Danny White played errorless football Monday night at quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, but that’s somewhat more than Joe Theismann could say.
Theismann, who threw five interceptions, was seen in his worst game in 12 years with the Washington Redskins. And the result was another blowout Monday night as Dallas won easily, 44-14.
Going in, this matchup of Eastern rivals had figured about even. But after White led Dallas 98 yards to open a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, the Redskins threw it away with four turnovers in the third quarter to fall hopelessly out of touch, 30-7.
“I’m really surprised,” Dallas Coach Tom Landry said afterward. “It was a hot night (95 on the field), and we were hotter.”
The Redskins, starting cold and getting colder, turned the ball over seven times on a fumble and six interceptions as Dallas scored its last two touchdowns on intercepted passes, one thrown by Theismann, the other by his understudy, Jay Schroeder.
“We seemed to start every (second half) series on the Washington 20-yard line,” White said.
His steady play at quarterback was the difference for the Cowboys. Although he threw only one touchdown pass, lofting one to wide receiver Mike Renfro on a 55-yard play, White kept the Cowboys moving on the decisive series of the game.
“Our receivers were open all night,” he said. “I was too cautious in the second half, but, then, I didn’t want to give them anything with the lead we had.”
Basically, this was a game that Washington kicked away with various kinds of misplays--the turnovers were only the half of it--to start the season in second place behind Dallas, St. Louis and the New York Giants in the NFC East.
The Redskins’ most acute problem, the one that beat them, was their inability to run the ball against the Dallas defense.
In the first quarter, surprising the veterans in that defense, the Redskins had come out in an unbalanced line, moving right tackle Mark May to the left side, cheek to cheek with left tackle Joe Jacoby.
Behind this tandem of big tackles, John Riggins, heading invariably to his left, gained five or six yards on each of five or six plays.
Then Landry did a strange thing. He called time out and told the Cowboys what to do about Jacoby and May--"we put another guy over there"--and thereupon, Washington’s offense collapsed.
When Theismann tried to revive it throwing the ball, it was immediately apparent that he wasn’t ready for the 1985 season.
On the blunder that set the stage for the Redskins’ collapse in the first quarter, he under threw wide receiver Art Monk, who was open for a touchdown, as free safety Michael Downs cut in behind to intercept.
This seemed to destroy Theismann’s confidence. But an error by his defense in the second quarter was even more damaging. With only six seconds remaining before halftime, Renfro ran for a touchdown with White’s pass on a play that befuddled rookie Washington defensive back Barry Wilburn.
The Renfro pattern is one called the “out and up.” He faked out to the sideline and ran up the field to come wide open for White’s throw.
Wilburn went for the fake.
Thus Washington was down by 17-7 going into a second half in which the Cowboys’ defense scored or set up their remaining 27 points.
“It was just a poor job by everybody, coach included,” Washington Coach Joe Gibbs said. “The good thing is that it was the first game, so we are only down one game.”
The Dallas kickers illustrated one difference between the teams. Rafael Septien kicked field goals of 53, 39 and 43 yards. The new Dallas punter, Mike Saxon, lofted his first four punts 57, 50, 49 and 55 yards.
Worse, the Redskins gave the ball away every time they touched it in the third quarter, when Dallas capitalized three times on field goals and a nine-yard touchdown run by Tony Dorsett, who was held to 62 yards.
The Redskins’ leading ground gainer was their new back, George Rogers, who finished with 47 yards.
“For me, this was a bad learning experience,” Theismann said. “But this was only one of 16 games.”