IRVING, TEXAS — IRVING, Texas -- The defensive players were knocking each other and their coaches. The young quarterback seemed shaky and over his head. The young offensive guard said the coaches didn't think he was tough enough to play hurt. Jimmy Johnson said they had the worst talent in the league.
That was just some of the baggage the Washington Redskins carried into Texas Stadium yesterday when they were 18-point underdogs against the Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins, who are tied with Cincinnati for the worst record in the NFL during the last three years, somehow pulled together to spring their biggest upset in this long and storied rivalry, shocking the Cowboys, 24-17, before 64,866 fans.
The Cowboys, who came in with a 21-6 mark in games played after their 10-day post-Thanksgiving break, were supposed to have such a big advantage in this situation that Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt has been trying to take the Thanksgiving Day game away from Dallas.
Instead, the Cowboys wound up being the turkeys as they fell to 10-3 while being swept by the 4-9 Redskins in a non-strike year for the first time since 1984.
Even coach Norv Turner wasn't sure all his players thought they had a chance.
"If there were 53 guys that thought we could win the game, they had to be in our room, because no one else thought it. I told our team I'm not sure all 53 in here think we can, but if we don't all think we can, we've got no chance," he said.
The Redskins' week of turmoil started last Monday night when safety Stanley Richard went on safety James Washington's radio show and criticized the schemes of defensive coordinator Ron Lynn and the play of the defensive line.
Washington, who agreed with Richard on his radio show, said, "We both made a vow that we had to try to make up for the boo-boo we made this week."
Richard intercepted a Troy Aikman pass to set up a fourth-quarter touchdown. Later, he stripped a ball out of Emmitt Smith's hands, one of two fumbles by Smith. Smith chased the ball and grabbed it as it bounced into the end zone, but the officials ruled it went out of the end zone for a touchback.
"I know I had the ball when I crossed the plane of the goal line," Smith said.
Smith, who didn't appear completely recovered from the knee injury he suffered on Thanksgiving Day, said, "I can't make excuses for anybody else. All I can say is how poorly I played."
He wasn't the only one. Aikman threw 19 incompletions -- his regular-season career high -- and fumbled a snap. Michael Irvin twice dropped passes and also drew a costly pass-interference penalty. Meanwhile, the Redskins produced 56 yards on their first five possessions, then 156 in consecutive drives for touchdowns.
"They kept going after it," Dallas middle linebacker Robert Jones said. "We quit."
Cornerback Deion Sanders, who lined up on the wrong player on Henry Ellard's 10-yard touchdown catch in the third period, said, "I am upset. This team had no business beating us."
The victory gave Turner a chance to say his former boss, Johnson, was wrong when he said the Redskins had the worst talent in the league.
"I don't think that's right. I don't think he believes that. This can be a good football team," Turner said.
Quarterback Heath Shuler looked poised as he passed for 154 yards and ran nine times for 21 yards.
The offensive line, rejuvenated by the return to the starting lineup of second-year guard Tre Johnson, opened the holes for Terry Allen, who rushed 25 times for 98 yards.
Johnson had said the coaches questioned whether he could play hurt, although offensive line coach Jim Hanifan said there wasn't a problem.
With three games left against losing teams (the New York Giants, St. Louis and Carolina), the Redskins now hope to finish on a high note.
Richard said: "They tell you the Cowboys are the best in the NFL. If they're the best, where does that put us?"