Rooted In Rivalry: Redskins-Cowboys Through The Years

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For a rivalry as long, memorable, rich, bad-blooded and contentious as the one between the Redskins and Cowboys, it is easy to forget that the teams’ shared gridiron history actually began with a fight over radio territory and the trademark to a song.

In 1960, Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison proposed to bring a football team to Dallas, with the support of NFL expansion committee chairman George Halas, and needed unanimous approval by the league’s owners. All but Redskins owner George Preston Marshall approved the proposal – he didn’t want the Cowboys to encroach upon his southern radio listenership, among other qualms – but quickly realized he needed to make some sort of deal.

Take a look back on photos from past matchups against the Dallas Cowboys.

That’s because Murchison sneakily owned the rights to “Hail to the Redskins.” The only way for Marshall to get the song back was if he approved the expansion team in Dallas. An agreement was eventually made, the Cowboys were born and a heated rivalry would soon emerge.

It didn’t get really going until 1972, when George Allen had taken over as head coach for Washington and encouraged the bitterness between both teams. That happened mostly because the Redskins won the NFC East division that year, marking the first time the Cowboys hadn’t since divisions formed in 1967. Washington would meet Dallas in the NFC Championship and defeat them handily, 26-3, to go to the Super Bowl.

From there the rivalry only continued to intensify. The Redskins’ dominance in the 1980s and early 1990s was countered by the Cowboys’ own run of success in the mid-1990s. But the team’s overall records and championships ceased to matter when they played each other. Regardless of narratives and reputations, the Redskins and Cowboys squared up with the same passion and stakes that accompany most playoff games. The battles were fierce and the hatred real.

As the Redskins welcome in the Cowboys to FedExField for the 2018 season and begin another chapter in this rivalry, here’s a look back at some of the most memorable games from the teams’ extensive anthology of matchups.

October 9, 1960, Redskins win 26-14

In the first time the two teams ever met, Washington walked away with an easy victory. Quarterback Ralph Guglielmi led the offense to a win that ended a 12-game losing streak for the Redskins. This game would end up being the team’s only victory that season.

December 17, 1961, Redskins win 34-24

In the season finale, the Redskins got their first victory since that 1960 game against the Cowboys, 24 games ago. Dick James scored four touchdowns in the affair, setting the Redskins single-season scoring record.

November 28, 1965, Redskins win 34-31

While the Redskins started this game trailing 21-0, an impressive performance by quarterback Sonny Jurgensen led to the, at the time, greatest comeback in Redskins history. He finished the game passing for more than 400 yards and throwing for three touchdowns. Jurgensen’s historic moment included leading the team down the field with two touchdown passes in the final two minutes and 16 seconds.

December 11, 1966, Redskins win 34-31

The Redskins prevented the Cowboys from claiming the Eastern Conference title all for themselves by kicking a 29-yard field goal with only seconds remaining. Washington’s win also sealed the club’s best record since 1956.

December 6, 1970, Cowboys win 34-0

In only the Cowboys’ third shutout victory in the team’s history up to that point, the Redskins failed to get a first down in the second half and suffered the team’s fifth consecutive loss. Jurgensen’s first shutout in his career was Washington’s first in 130 regulation games.

December 31, 1972, Redskins win 26-3

Washington demolished the defending Super Bowl champions to win the NFC crown and earn a trip to the Super Bowl to face the undefeated Miami Dolphins. The Redskins had won the NFC East with an 11-3 record and their dominance continued, holding the Cowboys to eight first downs and allowing Roger Staubach to only throw for 98 yards.

December 16, 1973, Cowboys win NFC East title on point differential

After the two teams tied for the best record in the division, Dallas was declared the winner over the Redskins based on a better point differential of 13. The Redskins then played in a Wild Card game at Minnesota the next week, which Washington lost, 27-20.

November 18, 1974, Cowboys win 24-23

The Cowboys prevented the Redskins from clinching a playoff berth when rookie Clint Longley shocked Washington by throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass with 28 seconds left in the game. Despite Staubach leaving the game early due to injury, Dallas was still able to come away with an unlikely win, putting the Redskins in a much more difficult position in terms of making the postseason. As head coach George Allen put it via the Washington Post, “It was probably the toughest loss we ever had.”

October 2, 1978, Redskins win 9-5

In the presence of President Jimmy Carter, the second president to ever attend a regular season NFL game, the Redskins won a defensive clash. The group was able to stop the Cowboys’ strong offense four times inside Washington’s 20-yard line.

December 16, 1979, Cowboys win 35-34

With both teams facing a three-way tie in the NFC East, winning was crucial in the season finale at Texas Stadium. And despite having a 13 point lead, the Redskins allowed the Cowboys to take the NFC East title and playoff berth away. Staubach scored two touchdown passes with less than three minutes to play, ending the season for Washington.

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January 22, 1983, Redskins win 31-17

The Redskins avenged their only loss of the season by defeating the Cowboys in RFK Stadium, earning the team’s second trip to the Super Bowl. A late pick-six for Washington helped clinch the victory, which was so much more than a conference championship. As head coach Joe Gibbs said after the game via the Washington Post, “This is our Super Bowl, this was everything rolled into one. The Redskins versus Dallas, the team we wanted to beat the most. How can you top that?"

September 5, 1983, Cowboys win 31-30

While this game will largely be remembered for the Cowboys coming back from a 23-3 halftime deficit to win in the televised season opener, it also should receive attention for a different reason. Cornerback Darrell Green played in his first NFL game and had an impressive tackle against Tony Dorsett that prevented a touchdown.

December 9, 1984, Redskins win 30-28

Despite trailing by 15 points at halftime, Washington had an incredible comeback in the last 30 minutes of the game to claim sole possession of first place in the division. The effort was sparked by a 32-yard interception return by Green.

November 24, 1991, Cowboys win 24-21

The Redskins fall after starting the season with 11 straight victories, the first time that was accomplished in franchise history. One of the victories had been a 33-31 win over the Cowboys in September, despite four starters getting injured, but Washington was unable to do it a second time around. The Redskins would have the last laugh, winning their third Super Bowl in franchise history later that season.

December 13, 1992, Redskins win 20-17

In one of the more fiery games the two teams have battled in, Washington came back from a 17-7 halftime deficit to win the game on a fumble recovery that was brought in for a touchdown. “This was one of the most emotional games I've been in, and it's one I'll always remember,” Gibbs said after the game, via the Washington Post. The turnover came from a sack on Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman by defensive tackle Jason Buck with three and a half minutes left in the game. Safety Danny Copeland brought it in for the score.

December 22, 1996, Redskins win 37-10

The last professional football game was played at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium against the Cowboys. The Redskins finished the season 9-7, their first winning year since 1992, and soundly defeated the Cowboys to leave the stadium with a win. "I think that one of the greatest things about my coaching career was getting to coach at RFK,” Gibbs said, via the Associated Press.

December 27, 1998, Cowboys win 23-7

Despite many of the starters being pulled after the first half for the already NFC East champion Cowboys, the home team was able to pull a victory out of a strong first team. The Redskins had a four-game winning streak stopped, while Dallas became the first NFC East team to be unbeaten and untied in divisional games in one year.

“Monday Night Miracle” December 29, 2005, Redskins win 14-13

Washington came away with a last minute victory at Texas Stadium after the Cowboys held the visitors scoreless until three minutes and 46 seconds left in the game. From that point, quarterback Mark Brunell found Santana Moss twice for touchdowns, a miraculous final push that was enough to seal the victory and send Dallas fans home stunned.

November 5, 2006, Redskins win 22-19

The Cowboys prepared to attempt a last second field goal that would break a 19-19 tie, but the effort was blocked by Troy Vincent. Sean Taylor then picked up the football and gained 30 yards. A penalty on Dallas allowed Nick Novak a chance to win the game, after missing a 49-yard attempt just earlier in the game. With no time left on the clock, Novak curved a 47-yard field goal through the uprights, giving the Redskins the improbable win.

December 30, 2007, Redskins win 27-6

With a playoff berth on the line, Washington came away with a dominant victory. The Redskins earned a Wild Card spot after winning three consecutive road games and then this battle over the division rival. The defense allowed just seven first downs and one rushing yard for the Cowboys in front of a record crowd at FedExField. The win took on extra meaning because of the final margin of victory. “We don't think it was by accident we won by 21,” Gibbs said after the game, referencing Taylor’s number, according to the Washington Post.

December 19, 2010, Cowboys win 33-30

The teams met for the 100th time and battled it out in typical fashion. A field goal with less than a minute to play ended up being enough for Dallas to walk away with the victory, despite an attempt by Washington for a last second drive.

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December 30, 2012, Redskins win 28-18

In a battle for the NFC East title and a playoff spot, the Redskins offense dominated at home and prevented Dallas from a spot in the postseason. Rookie running back Alfred Morris broke the team’s single season rushing record, going for 200 yards and three touchdowns in the game. A dominant defensive performance also helped the team to its first division championship since 1999, forcing Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to throw three interceptions, aided by linebacker London Fletcher’s strong performance.

December 22, 2013, Cowboys win 24-23

In a back-and-forth affair, the Redskins came back from a 14-6 halftime deficit, only to fall following a late touchdown pass by an injured quarterback Tony Romo. Washington was unable to hang on amid some problems at the quarterback position.

October 27, 2014, Redskins win 20-17 OT

In overtime, with the game tied at 17, the Redskins’ third quarterback of the 2014 season, Colt McCoy led the offense effectively down the field, making five completions. A 40-yard kick by Kai Forbath gave Washington the lead, and an injured Romo couldn’t convert a fourth down in Cowboys territory, completing the Redskins upset on Monday Night Football. "In the second half, we just dug our cleats in, and believed in each other, trusted each other and found a way to win," McCoy said.

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