter, tying a league record.
* Jeff Rutledge showed how valuable a holder can be. He scooped up a wayward snap from center John Brandes on one hop and neatly positioned the ball in front of Lohmiller for the 52-yard field goal right before the end of the first half. In a game the Redskins won by two points, the hold that led to those three points easily could have been considered the key play of the game. "I got the right hop off the turf and was able to put it down," Rutledge said.
* Brian Mitchell, who earlier had flubbed a Dallas punt, made what may have been the biggest run of the night, bigger, perhaps, than the dazzling 75-yard touchdown run by the Cowboys' Emmitt Smith in the first quarter. Mitchell's run went for 3 yards and a first down out of punt formation in the third quarter. It enabled the Redskins to finish off an 85-yard, 14-play touchdown drive that gave them the lead for the last time at 30-24. The fake punt had been put in by special teams coach Wayne Sevier just last week.
"I didn't think it would get called this week, though," Sevier said. "I put it in to be used somewhere down the road. It could've been used the third week or the 10th week."
As much as Sevier liked that call by Gibbs on fourth-and-one from the Washington 48, he marveled at the Rutledge hold and Lohmiller field goal just before the half.
"Jeff made an incredible hold and Chip's concentration . . . it was an incredible play," Sevier gushed.
And an incredible flashback of a night. Joe Gibbs couldn't help but sound a little like George Allen afterward.
"I think it was a great job by our guys," Gibbs said. "They didn't give up, and it looked bleak there at the beginning. I think [the Cowboys] are a heckuva football team, and I think they have made tremendous strides.
"I think it's going to be a battle every time you play them from here on out."
Just like the old days.