In the latest edition of one of the game's most storied rivalries, the Washington Redskins used a rope-a-dope strategy to beat the Dallas Cowboys, 33-31, at Texas Stadium before 63,025 fans last night.
The Redskins absorbed the Cowboys' best punches in the first half when they gave up three long touchdown drives, and then came back to take control in the second half and prove that the rebuilding Cowboys still aren't all the way back.
Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said of the victory: "Our guys got inta real hole and came back and got out of it. It was a real thrill for us."
Gibbs said the Redskins defense "was gassed" in the first half before regrouping in the second half.
It was a memorable game that had virtually everything -- a 75-yard touchdown run by Emmitt Thomas, a critical fumbled punt, a pair of fourth down gambles by each team including a fake punt by the Redskins, five long field goals (four by Chip Lohmiller of the Redskins), and a key penalty that kept the go-ahead drive alive.
The victory ended a six-game losing streak on Monday Night Football for the Redskins, who hadn't won a non-strike Monday night game since 1986.
It was seven straight losses if you count a Saturday night game in Indianapolis last December that was moved from Monday night to avoid playing on Christmas Eve.
Trailing 24-23 in the first half after Ken Willis kicked a 51-yard field goal, the Redskins put together an 85-yard drive to take a 30-24 lead with 12 minutes, 48 seconds left in the fourth quarter. They did it even though two starting linemen, Joe Jacoby and Ed Simmons were ailing.
The drive featured a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Dan Stubbs for hitting Mark Rypien late on third down. The Redskins, who would have had to punt on fourth-and-twelve from their 24, )) got a first down on their 39.
Four plays later, they faced a fourth-and-one at the Washington 48. The Redskins sent their punting team on the field, but Brian Mitchell stepped up under center and ran three yards for the first down.
Mitchell said the fake punt was a play the Redskins thought would work because the Cowboys overloaded their punt defense and left a hole in the middle.
"They played right into our hands," Mitchell said. "I'm glad they did. I thought it was a big part of the game. All we needed was a first down, and the guys on the line fired off and opened it up."
The Redskins then moved in for the go-ahead score on a one-yard run by Gerald Riggs.
On their next drive, the Redskins added a 46-yard field goal, his fourth of the night. They were from 53, 52, 46 and 45 yards out.
The Cowboys got a touchdown pass from Aikman to Michael Irvin with two seconds left to close the scoring.
Dallas scored touchdowns the first three times it had the ball on drives of 80, 80 and 86 yards to take a 21-10 lead with 5:44 left in the second period.
But the Redskins managed to stay in the game when they recovered a fumbled punt to set up one touchdown and scored && another on a three-play, 74-yard drive to cut the deficit to 21-17 with 4:18 left in the second period. Chip Lohmiller then made a 52-yard field goal with :08 left in the first half as the Redskins went to the dressing room trailing 21-20.
The three Cowboy drives of 80 or more yards were half the number of 80-yard drives (6) the Cowboys had all last season.
The word "drive" was misleading when used to describe how the Cowboys scored their second touchdown.
The drive lasted just two plays. Emmitt Smith caught a 5-yard pass on the first play and then ran 75 yards for a touchdown on the second play.
Smith ran to his left, spun off several Redskins including Alvin Walton and then cut to his right and --ed into the end zone.
The other two drives were classic ones as Aikman, the third-year quarterback, playing with the poise of a veteran, converted his first six third-down plays and a fourth-down play.
Aikman set the tone on the first play when he completed a pass to tight end Jay Novacek for 14 yards. Two plays later, Smith ran for 18 to the Redskin 45.
Four plays later, the Cowboys faced a fourth-and-three on the Washington 38. The Cowboys went for it and Novacek easily beat Walton for an 17-yard gain to the Washington 21.
On third-and-six at the Washington 17, Alexander Wright beat Martin Mayhew for 14 yards.
That put the ball on the Washington 3 and on first down, Novacek fooled the Redskins while catching a pass for the game's first touchdown.
Novacek first blocked Charles Mann and then released and was wide open on the goal line as Aikman rolled to his right and threw the easy touchdown pass.
When the Redskins failed to get a first down on their first possession, Dallas was in a position to take control of the game.
But the Redskins got new life when Kelvin Martin fumbled the ball and Ravin Caldwell recovered it on the Cowboy 28. Four plays later, the Redskins got their own touchdown on a pass to the tight end. Jimmie Johnson blocked and then went to the right side of the end zone where he was wide open. He had to make a one-handed catch for the touchdown when Rypien threw the ball too high.
The Cowboys came right back to take a 14-7 lead on Smith's 75-yard touchdown run.
The Redskins responded with a 53-yard Lohmiller field goal that made it 14-10.
Dallas again appeared to take control when Aikman put together an 86-yard touchdown drive. Four times he faced third-down situations and he converted all four of them.
Smith, who had missed much of the drive when he became dehydrated on the muggy night, then came into the game on a second-and-five play at the Washington 5.
Smith came out of the backfield, caught a pass from Aikman and ran over Walton to score the touchdown that made it 21-10.
But the Redskins struck back on a three-play, 74-yard drive that put them back into the game. Art Monk caught a 12-yard pass, Earnest Byner ran for 25 yards and Monk then beat Isaac Holt down the right sideline on a 38-yard touchdown play that made it 21-17.
The Redskins then added another Lohmiller field goal after Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson tried a conservative strategy that backfired.
After the Redskins punted to the Cowboy 11 with 1:06 left, Johnson decided to try to run out the clock. But three running plays lost a yard, the Redskins called three time outs and the Redskins got the ball back on the Dallas 36 with :34 left.
Rypien then threw a 17-yard pass to Sanders that should have set up a 47-yard field goal. But after Rypien stopped the clock by throwing the ball into the ground, the Redskins couldn't decide whether to try one more play or go for the field goal.
They were late sending in the field-goal team, forcing them to take a take a delay-of-game penalty.
That meant Lohmiller had to try a 52-yard field goal attempt instead of a 47-yarder, but it didn't make any difference as Lohmiller -- with the help of a good hold by Jeff Rutledge -- nailed it.
The Redskins took the lead for the first time, 23-21, with 11:53 left in the third period on a 45-yard field goal by Lohmiller after Novacek fumbled and Markus Koch recovered it on the Cowboy 29.
NOTES: Rookie RB Ricky Ervins was put on the inactive list with an ankle injury and didn't dress. . . . Stan Humphries dressed as the third QB, which meant he couldn't play unless the first 2 quarterbacks were injured. . . . Lohmiller tied an NFL record for the second time by making 2 of 50 or more yards in the same game. Lohmiller did it the first time in Indianapolis last December. . . . OL Joe Jacoby was sidelined with back spasms, and Walton suffered a shoulder injury during the game.
Chip Lohmiller's 4 field goals for the Redskins last night were all from 40 yards or more:
53 yards, 14:15 left in second quarter, Cowboys 14, Redskins 10
52 yards, :08 left in second quarter, Cowboys 21, Redskins 20
45 yards, 11:53 left in third quarter, Redskins 24, Cowboys 23
46 yards, 5:39 left in fourth quarter, Redskins 33, Cowboys 24