This week, we go back to the Cowboys’ championship season of 1977 to review an early season matchup with arch-rival Washington at Texas Stadium. Like most Cowboys-Redskins games played at Texas Stadium, the home team came out on top in the end.
The Cowboys’ 1977 squad was arguably the best collection of talent in team history. They entered the week five showdown with George Allen’s Redskins with a perfect 4-0 record, and the team had the look of a serious Super Bowl contender.
Hopes were high in Washington as well as after an opening week loss to the New York Giants, the Redskins had won three games in a row and came to Dallas with hopes of joining the Cowboys at the top of the NFC East standings.
The Dallas Cowboys’ Doomsday Defense controlled the contest, allowing the Redskins only three field goals and a touchdown that was set up by a blocked punt that put the ball at the Dallas one yard line.
Allowing one or fewer touchdowns in a game was a fairly common occurrence for the Super Bowl 12 champion Cowboys in 1977. The Cowboys did the trick in eight of their 14 regular season games, and in all three of their post-season victories.
Dallas’ defense allowed only one net passing yard in the game, the third lowest total net passing yards allowed in team history. On October 24, 1965 in a 13-3 loss at Green Bay, the Packers had a minus 10 net passing yardage total. Ten years later in a Cowboys 31-21 victory over the New York Jets at Shea Stadium, the home team had a minus one yard total. The 1977 Cowboys would stifle an opponents’ passing game three weeks after their big win over Washington. On November 6th, Dallas defeated Detroit 37-0 and allowed only two net passing yards.
LEADING THE WAY
Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach completed 15 of 28 passes for 250 yards in the game, compiling a 107.7 QBR that was the highest of his career against arch-rival Washington. In six games played at Texas Stadium in which Staubach started and finished the game, Dallas was 5-1 with four of the five wins coming in routs (Dallas won by an average of 21.5 points in those games).
A FULL DAY FOR A FULLBACK
Dallas’ short but powerful fullback Robert Newhouse was big part of the Cowboys’ win. Whether it was running the ball, blocking for fellow back Tony Dorsett or helping out in pass protection for Staubach, the veteran was a major presence in Dallas’ fine offensive effort.
Newhouse rushed for 71 yards in 17 carries on the day, scoring two touchdowns. For the season, the Houston product would gain 771 yards which was the second highest yardage total of his career (Newhouse’s 930 yards led the 1975 NFC Champion Cowboys).
Washington quarterbacks Billy Kilmer and Joe Theismann probably needed heavy doses of pain medication on their team’s trip back to DC following a game where they spent a good deal of time on the tartan turf at Texas Stadium.
Dallas had eight sacks on the day, including three by eventual NFL Defensive Player of the Year Harvey Martin. Martin’s running mate Randy White chipped in with two sacks, Ed Jones and Larry Cole had one each, and Bill Gregory and Thomas Henderson had 1/2 sack each in the dominant effort by Dallas’ front seven.
One sequence at the end of the game showed the awesome power of the Cowboys’ front line when an opponent was in a passing situation. On second and 10 from its own 40 yard line with 31 seconds to play, Jones trapped Theismann for an eight yard loss. The plucky Theismann called timeout to set up a play for Washington, only to have Martin shoot through the left side of the Redskins’ line to trap the Redskins’ quarterback for an eleven yard loss. Instead of letting the clock run out, Theismann and the Redskins gave it one more try on a fourth and 29 situation and the payoff was another sack by Martin, this one for a loss of 11 yards.
BIG PLAY RECEIVERS
It was a rough day for Washington’s secondary, particularly for backup cornerback Gerard Williams who was pressed into action when starter Pat Fischer couldn’t answer the bell due to injury.
Willams was beaten for big scores by both Drew Pearson and Golden Richards in a game where Dallas had numerous explosive plays in the passing game.
Pearson’s long touchdown, a regular season career high 59 yard scoring play, came in the fourth quarter when Washington gambled that a full blitz could stop Staubach and the Cowboys. The defensive tactic left the embattled Williams one on one with Dallas’ best receiver, and thee results were not good for the Redskins. Pearson caught six passes for 159 yards in the game, the third highest yardage total of his Ring of Honor level career.
The speedy Richards burned Williams for a 50 yard touchdown on an out and up play in the second quarter that gave the Cowboys a lead they’d never lose. Of Richards’ 18 career regular season catches for a touchdown, 14 of them were from 31 yards or longer.
LEARNING ON THE JOB
Dallas’ heralded rookie Tony Dorsett was obviously a target of the hard hitting Washington defense, who treated the speedy halfback with disdain every time he touched the ball. Dorsett showed flashes of his other worldly speed in the game, but finished with only 51 yards in 19 carries on the game.
The first year Cowboy’s biggest play in the game came on a Tom Landry offense staple, a halfback pass. In the second quarter on a first and ten play from Dallas’ 30 yard line, Dorsett took a pitch from Staubach, rolled to his left and threw a strike to Pearson for a 34 yard gain along the sideline that barely missed being a touchdown when Pearson couldn’t avoid stepping out of bounds at the Washington 36. The play helped set up Newhouse’s first rushing score of the game, a touchdown that expanded Dallas’ lead to 14-6.
The Cowboys would start the season with eight straight wins, drop consecutive November games to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, and then finish off their second Super Bowl winning season with seven consecutive wins in one of Dallas’ most dominant stretches in team history.
George Allen would never lick his thumbs or tug on his ball cap again at Texas Stadium, as the 1977 season was his final one as Redskins’ head coach. Washington would win five of its last six games in route to a respectable 9-5 record, but a tough 14-7 loss to the Cowboys at RFK Stadium on the Sunday after Thanksgiving helped keep Allen’s team from earning a wild card playoff bid.