Cowboys' last visit still big for Buck Forced fumble led to Redskins' win


ASHBURN, Va. -- Jason Buck can remember it all as if it happened yesterday, instead of last Dec. 13.

"Everything is just so vivid. It'll be burned into my mind forever," said Buck, a Washington Redskins defensive lineman. "I was standing in the huddle, knowing we're behind, wanting to go to the playoffs, the game's on the line. I turned to Charles [Mann] in the huddle and told him: 'Hey, I'm going to cause a fumble here. You pick it up for a touchdown.' All that is 70 millimeter in my mind," he said.

The Dallas Cowboys will make their first visit to RFK Stadium since that game in Monday night's season opener and Buck, who was starting last December because the team was hit by injuries, has returned to a backup role. He's expected to see action because the team plans to rotate defensive linemen.

"I told them to get me out there and I'll make some plays," Buck said.

Last December, the Redskins, struggling for a playoff berth with an 8-5 record, were trailing Dallas 17-14 in the fourth quarter but had the Cowboys pinned. It was second-and-seven at the 5 with 3:25 left.

"The play was [like it was] in slow motion. When he [center Mark Stepnoski] snapped the ball, it was slow motion. They didn't double-team me. I was able to turn the center and drive him back. I remember [Troy] Aikman standing there with the ball holding it up. It was just happening like those dreams you have when you're moving so slow. The adrenalin is shooting through your body," Buck said.

When Buck knocked the ball out of Aikman's arms, things seem to speed up.

"The ball was shooting out with Aikman and Stepnoski on the ground. I saw Emmitt Smith reach to pick it up as he was running. I was looking at him from behind. I'm getting up to run over there at the same time and then Danny [Copeland] jumped on it really quick," Buck said.

Smith tried to toss the ball out of the end zone, but caused a scramble and Copeland came up with it and ran out of the end zone.

All that was left was the controversy. While officials were looking for the ball in the pile in the end zone, Copeland had it on the 30.

The Redskins told Copeland to run back to the end zone to show the officials he had it.

The Cowboys argued it should have been an incomplete pass or a safety. They claimed Aikman's arm was moving forward when he lost the ball and that Smith was down in the end zone.

The officials, though, ruled a touchdown, and the Redskins won, 20-17. Buck had joined Clint Longley, Ken Houston, Roger Staubach and Diron Talbert as part of the lore of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.

"It makes you feel great, it's very satisfying. It's a dream to think 15 years ago, I was in high school dreaming about playing in the NFL, let alone making a play like that in the Dallas-Redskins game you've been watching since you were a little boy. That's one of those magical moments that will never be recreated," Buck said.

Although it helped get the Redskins in the playoffs, the victory didn't mean a lot in the long run. The Cowboys didn't lose again and went on to win the Super Bowl.

There was a lot of fallout, though. Johnson was so frustrated -- he wanted to clinch the division title in Washington -- that he went into a tirade on the plane ride back to Dallas. He was so irate at the players that Aikman was quoted as saying the team was near mutiny.

The Cowboys want to forget it now. When Johnson was asked this week if he overreacted, he said, "I don't know if it was an overreaction, but we didn't lose a game after that."

NOTES: TE Terry Orr didn't practice because his back tightened, but he's listed as probable. Rookie TE Frank Wycheck (Maryland) is out with a concussion. . . . LB Andre Collins didn't practice and remains doubtful with a knee injury. . . . Richard Howell, Smith's agent, said the chances of the holdout tailback suiting up for the game are probably less than 50-50. Owner Jerry Jones has estimated the odds at 50-50. The club's offer of about $10 million over four years is well below the two-time NFL rushing champion's market value, Howell said in a rare interview.

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