LANDOVER -- The Washington Redskins found out last night that they could win a big game with their punishing running back, Terry Allen, sitting on the sidelines for more than three quarters.
Allen suffered a sprained left knee in the first quarter, but backup running back Stephen Davis came on and dazzled the Dallas Cowboys the rest of the evening with 22 rushes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Redskins to a 21-16 victory in the first "Monday Night Football" game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.
The win not only kept Washington's record at the new stadium perfect at 3-0, but also shoved the Redskins into first place in the NFC East with a 4-2 record.
Dallas fell to third in the NFC at 3-3 and the New York Giants (4-3) moved into second behind Washington.
The Cowboys didn't seem to know how to handle Davis, a second-year running back, as he bolted through huge holes in the line the entire game.
Quarterback Gus Frerotte helped the Redskins' cause by completing 12 of 23 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown.
Frerotte lost one of his favorite targets, Michael Westbrook, early in the second quarter, also to a sprained left knee.
The dangerous Dallas passing combination of Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin finally struck for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 9: 40 left in the game, cutting the Washington lead to 21-16 and putting more pressure on the Redskins' defense down the stretch.
Irvin beat Washington safety Jesse Campbell in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game by the Cowboys' offense.
Dallas drove 73 yards in nine plays for the touchdown, with Aikman completing a 24-yard pass to Emmitt Smith to keep the march moving.
Just when it seemed as if Washington was going to run over the Cowboys all night, veteran running back Brian Mitchell committed a costly fumble.
Mitchell tried to run around the right side and gained two yards to the Washington 18,where he was hit by Dallas safety Darren Woodson and fumbled.
The ball bounced backwards and was picked up by linebacker Dexter Coakley,who rambled 16 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Redskins'lead to 21-9 with 4: 26 remaining in the third quarter.
Dallas went for a two-point conversion,but Aikman's pass to Irvin was caught out of bounds.
The 21-9 lead stood up at the end of the third quarter, thanks in part to rookie linebacker Greg Jones' sack of Aikman on an important third-down play in the final seconds of the quarter.
Davis and Washington continued to dominate early in the third quarter after Aikman fumbled the ball away at the Dallas 25-yard line when he was hit hard by Ken Harvey on a sack for a seven-yard loss.
Rich Owens recovered Aikman's fumble for the Redskins and Davis took over with six straight rushes for 25 yards, darting through a huge hole up the middle for a 4-yard touchdown and a 21-3 Washington advantage with 10: 49 remaining in the third period.
It was the second touchdown run of the game for Davis and brought his rushing total to 75 yards on 16 carries.
Davis became the Washington workhorse during an 80-yard touchdown drive in 11 plays in the second quarter, carrying five times for 38 yards to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Frerotte to backup tight end James Jenkins.
The second impressive 80-yard scoring march in the game by the Redskins gave them a 14-3 lead with 7: 16 left in the first half.
That lead held up at halftime as the Washington defense played inspired football to keep the Cowboys off the scoreboard.
With Allen out of the game in the first quarter with the knee injury, the Redskins went to the air behind Frerotte and drove 80 yards in eight plays for a touchdown.
Davis carried the final 2 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 2: 12 left in the first quarter.
The highlight of the 80-yard Washington march was a perfectly thrown 48-yard pass from Frerotte to Shepherd for a first down at the Dallas two-yard line.
Westbrook made a leaping 17-yard reception and caught a 15-yard pass from Frerotte at the beginning of the drive.
It was a bruising ground duel between Allen and Smith in the opening minutes of the game, as Washington got the ball to Allen on five of its first six offensive plays and Dallas went to Smith on five of its first seven plays.
Smith and Dallas got the best of the early physical battles, driving 79 yards in 10 plays for a 19-yard field goal by Richie Cunningham and a 3-0 lead with 5: 45 left in the first quarter.
The Allen injury appeared to occur when he was hit hard by Cowboys middle linebacker Fred Strickland at the end of a 15-yard swing pass from Frerotte.
Pub Date: 10/14/97