Opening night of the 1983 season found the Dallas Cowboys back at a place that held bad memories. The last time they were in RFK Stadium to play Washington was the 1982 NFC Championship game where not only did they lose their quarterback Danny White, but they lost the game as well, 31-17. It was the Cowboys third straight loss in the NFC Championship and now they were back at RFK Stadium to open the season on Monday Night Football.
From the start of the game the Cowboys just seemed to be hanging onto the loss in the Championship game. While the Redskins marched on as they pushed and shoved the Dallas offense and defense all over the field. It was a first half performance by the Cowboys that just made you shake your head and want to turn the television off and go to bed.
The Cowboys offense would gain only 85 yards in the first half. Tony Dorsett would gain 77 of those yards on a long run in which he was dragged down by rookie cornerback Darrell Green. It would also be the only time Dallas crossed mid-field in the first half. Quarterback Danny White would only complete one pass out of nine in the first half. The Dallas defense was no better as they gave up 261 yards to the Redskins offense.
Before the Dallas defense could get their cleats dirty they found themselves down 10-0 to the Redskins. The lone points for the Cowboys came after Dorsett’s 77 yard run that turned into a Rafael Septien field goal and a 10-3 Redskins lead.
The Reskins offense would score 13 more points in the second quarter and go into halftime with a comanding 23-3 lead on the Cowboys.
The Cowboys came out in the third quarter running the ball on four straight plays. On the fifth play of the drive Danny White made a nice play fake and went long for receiver Tony Hill. The pass was a perfect strike to Hill who caught it at the Redskins 30 yard line and outran the Redskins defense scoring from 75 yards with less than three minutes gone in the third quarter. Washington now lead 23-10.
The Dallas defense would finally hold the Redskins offense on their next drive following Hill’s touchdown and forced a punt. From there White and Hill would go back to work. From their own 49 yard line White once again unloaded a pass to Hill who made a great one handed catch over a Redskins defender at the Washington 20 yard line and scored from there. Dallas had closed the lead to just six points. Now only down 23-17.
Early in the fourth quarter things were still going the Cowboys way. The Redskins seemed to have gained a first down deep in Dallas territory on a Theismann to Don Warren reception. But Warren was called for pass interference and the Redskins were forced to attempt a field goal. Kicker Mark Mosley lined up for a 31 yard field goal, but the ball sailed wide right and the Cowboys got the ball back with a little over 9:00 to play in the game.
Danny White went back to work and drove the Cowboys offense 80 yards on 12 plays. One of the 12 plays was a fourth and 1 from the Washington 26 yard line where White pushed his way for a first down. A few plays later from the one yard line White rolled to his right looking for tight end Billy Joe Dupree in the back of the end zone. Seeing Dupree was covered White tucked the ball away and scored on his own. Dallas had finally taken the lead for the first time, 24-23.
On the next drive for the Redskins, cornerback Ron Fellows intercepted Theismann at the Washington 37 yard line and returned it to the four yard line setting up a first and goal for the Cowboys. White threw his third touchdown pass of the second half, this time to tight end Doug Cosbie with only 1:49 left in the game. Dallas increased their lead to 31-23.
The Redskins would score with just ten seconds left in the game against the Dallas prevent defense, but it was too little too late for them. The Cowboys had played an amazing second half of football outscoring the Redskins 28-7. Danny White more than made up for his 1 for 9 passing in the first half to complete 8 of 11 passes in the second half and four touchdowns. Three passing and one running. Dorsett finished the game with 151 yards rushing on just 14 carries. Tony Hill had 133 yards on three receptions and both third quarter touchdowns
The win may not have made up for the NFC Championship loss to the Redskins in 1982, but it was still a great comeback by the Cowboys in this heated divison rivalry. Down 23-3 at the half and looking horrible only to mount a comeback and pull out the game 31-30 showed that this Cowboys team did not have any quit in them.
It was coach Tom Landry who told them at halftime to not give up.
“I told them at halftime that it was just a matter of pride,” Landry said. “We were down and hadn’t done a thing and the defense had been on the field two quarters. That’s when you’ve got to draw from deep down. Our team showed it did have something.”
“If Washington had won, it might have gotten a little cocky and thought it could beat the world.”
You can the box score of the game here.