The 1985 season started on Monday Night Football for the Cowboys for the third time in the last four years. It was the second time in three years that the Cowboys would be opening against division rival Washington. It also was quarterback Joe Theismann’s 36th birthday. It also was Theismann who took the saying “It’s better to give then to receive” a bit too far as he threw five interceptions in the game.
Unlike the 1983 season opener when the Cowboys had to come from a 23-3 deficit to win the game. This game the Cowboys took the lead and never looked back.
The only scoring in the first quarter came from Rafael Septien on a 53 yard field goal giving the Cowboys a 3-0.
In the second quarter the Cowboys put together a 98 yard drive that took up 8:49 of the clock. Timmy Newsome finished the long drive with a one yard touchdown run to put the Cowboys up 10-0.
The Redskins scored on a John Riggins touchdown run to make the score 10-7, but that would be as close as they would get to the Cowboys as the Cowboys took full control of the game.
The Cowboys closed out the first half scoring as Danny White connected with receiver Mike Renfro on a 55 yard touchdown pass with only six seconds left in the half. Dallas went to the locker room leading the Redskins 17-7.
The second half would be a dominating performance by the Cowboys defense as they confused Joe Theismann and the Redskins offense with different coverages and blitzes. The Redskins first three possessions of the third quarter all ended in turnovers and resulted in points for the Cowboys.
Everson Walls got things started as he stepped in front of a Theismann pass and intercepted it, giving the Cowboys the ball at the Redskins 44 yard line. The Cowboys could only manage a Septein field goal and a 20-7 lead.
On the Redskins next possession linebacker Eugene Lockhart forced Redskins running back George Rodgers to fumble and Dexter Clinksdale recovered at the Redskins 40 yard line. But once again the Cowboys had to settle for a Septien field goal. Dallas was now up 23-7.
Third possession for the Redskins and third straight turnover as Ron Fellows intercepted Theismann and returned it to the Redskins 13 yard line. This time the Cowboys were able to get into the end zone as Tony Dorsett burst through the middle of his offensive line and scored from nine yards out. Dallas was now up on the Redskins 30-7.
With all the turnovers the Dallas defense was getting, they decided that they wanted to do some scoring themselves. Cornerback Victor Scott collected his own interception off of Theismann early in the fourth quarter and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown which put the Cowboys ahead 37-7.
The Redskins managed a touchdown of their own as all the Dallas scoring was going on and made the score 37-14.
Dallas cornerback Dennis Thurman finished the scoring as he intercepted Jay Schroeder who replaced Theismann and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. The Cowboys completed their domination of the Redskins and won the game 44-14.
Joe Theismann threw five interceptions to five different Cowboys and only managed 206 yards passing in the game. Joe Gibbs took him out of the game midway through the fourth quarter and as Theismann sat on the bench something began to be heard. It started low and then got louder and clearer. It was the Texas Stadium crowd who started singing Happy Birthday to Theismann over and over again.
“It was a hot night, and we were hot,” coach Tom Landry said.
“I’m really surprised,” Landry said. “It doesn’t happen like that very often. It was one of those nights when they didn’t have anything going for them, and we had everything going for us. You don’t ever expect to beat the Redskins like this. We shouldn’t have even been favored. Somebody must have been crazy.”
“I just couldn’t be more pleased with the play of our defensive backs,” Landry said. “They were in great position all game. When you win this way, the other team has a lot to do with it. We just kept on the pressure. Right now we are at an emotional high as you might expect.”
“Hey, if I hit a couple of passes after those turnovers, we could have scored 64 points,” White said. “We were just missing against the blitz. Our offense didn’t even have to show up tonight. The defense scored twice and set up up so many times in plus territory.”
You can see the box score of the game here…
I also found this video that shows all six of the Cowboys interceptions in the game.