Redskins continue about-face, as Cowboys dominate, 23-10 Emmitt Smith leads way with 139 rushing yards


IRVING, Texas -- The Washington Redskins gave a clinic last night on why it's so difficult to repeat in the NFL.

The defending champions, picking up where they left off during their listless preseason, were crushed in their 1992 regular-season opener by the Dallas Cowboys, 23-10, at Texas Stadium .

The Redskins were only a shadow of the determined team that had won its first 11 games last year and went on to win Super TC Bowl XXVI with a 17-2 record.

The Redskins were 1-4 during the preseason, but brushed if off because they were 1-3 before last year's regular season.

It turned out, though, that the Redskins -- who went 7-9 in 1988 the last time they were the defending champions -- were as ineffective as they were during the preseason. They played with little spark or fire and were dominated on both sides of the ball.

The Redskins blamed the crowd noise for contributing to the malfunctioning of their offense because the linemen couldn't hear the snap count, but they were as inept on defense.

Emmitt Smith, who gained 139 yards in 26 carries, became the first running back to gain more than 100 yards in four straight games against the Redskins since Joe Gibbs became head coach in 1981.

Troy Aikman complemented Smith by completing 18 of 31 passes for 216 yards and a touchdown.

Mark Rypien of the Redskins completed 20 of 38 for 208 yards, but he was often under pressure and also underthrew and overthrew receivers at times.

"There was some pressure and a lot of it had to do with crowd noise," Rypien said.

Rypien was sacked only twice, but often was forced out of the pocket.

Coach Jimmy Johnson of the Cowboys also gave the crowd a lot of credit. In the Tom Landry days, Texas Stadium wasn't noted for being particularly noisy. The Cowboys seemed to expect to win in those days. Now there's a new enthusiasm.

"The crowd was great. It sounded like we were playing in a dome stadium. When they tried to audible, the crowd got louder. There was a lot of electricity in the air. I think we will get better and better as time goes on," Johnson said.

Gibbs said, "I think they did a great job all the way across the board."

Gibbs added, "The crowd noise bothered us for sure. We had trouble with that."

Guard Mark Schlereth said, "The noise made it awfully tough. When're you're trying to hear the count and you're looking up at the quarterback, it makes for a long and hard ballgame."

The tone of the game was set on the Redskins' first offensive play. They came out in the no-huddle on their first play.

"They gave us a blitz look and we felt we had a chance to throw a play action at them, catch one of their safeties up and maybe hit one deep, but Earnest [Byner] had a tough time hearing it. It wasn't his fault. It was one of those things because of the intensity of the crowd, the way they were fired up. It was just one of those things," Rypien said.

Vincent Smith sacked Rypien for an 11-yard loss and the game started to unravel. Byner was thrown for a 3-yard loss on the next play, and Rypien misfired on third down.

Isaac Holt then blocked a Kelly Goodburn punt for a safety when he beat Johnny Thomas and Goodburn had to jump for John Brandes' high snap.

The special teams also were victimized in the third quarter when Kelvin Martin returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a 23-10 lead.

The four holdouts, who signed contracts worth $26 million, contributed little and showed the effects of the time they lost in training camp. Rypien appeared to be rusty still while left tackle Jim Lachey had trouble handling Charles Haley.

Cornerback Darrell Green was beaten for a touchdown pass by Alvin Harper. Rookie Desmond Howard played only as a kick returner.

When Green was asked whether he was affected by the holdout, he said, "I would say that under my breath. That's not something I'd focus on. I think it was obvious that I certainly didn't feel the strength and the power I normally have. It's not why we lost the game, but I'm sure it had something to do with it."

Actually, the score was misleading. The Cowboys could have won by a bigger margin if an apparent bad call by the official didn't give Martin Mayhew a second-period interception that set up the Redskins' only touchdown. Mayhew appeared to trap the ball, but instant replay isn't being used to overturn calls.

The Redskins, trailing 23-10 with seven minutes left, actually had a chance to get within six points, but Rypien overthrew Ricky Sanders, who was open in the end zone. The drive, which advanced to the Dallas 28 with 5:51 left in the game, ended when Rypien threw an incomplete pass to Gary Clark in the end zone on fourth down.

When Rypien was asked about the play when he overthrew Sanders, he said he didn't remember it. It was a game the Redskins would like to forget.

NOTES: Defensive tackle Bobby Wilson, subbing for ailing Eric Williams, and tackle Joe Jacoby were sidelined with knee sprains. Jason Buck replaced Wilson and Ed Simmons came in for Jacoby.

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