Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman made San Diego Coach Dan Henning pay dearly for a fake punt gamble as the Cowboys beat the Chargers, 17-14, Sunday before 48,063 at Texas Stadium--the smallest home crowd in 26 years.
It was the Cowboys' first home victory since Sept. 25, 1988, when they defeated Atlanta. The victory ended a streak of 14 consecutive home losses.
"I've been looking for that, it's been a long time," Aikman said of the victory. "I've had a lot of abuse from the press. But all the work we've done has made it worth it."
Aikman sneaked into the end zone from one yard out with 1:58 left after directing a 53-yard scoring drive.
The Chargers had tried the fake punt on fourth and six with 5:15 remaining. Linebacker Gary Plummer was stopped by Bill Bates and Daniel Stubbs after a two yard-yard gain.
"I knew something was up," said Bates, captain of the special teams. "We expected them to try something. The tackle didn't try to block me like he does normally."
Henning was distraught about losing a game which the Chargers seemingly had wrapped up.
"It was a dumb mistake," Henning said. "I was hoping somebody would bail me out on it but it wasn't blocked correctly. I should have called it off. It's a disappointing loss, the kind I'll carry around a long time."
Cowboy running back Emmitt Smith, a first-round pick from Florida who held out for a club record 48 days, rushed two times for two yards.
Johnson got the game ball, his second. The first came from the Cowboys' only 1989 victory, 13-3 over Washington at RFK Stadium.
"It's a great feeling," Johnson said. "This win will allow us to gain momentum and win again. If it had gone the other way, it would have meant a lot more hard work."
It was San Diego's fourth consecutive opening loss. The Chargers are now 18-13 in the first game of the season. Dallas has the NFL record of 23-7-1.