Washington Redskin Coach George Allen approaches winning the way White Owl goes about selling cigars. "We're gonna getcha," Allen's cautious game plans seem to say. "Maybe not in the first quarter, maybe not in the second quarter, but we're gonna getcha. Sooner or later you know we're gonna getcha."
Take the Oct. 8 game against Dallas, scenes from which are shown on the following pages. On that Monday night the Cowboys outplayed the Redskins, holding the ball for 78 plays to Washington's 53. Dallas gained 182 yards rushing, the Redskins just 71—symptomatic of a season in which the Washington ground game is off 30%. Yet the Redskins steadfastly refused to risk anything offensively. They preferred to do their attacking with their special teams and their defense which, with End Verlon Biggs in the fore, sacked Dallas Quarterback Roger Staubach seven times.
Still, Allen had to wait until the last three minutes of the fourth quarter to get Dallas. Only then, with the score tied 7-7, was his patience rewarded. The Cowboys made their mistake, a weak, forced pass by Craig Morton, whom Coach Tom Landry had put in for the beleaguered Staubach. Safety Brig Owens cut in front of Tight End Billy Joe DuPree, intercepted at the Dallas 26 and danced into the end zone.
Ultimately, the Redskins won the game by Owens' touchdown or by a foot, depending on how you look at it. Trailing 14-7 with a few seconds remaining, the Cowboys had fourth-and-goal on the four-yard line. On Dallas' last play Morton completed a pass to Walt Garrison but, with a truly Herculean effort the Redskins' other safety, Ken Houston, lifted Garrison off the ground, stopping him a step shy of the goal line.
The Redskins and the Cowboys became rivals by default in 1960, the year Dallas joined the NFL. At that time they were the two worst teams in football and only 21,142 turned out to watch Washington record its only victory of the '60 season by beating winless Dallas. Nine weeks ago, when they played for first place in the NFC East, 54,314 jammed RFK Memorial Stadium and ABC-TV recorded its highest audience ratings in the history of Monday night football. Over 40% of all U.S. TV households, or 44,600,000 people, watched what may well have been 1973's best football game.
Sonny Jurgensen quarterbacked the Redskins that evening, throwing one yard to Charley Taylor late in the fourth period for Washington's first score. Jurgy is the people's choice in the nation's capital, a redheaded, potbellied Hotspur belittling the dangers of putting the ball in the air. In Dallas this Sunday it could be Billy Kilmer, ironically the only Redskin who did not play on Oct. 8, who will guide the Redskins. Jurgensen is 39 and only his arm refuses to admit it. Last year in Yankee Stadium he planted his foot while throwing a short pass and tore his Achilles' tendon. This year he planted his foot while getting into his car and a bad knee gave way.
But you can't keep a good man down. Last week against the Giants, when Kilmer aggravated an ankle injury, Jurgensen limped in with Washington trailing 21-13. After an uncertain start, he completed 11 passes in a row, the final one, a 16-yarder, to Larry Brown for the touchdown that enabled the Redskins to pull out a 27-24 win.
Washington can be a winner by losing Sunday, but only if it manages to do so by fewer than seven points. If Dallas wins and both teams take their final games the following Sunday, the Redskins and Cowboys will finish with identical overall, division and conference records. That reduces tie-breaking procedures to head-to-head competition and therefore Dallas must exceed Washington's seven-point margin of Oct. 8. It is conceivable that the Redskins might run out the clock while trailing by six points or concentrate on a field goal if losing by a touchdown—a case of being close and winning the cigar. Meanwhile the Cowboys can't afford to sit on a small lead. If they are winning by six late in the game, for instance, they might try an onside kick. However, whoever wins by whatever amount, the NFC East's second-place team could lose the wild-card spot to Atlanta.
Win or lose big, Allen will be praised or damned on his choice of quarterbacks. Landry, with Staubach and Morton, knows that score (see page 57).