Champion Cowboys are routed, 35-16, in opener at RFK


September 07, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- The Dallas Cowboys found out last night how tough life is at the top in the NFL.

The defending champions bore little resemblance to the team that rolled to the Super Bowl last season in their season opener before 56,345 fans at RFK Stadium.

Quarterback Troy Aikman fumbled the first snap of the game, and it went downhill from there as the Cowboys lost to the Washington Redskins, 35-16.

The Cowboys turned the ball over three times in the first half, missed an extra point and seemed out of sync all night.

It turned out the Cowboys may have even missed defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt, who's now the Chicago Bears head coach, more than they missed holdout running back Emmitt Smith.

After a shaky start, the Redskins pounded the Cowboys' defense, rated No. 1 in the league last year, for drives of 80, 78, 99 and 65 yards to dominate the game.

It was a starting contrast to last year's Monday night opener in Dallas when the Redskins were the defending champions and were pounded by the Cowboys, 23-10.

But it was the second straight loss the Cowboys have suffered at RFK Stadium. The Redskins beat them last Dec. 13, 20-17. In their past 16 games, the Cowboys are 13-1 against the rest of the teams and 0-2 against the Redskins.

Leading 14-6 at halftime, the Redskin put together a nine-play 78-yard drive at the start of the third period that was climaxed by Mark Rypien's 1-yard pass to tight end Ron Middleton to make it 21-6.

The Cowboys immediately answered it with a four-play, 80-yard drive to cut the deficit to 21-13. Harper beat A. J. Johnson to catch a 32-yard touchdown pass to end the drive.

On the ensuing kickoff, Brian Mitchell got careless and downed the ball on the 1, thinking he was in the end zone. It didn't matter as the Redskins put together a 99-yard drive. Art Monk, who lost his starting job and was the third receiver, caught a 15-yard touchdown pass in the left corner of the end zone as he beat Kevin Smith to make it 28-13.

The Cowboys cut the deficit to 28-16 with 6:30 left on a 22-yard field goal by Lin Elliott.

The Cowboys turned the ball over three times in the first half while falling behind 14-6 at halftime.

Pat Eilers, who made the Redskins on his special teams play, recovered two mishandled Dallas punts, and Kurt Gouveia caused a Alvin Harper fumble that was recovered by Darrell Green.

In their Super Bowl season last year, the Cowboys fielded 62 punts and fumbled two of them. In the first half, they mishandled two of their first three punts.

The tone for the somewhat sloppy first half, when Troy Aikman fumbled the snap on the first play of the game and both teams went on to waste opportunities in the first quarter.

Dallas got the first one when Kelly Goodburn's first punt went only 25 yards before going out of bounds on the Washington 44.

That poor punt did nothing for Goodburn's job security because the decision to keep him over rookie Ed Bunn and then not bring in another veteran was the subject of much debate in the organization.

But the Cowboys weren't able to take advantage of it. After they got just 8 yards in three downs, coach Jimmy Johnson, who has a reputation for being a gambler, decided to go for it on fourth-and-two at the Washington 36.

Aikman threw a swing pass to Lassic, who had to veer when Alvoid Mays dived at him and Darrell Green was able to make the tackle a yard short of the first down.

The Redskins got one first down with the help of an offsides penalty but then were forced to punt. The team's new short passing game wasn't effective at this point, as three passes from Rypien produced only 3 yards and the Redskins were forced to punt.

This time, Goodburn boomed a 46-yarder, and, as rookie Kevin Williams waited to field it, Johnny Thomas ran straight toward him as if he were going to drill him.

Since Thomas got there before the ball, he dodged Williams just as he caught the ball. But the maneuver seemed to distract Williams and he fumbled the ball. Eilers recovered at the Dallas 16.

But the Redskins didn't get any points out of the opportunity. Three Rypien passes produced a total of 3 yards, and Chip Lohmiller was wide right on a 32-yard field-goal attempt.

On the Cowboys' next series, Aikman went back to pass on a third-and-10 at the Dallas 20.

Alvin Harper streaked down the right side, confusing cornerback A. J. Johnson and safety Danny Copeland. Johnson let him go, but Copeland was watching tight end Jay Novacek and wasn't ready to pick Harper up.

Harper broke free in the middle of the field 10 yards clear of the nearest defender. He caught the pass at midfield and --ed to the end zone for the touchdown that put the Cowboys ahead 6-0. Lin Elliott missed the extra point.

At this point, the Redskins were looking shaky. Their first three possessions had produced just one first down.

All that changed when the Redskins gave rookie Reggie Brooks the ball. Brooks carried five of the first six plays of the next drive for 7, 3, 6, 0 and 5 yards.

Rypien then tossed a short pass to Earnest Byner, who struggled for 7 yards to get the first down at the Washington 45 on the final play of the first quarter.

On the first two plays of the second quarter. Brooks rumbled for 15 and 7 yards. Tim McGee then caught a 6-yard pass for a first down on the Dallas 20.

After Brooks ran for 5 yards and Rypien missed a pass to Byner, Rypien completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Sanders in the right corner of the end zone to climax a 13-play, 80-yard drive. When Lohmiller made the extra point, the Redskins had a 7-6 lead.

That drive was a critical one for the Redskins because they had struggled on their first three possessions.

* The Redskins put two injured players, tight end Terry Orr (back) and linebacker Andre Collins (knee), on the inactive list along with offensive lineman Darryl Moore.

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