|Wednesday, December 4, 2002|
MNF's Greatest Games: Dallas-Washington 1983
By Mike Diegnan
ABC Sports Online
On Nov. 11, the Raiders and Broncos played in the 500th regular season telecast of Monday Night Football. To celebrate, we asked fans to vote for their favorite MNF game. They selected the Jets' comeback over the Dolphins in 2000. Another of the top 5 games took place on Sept. 5, 1983 when the Dallas Cowboys visited the Washington Redskins.
Defending Super Bowl champions. Your biggest rival on Monday Night Football. The league's fastest rookie. What more could the Redskins have asked for to start the 1983 season?
Not the meltdown they encountered on Sept. 5, 1983.
Building off the momentum of its Super Bowl run during the strike-shortened '82 season and buoyed by Joe Theismann and the Fun Bunch, the Redskins built a 23-3 halftime lead over the Dallas Cowboys. On the other side of the ball, the Redskins defense had punished the Cowboys, limiting Dallas to 85 first-half yards, despite a 77-yard run by Tony Dorsett. Cowboys QB Danny White was held to 1-of-9 passing for just 10 yards.
When the Redskins and Cowboys played in the 1980s, there was always an electric atmosphere in the crowd. For the 55,045 at RFK Stadium, the first half couldn't have been better.
"Playing the Cowboys was always a championship game, whether it was the regular season or in championship play," Theismann recalls. "It was always going to be a great football game, until 1985 when they beat us up, 44-14. But almost every game we played against the Cowboys was hard-fought. As I look back over my 12-year career, every game against the Cowboys was like a playoff game. You can't say that about every other opponent."
Holding a 20-point halftime lead only excited the crowd more, which gave them a standing ovation at the end of the half. It did much more damage in the Dallas locker room.
"Obviously, the situation in (our) locker room wasn't a pleasant one at halftime," White said after the game. "It was an embarrassment, not completing a pass, not being able to move the ball across the midfield. I can't think of a worse first half we have played offensively. I was burning up, I was throwing helmets, fumes were coming out of my ears."
The helmet tossing helped inspire the Cowboys in the third quarter.
Less than three minutes into the quarter, Tony Hill beat Redskins cornerback Vernon Dean down the left sideline and White connected with him for a 75-yard touchdown. Six minutes later, Hill outleaped Anthony Washington at the Redskins 20, and ran in for a 51-yard scoring play to cut the deficit to 23-17.
"When you are up 20 points, I don't think you are as aggressive on either side of the ball," Theismann says. "The mentality is to play close to the vest. It only takes one play to change momentum in a football game. Again, Hill was a special receiver, along with Drew Pearson."
A legend is created:
In a game that featured 61 points and three touchdowns of at least 41 yards, it's hard to believe that the one play that will be forever etched in the memory of the Cowboys-Redskins game in 1983 was a defensive play.
Pressed into service because of a contract dispute by Jeris White, the Redskins were forced to start their first-round draft choice, Darrell Green, the 28th pick in the draft out of little Texas A&I. A star was instantly born on Monday Night Football.
Green, who set the tone for his NFL career with a 61-yard punt return for a touchdown in the preseason, quickly showed off his blazing speed.
Following a block by Ron Springs at the line of scrimmage at the Dallas 17, Tony Dorsett swept down the left side for a 77-yard gain. He would have gone another six yards for the score if not for Green, who raced past two teammates and pulled Dorsett down at the Washington six. The Cowboys were forced to kick a field goal, and by halftime, Washington had built a 23-3 lead.
"Nobody ever thought anybody could catch Tony," recalls Joe Theismann. "Darrell's legacy and reputation sort of asserted itself in that game. There was no way I thought Darrell would catch him. Darrell has run sub-4.3s forever. He took a great angle and managed to catch him. It's really one of the great highlights of Darrell's career and established him as an incredibly quick and fast defensive back."
With the RFK Stadium crowd getting antsy, Mark Moseley missed a 31-yard field goal with 9:34 left that would have helped the Redskins regain the momentum. But it sailed wide right, and gave White another chance to direct the big-play Cowboys.
Behind the running of Dorsett (151 yards on 14 carries) and a crucial spearing penalty on Mel Kaufman, White sneaked in for a 1-yard TD run to give the Cowboys a 24-23 lead with 2:20 left in the game.
Theismann valiantly tried to rally the Redskins, but his pass intended for Charlie Brown was picked off by Ron Fellows. Three plays later, White threw his third touchdown pass of the game to Doug Cosbie to give Dallas an insurmountable eight-point lead.
Theismann's touchdown pass to Don Warren with 10 seconds finished the scoring as Dallas prevailed 31-30. But Washington did avenge its Monday night loss later in the '83 season with a 31-10 rout of the Cowboys in Dallas. In fact, the Skins went 14-2 in 1983 with the only other loss on a Monday night game against Green Bay, 48-47, the highest scoring game in MNF history.
Whereas Dallas got snuffed out in the wild-card round of the playoffs, the Redskins returned to the Super Bowl, where their luck ran out when the Raiders routed them in Tampa Bay 38-9.
It capped a season that started with so much promise, but ended similarly to the way it started.
Mike Diegnan is the Editor of ABC Sports Online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Danny White finished the game nine-for-20 for 193 yards and three touchdowns.|
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