After Washington defeated Green Bay on Christmas Eve to gain the finals of the National Football Conference championship, Coach George Allen declared, "We played a perfect game." Allen is not the kind of man who lets himself be overstated when it comes to his team, but after Sunday's 26-3 thumping of Dallas it can only be said that the Redskins played a more perfect game.
To reach the Super Bowl in Los Angeles—where Allen was dismissed as coach of the Rams two years ago—the Redskins not only had to beat back the flu, which weakened several players, but a Dallas team that had spent the week of preparation firing itself up with hatred for their opponents. The game itself was not, in fact, as charged as some of the rhetoric that allegedly came out of the two camps. Once the action began the issue was much more one-sided, and for a while the only real suspense was how long Washington could dominate the action without managing to score. When the Redskins finally did break the ice—and even then it was just a field goal—the game was already well into the second quarter; as for the defending champions, they had managed only six plays—and no first downs.
Midway through the second quarter, Washington still led only 3-0, with a third-and-10 on its 28. Billy Kilmer had just thrown incomplete to Charley Taylor. But when Taylor appeared to run the same sideline pattern again, one evidently designed just to gain enough for the first down, he gave Cornerback Charlie Waters a minimal fake to the outside about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage and then cut back in and ran away. With an abundance of time to read the pattern Kilmer was able to fling a perfect pass, one that carried into Taylor's outstretched arms, a step past the desperate Waters.
Waters brought Taylor down at the Dallas 21, but two plays later, on third and four, Taylor went to work on him again. This time Taylor cut to the inside and got position on Waters. Once more, Kilmer had the security of an impregnable pocket, and he laced the ball perfectly to the inside just out of Waters' reach. Taylor stooped slightly to grab the ball in the end zone on the dead run to make the score 10-0. As it turned out, everything that followed was academic.
In the six playoff games so far, the only two lopsided scores have involved the Redskins, but it could not have been expected that Washington would have an even easier time with Dallas than it had with Green Bay. Against the Packers the week before, because he was aware that Scott Hunter, the young Green Bay quarterback, was not a particularly accurate passer, Allen was able to use a five-man line much of the time to shut off the run. Against the Cowboys Allen could afford no such luxury, no matter which quarterback Tom Landry chose—Roger Staubach or Craig Morton. Both are too proficient and Landry occasionally stacked the deck by employing four wide receivers at the same time: Lance Alworth, Ron Sellers, Bob Hayes and Billy Parks. But this riposte worked no better than anything else Dallas tried on this dismal afternoon.
The Redskins' geriatric machine purred smoothly all along. Larry Brown never did break away for a long run but he carried the ball 30 times for 88 yards. Taylor caught seven passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, and Curt Knight, the Redskin placekicker, hit four of four field goal attempts from 18, 39, 46 and 45 yards out. Knight has been something of a playoff wonder. In the regular season he made only 14 of 30 field goal attempts and his kicking was so spotty that the Washington fans began cheering him when he succeeded on simple conversions. But against Green Bay, he made three for three, which tied the playoff record he promptly broke against the Cowboys. " Allen talked to me about four weeks ago," said Knight after the game. "He told me to stop worrying about the blocking and the snap and the hold and just kick." When the coach was asked moments later whether he had ever considered looking for another placekicker, Allen replied, "He is the most talented one I've ever had. He just had to take a look at himself. The worst thing you can do when a guy is down is pound on him."
Still, the one hero who loomed above all the others must be Billy Kilmer, who enjoyed what he described as "my most gratifying game." Kilmer received some notoriety years ago when he was a star of the shotgun formation at San Francisco—an offensive set that produced more attention than results—but he was so little acclaimed generally that Allen, in one of his first moves after coming to Washington, picked him up from New Orleans for some middling draft choices and a reserve linebacker.
Kilmer has never been praised for throwing impeccable passes. Indeed, not so long ago when someone commented on the shot-duck aspect of a number of his throws, he grinned amiably and replied: "I guess I'm the No. 1 wobbly passer in the National Football League."
Against the Cowboys, Kilmer was unqualifiedly No. 1, his performance conjuring up memories of Sammy Baugh, who was the last Washington quarterback—in 1945—to lead the team into a championship game.
Kilmer was given extraordinary protection by his line, a feat made all the more impressive since Tackle Terry Hermeling and Guard Paul Laaveg were two of the team's flu victims, and Guard John Wilbur was suffering from a kidney ailment. As it was, though, the line seemed to gain strength as the game wore on. Kilmer threw 18 times, and if some of his passes wobbled 14 of them reached the receivers and not a one came close to being intercepted. Although Kilmer's forte is supposed to be throwing short, twice he stunned the Cowboys with long passes to Taylor. The second one, which went for the touchdown that made the score 17-3, traveled a good 50 yards in the air.