"We've got a long way to go. The rocky days are not over for the Cowboys," Johnson said Sunday night after Dallas won its first game of the post-Tom Landry era by shutting down the Washington Redskins, 13-3.
Paul Palmer rushed for 110 yards and scored the game's only touchdown as the Cowboys (1-8) won for only the second time in their last 21 games. Both wins have come against the Redskins at RFK Stadium.
"It's been a frustrating year," Johnson said. "You might say it's a relief, a good feeling, to get this win. We're starting to come together, although we know we have a lot of hard work to do."
The 0-8 start was the second-worst in Cowboy history. They lost their first 10 games in 1960, their inaugural season under Landry, the man Johnson replaced after Jerry Jones bought the team earlier this year.
By winning, Johnson averted the embarrassment of losing as many games in consecutive weeks in the NFL as he did in five years at Miami, where he won a national championship.
"I felt we could win when it was 3-3 in the third quarter," Johnson said. "I just didn't want us to turn the ball over. We have a young team and we've had a problem with turnovers."
Dallas' victory spoiled the return of Doug Williams, the hero of the Redskins' Super Bowl victory in January, 1988, who played for the first time since undergoing back surgery in August. Williams completed 28 of 52 passes for 296 yards but was intercepted twice and was unable to get the NFL's top-ranked offense into the end zone.
"Doug was off tonight," Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said. "But I still feel good about my decision to start him, and he wasn't the only one who was a bit off."
Williams played despite the recent death of his father. He will leave today for the funeral Tuesday in Zachary, La.
"We couldn't put anything together, but it wasn't a one-person loss," said Williams.
Dallas broke a 3-3 tie late in the third quarter when Palmer, following a block by guard Crawford Ker, burst through the middle for a 47-yard gain to the Washington six. Two plays later, Palmer scored from the two.
It was only the second touchdown in the third quarter for the Cowboys this season.