Dallas left red-faced by resurgent Washington

American football
Click to follow
The Independent Online
For most of the 1990s the Dallas Cowboys have tried to prove that anything the San Francisco 49ers can do, they can do better. On Sunday they may have taken the trend a little too far.

Six days after the 49ers created the biggest shock of the season by losing to the Detroit Lions, the Cowboys caused an even bigger one when they were beaten by the Washington Redskins. Though the Lions were winless before their Monday-night triumph, they are a talented, if inconsistent, team that has often shown a capacity to match the league's best (last year they beat Dallas). The Redskins, on the other hand, have been in disarray since the departure of Joe Gibbs two years ago.

The Cowboys lost their quarterback, Troy Aikman, who was hurt in the first series of the game, but their head coach, Barry Switzer, refused to use it as an excuse for a 27-23 defeat. "We wouldn't have beaten them if Troy Aikman played today. Troy Aikman doesn't play defense," Switzer said.

That defense came up with a big play early on - Darren Woodson's interception return gave Dallas a 10-3 lead - but from then on was unable to contain Terry Allen, who ran for 121 yards, or Gus Frerotte, who threw for 192 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

The Redskins scored 24 unanswered points and, despite a late rally behind Aikman's back-up, Wade Wilson, held on for a memorable win. "I believe that's the best team in football," said Norv Turner, Dallas's offensive coordinator until he took over as Redskins head coach last season. "This is our best win. I see guys everywhere on the field getting better but the bottom line is winning."

Aikman suffered a pulled calf muscle. Opinions vary as to when he might be back. "They're saying two to three weeks, but I'm hoping I can come back next week," Aikman said.

No sooner had one unbeaten record gone, than another bit the artificial turf. Minutes after the Dallas defeat, the St Louis Rams, whose 100 per cent record was rather more of a surprise, lost 21-18 in Indianapolis. Marshall Faulk, the rising star of the running back profession, galloped for 177 yards and three scores.

Which left only the Miami Dolphins among the NFL goliaths still standing, and even they required some trademark Dan Marino heroics to hang on to their unblemished record after a pulsating encounter in Cincinnati.

Marino threw for 450 yards, the most significant being the last 16, a TD pass to O J McDuffie with 63 seconds left, giving the Dolphins a 26- 23 lead. That proved enough, though even then the Bengals quarterback, Jeff Blake, navigated Cincinnati into position to attempt a 45-yard field goal - which Doug Pelfrey missed.

The contest pitted Shulas senior and junior of the head coaching fraternity, with victory, as usual, going to Don, the father of David. "It was a tough loss for Dave, about as tough as you can get," Shula the elder said.

The 49ers bounced back from their panic in Detroit with a victory over the New York Giants that was less convincing than a 20-6 scoreline suggested. Any sort of victory was enough for the Jacksonville Jaguars, whose 17-16 win in Houston was the first by either of the league's two expansion teams.

NFL (Home teams first): Atlanta 30 New England 17; Cincinnati 23 Miami 26; Carolina 13 Tampa Bay 20; New Orleans 10 Philadelphia 15; Washington 27 Dallas 23; Indianapolis 21 St Louis 18; Arizona 3 Kansas City 24; Houston 16 Jacksonville 17; Seattle 27 Denver 10; Pittsburgh 31 San Diego 16; San Francisco 20 New York Giants 6; New York Jets 10 Oakland 47. Did not play: Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota.