In the most recent edition of The Notebook Nine, I ranked the greatest wins in Washington Redskins history. By necessity, those were playoff wins. But my memory banks are filled with so many other notable regular season wins that it seemed necessary to do a separate listing that would focus on those.
Upon further review, I was wrong. It’s actually necessary to do two separate listings. Even restricting the list to games played from the late 1970s forward (the reason for that timeframe is explained here), games still fell into two different categories—those against the Cowboys and those against everyone else. A win that might seem mundane against an AFC team or just marginally important against the Eagles or Giants can really stand out when it comes over Dallas.
So this edition of The Notebook Nine is focused like a laser on victories over the Cowboys in the modern era of the NFL. Only regular season games are included, as the playoff victories over Dallas have been covered. Here’s the nine, in ascending order…
9)Dec 22, 1996: Redskins 37 Cowboys 10—This game had a letdown feel to it after a loss in Arizona the week before knocked the ’96 Skins out of the playoffs. And the Cowboys, locked into the 3-seed, rested Troy Aikman and Emmitt Smith. In a normal year, this wouldn’t even be considered, much less make the list. But it was the last game the Redskins played at old RFK Stadium. That makes it worthwhile.
8)Nov 23, 1986: Redskins 41 Cowboys 14—Joe Gibbs was on a three-game losing streak to Dallas. That stretch included a Monday Night humiliation at Dallas in 1985 and a blowout loss earlier in 1986. Both teams were racing with the Giants in the NFC East. The Redskins came up big in the late Sunday afternoon TV window and ultimately made it all the way to the NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys collapsed and missed the playoffs.
7)Oct 27, 2014: Redskins 20 Cowboys 17 (OT)—I have a soft spot in my heart for this game. It was a miserable year as the demise of RG3 continued and Kirk Cousins was mistake-prone. Colt McCoy got the start for a road Monday Night game. National pundit and noted Dallas fan Skip Bayless was tweeting early in the day that he had a bad feeling—that the crazy road upset tended to happen in this rivalry. McCoy, who’s had a rough time getting a break in the NFL, delivered his greatest moment.
6)Dec 9, 1984: Redskins 30 Cowboys 28—There were two weeks to go and the NFC East was a packed four-team race. In a late Sunday afternoon road game, the ‘Skins dug themselves a 21-6 hole. Then Darrell Green turned the tide with a Pick-6, John Riggins ran for over 100 yards and the Redskins survived. They won the division a week later. The Cowboys missed the postseason for the first time in ten years.
5)Sep 9 1991: Redskins 33 Cowboys 31—It was only Week 2, but the Redskins were ready for a peak year. The Cowboys were on the prowl, starting to emerge under Jimmy Johnson. In an electric atmosphere in Dallas on Monday Night, the hero was our kicker. Chip Lohmiller nailed field goals from 53, 52, 46 and 45 yards—one of where the holder briefly bobbled the snap. The ‘Skins needed every one of them to win.
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4)Dec 30, 2007: Redskins 27 Cowboys 6—As a football game, this one wasn’t as well-played as the ’91 affair or others that it ranks ahead of. But it was win-or-go-home in the final week of the season. Even though Dallas had the 1-seed clinched, Tony Romo still played the first half. Clinton Portis got the ‘Skins going with a 23-yard touchdown jaunt and they led 13-3 at the half. Portis ran for 104 yards, Todd Collins played well at quarterback and the Redskins made the playoffs. It would be the last win ever for Joe Gibbs, who concluded his second term as head coach. And it concluded an emotional four-game win streak done in memory of the late Sean Taylor.
3)Sept 19, 2005: Redskins 14 Cowboys 13—Another Monday Night game and for nearly the entire game, the Redskins looked utterly helpless on offense. They trailed 13-0 and the prospects for Gibbs’ comeback were looking bleak. Then Santana Moss caught a 39-yard touchdown pass. Minutes later he caught a 70-yard bomb and the ‘Skins had an improbable 14-13 win. By season’s end that win was the difference between the Redskins making the playoffs and the Cowboys staying home.
2)Dec 11, 1983: Redskins 31 Cowboys 10—It was the biggest game of the season for the entire NFL. The #1 seed in the NFC hung in the balance. Pat Summerall and John Madden were in the CBS booth for the 4 PM EST kickoff. The Redskins and Cowboys traded momentum in the first half and the ‘Skins led 14-10. With a 166-33 edge in rush yardage, Washington dominated the second half. The Redskins went to the Super Bowl. The Cowboys lost the wild-card game.
And the crème da la crème in the modern era of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is (drum roll please)….
THE SWEEP OF 2012
Thanksgiving Day: Redskins 38 Cowboys 31
Dec 30: Redskins 28 Cowboys 18
Some cheating here by including two games, but the stretch drive of 2012 was the most magical time to be a Redskins fan during the otherwise desolate years we’ve lived through in any season where Joe Gibbs was not on the sideline.
The Redskins came into the Thanksgiving game at 4-6. Robert Griffin III unloaded. He went 19/27 for 304 yards and threw four touchdown passes. Every time RG3 touched the ball during that seven-game win streak to close 2012 it seemed like something explosive would happen and never more so than on this national stage.
By the season finale, the Redskins were set up for a winner-take-all battle with the Cowboys for the NFC East crown. NBC flexed the game into the Sunday Night spot. Playing with what was then a mildly injured knee, RG3 played it close to the vest. It was Alfred Morris who took over, pounding out 200 yards on the ground in a 28-18 win.
Twice in six weeks, the Redskins had beaten the Cowboys in a must-win game for a national audience. That puts those collective games at the top of the list.
There’s so much more to this great rivalry that all the games couldn’t be squeezed in. We didn’t even look at the great moments of the George Allen era in the early-to-mid 1970s–like the 30-24 overtime win in 1975, the game that made this writer a Redskins fan. Or the 1992 December game the ‘Skins needed to make the playoffs. There was the improbable sweep of 1995 and a shocking Monday Night blowout to start 1993. You could make a case for any of these games. But the above selections are what goes into the book as TheSportsNotebook’s nominees for the best nine.