LANDOVER -- In an emotional evening for the Washington Redskins, their offense and defense clicked in perfect fashion last night to deal the Dallas Cowboys a 21-16 defeat in the first Monday night football game at Jack Kent Cooke Stadium.
The Redskins held off the rallying Cowboys in the fourth quarter, even though offensive standouts Terry Allen and Michael Westbrook were on the sidelines with sprained left knees.
Allen had been replaced by backup Stephen Davis in the first quarter and Davis put on a show against a seemingly bewildered Cowboys team that didn't know what to expect from the second-year running back.
Davis bolted through one large hole after another for 94 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns, showing the Redskins they can win a big game without Allen.
Washington quarterback Gus Frerotte kept handing the ball off to Davis and he responded brilliantly all night. Frerotte also got into the act with 12 completions in 23 pass attempts for 155 yards and one touchdown.
When Davis scooted into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown with 10 minutes, 49 seconds left in the third quarter, the Redskins had a 21-3 lead and the crowd was going a little crazy.
But Dallas rallied for two touchdowns, one coming off a fumble recovery and 16-yard return by Dexter Coakley to make things exciting down the stretch.
But the Washington defense pressured Aikman the rest of the night and kept Dallas off the scoreboard to win the battle for first place in the NFC East. Washington (4-2) moved into the top spot while the Cowboys (3-3) dropped to third, with the New York Giants second at 4-3.
The win also kept the Redskins perfect at 3-0 in their new stadium and gave them a 6-4 record against the Cowboys on Monday night.
"This was an awesome game," said Frerotte, who lost receiver Westbrook early in the second quarter. "Our defense was unbelievable and just played with incredible emotion. Our offense went a little backwards in the second half and that's not our style. But we hung in there to win it."
Washington cornerback Cris Dishman once again played a physical game to prevent Aikman from burning the Redskins' secondary too often last night.
Dishman and free safety Stanley Richard both made life miserable most of the night for Dallas. They combined for 14 tackles and refused to be beaten deep by the dangerous Irvin.
Linebackers Ken Harvey and Marvcus Patton each had one sack against Aikman and made some vicious tackles, including a first-quarter slamming of Aikman when he scrambled to the Washington 2-yard line.
Harvey and Patton met Aikman at the same time at the two and lifted him off his feet and threw him to the ground.
For the Cowboys, Emmitt Smith showed flashes of his old self with 17 carries for 61 yards and two pass receptions for 24 yards.
But Washington always seemed to make the big defensive play to keep the Cowboys from sustaining any drives until the fourth quarter, when they went 73 yards on nine plays, scoring on Irvin's reception of an Aikman pass.
Aikman finished with 17 of 31 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown. Irvin had five catches for 81 yards.
However a 4-for-14 (28.6 percent) efficiency on third down doomed Dallas and Aikman.
In comparison, Washington was 6-for-13 (46.2 percent) on third downs.
Washington coach Norv Turner said: "I just can't say enough about how our defense came up with so many big plays. We need to play like that every week to be successful. I thought Gus did a good job and hung in there in the second half when they began to apply a lot of pressure to him."
The sellout crowd of 76,159 roared in delight as Washington's defense stymied the Cowboys time after time, prompting Redskins cornerback Darrell Green to say: "I believe this place was as loud as RFK ever was. I don't think we made a statement tonight. We just went out and played as a team and won a big game."
Dallas coach Barry Switzer said: "Washington did something we were concerned about, running the football. I think a key play was that motion penalty against us on first-and-goal from the 2 early in the game. If we could have scored a touchdown there, the game would have been different."
The Cowboys wound up settling for a 19-yard field goal by Richie Cunningham for a 3-0 lead with 5: 45 left in the first quarter.
In the third period, just when it seemed as if Washington was going to run over the Cowboys, 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 backward and was picked up by linebacker Coakley, who rambled 16 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Redskins' lead to 21-9 with 4: 26 remaining in the quarter.
Dallas went for a two-point conversion, but Aikman's pass to Irvin was caught out of bounds.
It was a bruising duel between Allen and Smith in the opening minutes of the game. 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.
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