Texas Stadium--This contest was hyped as much as any regular season game in the history of the league. CBS Sports was promoting the meeting between the two 12-2 teams as simply "The Game".
A Dallas win would give the Cowboys the division title and home field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs. The Washington Redskins would have to beat both Dallas and the New York Giants the following week to claim those prizes. The Redskins, normally a team that shuns hype, added to it by boarding the plane for Dallas dressed in combat fatigues, ready to go to war.
The game started out as though it would be a Redskins blitzkrieg. Washington scored touchdowns on its first two possessions. The first score came on a three-yard run by John Riggins. The threat of Riggins set up the next score as a play fake to the running back left safety Dexter Clinkscale confused and on the ground. Clint Didier was wide open to catch a 40-yard Joe Theismann pass for the touchdown. Then came to first of two momentum swinging fourth down plays. Riggins was stuffed on a fourth and inches play at the Washington 48 and Dallas capitalized two plays later with a touchdown pass from Danny White to tight end Doug Cosbie. The Cowboys added a field goal just before the half ended and it was 14-10.
The second critical fourth down play occurred on Dallas' first possession after halftime. With a yard to go near midfield, Dallas coach Tom Landry apparently told quarterback Danny White to try to draw the Redskins offside with a long snap count and take the delay of game and punt if the ploy didn't work. White had other ideas. The TV cameras caught the look of disbelief on the normally stone-faced Landry as White called an audible to a handoff to running back Ron Springs. You didn't have to be a lip reader to make out Landry screaming "No, Danny, no, no, no!" as the ball was being snapped and then swear as Springs was stuffed for a two-yard loss by a swarm of defenders including Greg Williams and Charles Mann.
While the Redskins would not immediately capitalize on the change of possession, the momentum had clearly swung back their way. After punting and throwing an interception, the Redskins moved in for the kill after rookie cornerback Darrell Green intercepted a deflected pass. From the Dallas 43, Theismann went for it all, hitting Art Monk for the touchdown and a 21-10 lead. An interception by backup safety Greg Williams was followed by a four-yard touchdown run by Riggins and a Mark Moseley field goal with about two minutes in the game left ended the scoring in the 31-10 win.
The Redskins defense carried the day, taking the ball away on three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Dallas was held to an all-time franchise low of 33 yards rushing and gained just 95 yards of total offense in the second half. Offensively, Theismann was a very efficient 11 for 17 for 201 yards while Monk caught six of those passes for 119.