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Cowboys overcome 21-point deficit, beat 'Skins in OT
Posted: Monday September 13, 1999 09:18 AM
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) -- In the history of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry, give this game four stars - and color them blue and silver.
Dallas matched its biggest comeback ever Sunday, rallying from a 21-point deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Washington 41-35 on Rocket Ismail's 76-yard touchdown catch in overtime.
"Nobody thought it was going to be easy, but nobody thought it was going to be like this," Cowboys tight end David LaFleur, who caught two touchdown passes, said as he smiled and shook his head in amazement.
Ismail, signed as a free agent to add speed to the receiving corps, split the safeties and was wide open for Troy Aikman's fifth touchdown pass 4:09 into the extra period.
"I think this is probably the wildest game I've ever been a part of," said Aikman, who was 28-for-49 for 362 yards and three interceptions.
Dallas has rallied from 21 points down to win once before, 30-27 in overtime against New Orleans in 1984. It was also the third time the Cowboys have made up a big deficit to beat the Redskins, coming back from 20 points down in 1983 and 17 points in 1979.
"It gives you more to build on than if you win 28-14," Dallas coach Chan Gailey said. "[Ismail] caught it, and then I think I breathed."
The Cowboys trailed 35-14 going into the fourth quarter, but sent the game into overtime on Michael Irvin's 12-yard reception with 1:46 left. The crucial extra point by Richie Cunningham hit the left upright before going through.
The loss hit the Redskins hard. They collapsed in last year's season-opener against the New York Giants and then lost their next six in a row. They had hoped to put that behind them while impressing new owner Dan Snyder.
"Having things fall apart, especially in a big game like this, it was a hard loss," defensive tackle Dan Wilkinson said. "We're by no means going to throw in the towel, but this hurts right down to your heart."
Snyder bought the Redskins this year for $800 million and has demanded that coach Norv Turner make the playoffs or else. He was clapping and cheering -- along with a record crowd of 79,237 -- after the home team recovered from a 14-3 first-half deficit.
By the end of the game, Snyder's expression was more serious.
"I don't think the owner was putting $800 million on this game," cornerback Darrell Green said. "I haven't prepared the entire offseason just for this one game. I'm in it for the long haul."
The Redskins were in Cowboys territory on nine of their first 10 offensive possessions, failing to score only when they stopped themselves. Stephen Davis and Brad Johnson both lost fumbles inside the Dallas 15 in the first half.
Picking on reserve cornerbacks Kevin Mathis and Charlie Williams, Johnson marked his Redskins debut by completing 20 of 33 passes for 382 yards with touchdown throws of 41 yards to Michael Westbrook and 50 yards to Albert Connell. Davis had his first 100-yard game, rushing for 109 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns.
On their first two possessions, the Cowboys marched 80 and 82 yards for 14 points against a first-string defense that didn't allow a touchdown in preseason. Aikman was as precise as ever, completing 6-of-9 with two drops, including scoring passes of 15 and 14 yards to LaFleur.
But Aikman spent the next two quarters hurried by the Redskins' pass rush. The Cowboys were down 35-14 before they finally scored again on Emmitt Smith's 1-yard run with 10:43 to go in the game.
Dallas then recovered an onside kick, but had to punt. On their next possession, however, the Cowboys drove 66 yards to score on a 37-yard touchdown pass to Irvin with 3:51 left, closing to 35-28.
Irvin's two TD catches were one more than he had all last season. Three receivers had career highs in yards receiving: Westbrook (159), Connell (137) and Ismail (149).
Smith finished with 109 yards on 23 carries as the Cowboys out-gained the Redskins 541-504.
Sanders, who had major toe surgery in April, did some running on the field before the game but was not able to play. The Cowboys defense was also missing Smith (back), linebacker Coryatt (Achilles' tendon) and suspended defensive tackle Lett.
Notes: Brian Mitchell had 48 yards on punt returns, moving him past Vai Sikahema into third place on the career list. Irving Fryar (34 yards) became the eighth player in NFL history to pass 12,000 yards receiving. ... The Cowboys improved their NFL-best opening day record to 30-9-1. ... Dallas has won four in a row against Washington. ... The Redskins biggest blown lead is 24 points vs. Philadelphia in a 28-24 loss in 1946. ... Injuries: Dallas TE David LaFleur (sprained ankle), Washington G Keith Sims (mild concussion, bruised left foot).
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