Pro Football’s epic battle of the wild west: A thing of the past
Welcome to part II. As promised this blog post will be looking back at the very best of the rivalry between the Cowboys and the Redskins. Below you will find the first half of the top 10 games of the series. A series that was ended with the Cowboys bettering the Redskins with a winning record of 73-45-2.
Part II: The first half of list
Number 10: Redskins @ Cowboys, Thanksgiving Day, 2012
As a Cowboys fan watching this game, I remember getting worried as to how our sub-par defense was ever going to be able to handle the magic of Robert Griffin the Third. Griffin, running a traditional college football style offense, similar to what he ran at Baylor, looked unstoppable all season. It certainly didn’t hurt Washington that promising young Running back, Alfred Morris, who would gain over 1,500 yards by the season’s end, was always available to hand the ball off to on an RPO. The Redskins jumped to a 28-3 halftime lead, scoring four unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter, including a 68-yard touchdown pass from Griffin to Aldrick Robinson, and a 59-yard Touchdown bomb to Pierre Garcon. The game looked certain to be over but if there was one thing I learned growing up as a Cowboys fan in the 2000’s it was to never count the Cowboys out when Tony Romo was under center. The course of the game changed when Romo scrambled out of the pocket and threw a dig route to Dez Bryant, who took it 85 yards down the sidelines to get the cowboys back in the game. Romo threw for 441 yards and two other touchdowns in the 4th quarter, which was enough to come within a successful onside kick attempt of earning a final chance to take the game into overtime. In the end Griffin’s exceptional play proved to be too much for the Cowboys to overcome, even with the momentum in their favor. The Redskins won 38-31 in what was all you could ask for in a nationally televised game. If any of you are interested in Trivia this was also the last game the Cowboys wore their fan favorite 1960’s throwback uniforms with the white helmets and solid blue star on each side.
Number 9: Redskins @ Cowboys, week 1, 1985.
This game was a lot of fun… If you were a Cowboys fan. What made this game memorable was an exceptional performance from Tom Landry’s dooms-day defense. They intercepted five passes from Joe Theismann, including two that were returned for touchdowns. The Cowboys went on to win 44-14. So why is a one-sided game ranked ahead of a close game you ask? Because this game was played on September 9th, which just so happened to be Joe Thiesmann’s birthday. After throwing his fifth interception, which was returned for a touchdown, 40,000 or so Cowboys fans at Texas Stadium sang “Happy Birthday to you” to Theismann and he could do nothing but sit on the bench and shake his head. Unlike over in Washington where there were stories of Randy White and Charlie Watters jumping up into the stands and fighting Redskins fans for pouring beer over White’s sister’s head, Cowboys fans tended to aggravate their rivals in more of a subtle manner.
Number 8: Redskins @ Cowboys, Week 1, 1987
This game is perhaps the most unique game in the history of this rivalry because it took place in the middle of a player strike that had cancelled week 3 of the season. To avoid missing any other games like they had five years earlier, teams played their games with replacement players. Replacement players were regular, working class people, who were asked to play in the NFL for approximately a month. For those of you too young to remember 1987, you may remember the referee strikes of 2011 when there were middle school teachers and off duty firemen officiating games. Now imagine the same thing but instead of the officials, it’s the players. The Cowboys were fortunate enough to have some of their starters return early. Among the starting players returning were Randy White, Tony Dorsett, and Danny White. None of the Redskins starters had returned. You would have gotten an exceptionally good price from a bookmaker in Las Vegas for Joe Gibb’s team of amateurs to beat Tom Landry’s amateurs that also featured two hall of fame players and a pro bowl level quarterback. As impossible as it may sound, the Redskins pulled off the upset and when the starters returned the following week, they went on to win their second Super Bowl. This win proves that any team can win on any given Sunday.
Number 7: 1972 NFC Championship game Cowboys @ Redskins
This is another game that was one sided, this time in the other team’s favor. The Redskins beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Cowboys by a score of 26-3. While it was hardly one for the ages, the significance of this game is strong enough for it to make the list. Redskins coach George Allen intensified the rivalry to a whole new level in 1972. He drilled it into his players and was very happy to announce to the media that everybody should hate the Cowboys. Saying “Look at them, they think they’re better than everybody else, we’ll show them how to really play and it’s not going to be fancy, it’s going to be blood and guts, go after, nose to nose football.” The message was well received on this day, but the Cowboys would not forget it and it led to a decade of classic matchups between two franchise that began to well and truly despise each-other.
Number 6: Cowboys @ Redskins, Week 1, 1999
This game was an all-time classic which saw the Cowboys overcome a 21-point deficit thanks to some stellar Quarterback play from Cowboys legend, Troy Aikman. The Cowboys entered the 4th quarter down by a score of 35-14; but the Cowboys “refuse to quit” mentality that earned them three world championships earlier in the decade, pulled them out of the hole. A touchdown from Emmitt Smith with just under 11 minutes left lit the fuse for the comeback and proved the old saying “great players aren’t always great, they’re just great when they have to be” true. Aikman threw a 37-yard touchdown pass on a go-route down the sidelines to Michael Irvin with Three minutes and 51 seconds left in the game to bring the deficit to within one touchdown. Despite failing to convert on fourth down on their next series, the cowboys got another chance to tie up the game. Aikman threw his fourth touchdown of the day on a post route to his favorite target, Michael Irvin. Even after giving up 21 unanswered points, the Redskins still found themselves in position to win the game with a routine field goal, however the Redskins holder dropped the high snap and the game went into overtime. In over-time, Aikman found a crack in the middle of the Redskins defense and threw a 76-yard game winning touchdown to Rocket Ismail. The Cowboys scored 28 unanswered points to win the game against their arch nemesis in what would be the finest regular season performance of Aikman’s career.
I hope to see you for part III, which will feature the five greatest games ever played between the two teams. The top five games feature as many colorful characters as a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Both feature a hero riding off into the sunset just like at the end of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.