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Redskins-Cowboys Rivalry Took Off In 1965


This Sunday marks another in a long line of clashes between the Redskins and Cowboys during the week of Thanksgiving. Dallas has feasted on the Redskins in that period, winning 13 of 16 games, including all six played on Thanksgiving day.

The Cowboys' most thrilling win on Turkey Day stands as one of the breathtaking games of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry.

On Nov. 28, 1974, Cowboys rookie quarterback Clint Longley, who had never attempted a pass in the NFL, entered the game in the third quarter after starter Roger Staubach was knocked out.

Dallas trailed 16-3 at the time, but Longley threw three touchdowns, including a 50-yarder to Drew Pearson with seconds remaining, to secure a 24-23 victory.

One of the three Redskin wins was also a thriller. It came in 1965, a time when the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry began to hit its stride, contrary to the belief that Redskins coach and Cowboy-hater George Allen initiated it when he came to D.C. in 1971.

In the mid-1960s, Dallas was rising to NFL prominence after entering the league five years earlier, while the Redskins were mediocre at best. The Cowboys featured quarterback Don Meredith and wide receiver and Olympic gold medal sprinter Bob Hayes, along with a star-studded defense.

But the Redskins were armed with future Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, who led an explosive offense that put the Cowboys on their heels.

The two teams engaged in wild battles resembling shootouts at the OK Corral: 34-31 Redskins, 31-30 Cowboys, 34-31 Redskins, 17-14 Cowboys, 27-20 Redskins. In four of those five games, the winning points came in the final two minutes.

Such was the case at D.C. Stadium (now RFK) on Nov. 28, 1965. The Cowboys jumped out to a 21-0 lead, and chants of "WE WANT SHINER" resonated through the stadium from fans who wanted the ineffective Jurgensen benched for backup Dick Shiner.

Unfazed, Jurgy orchestrated a jaw-dropping aerial show to lead one of the greatest comebacks in Redskins history. He threw a 26-yard scoring pass to Charley Taylor before halftime, and after a Dallas field goal, he ran one yard for a score to cut the lead to 24-13.

The teams traded touchdowns, and Dallas led, 31-20, with less than six minutes left. But Jurgensen was just gaining steam. Distributing the ball evenly among his receivers, he led a 64-yard drive that ended with his 10-yard scoring pass to Bobby Mitchell.

Less than two minutes later, he capped an 80-yard march with a 5-yard pass to receiver Angelo Coia for the go-ahead score.

The crowd of 50,205 was in a frenzy, but it wasn't over. Dallas drove to the Redskins' 37 with seven seconds left, but Washington's Lonnie Sanders blocked a 44-yard field goal try as time expired. The one-time boo-birds were now cheering incessantly for Jurgensen, who finished 26 of 42 for 411 yards and three touchdowns.

"Dallas had a 21-point lead and was kicking our butt," Taylor said afterward. "But Sonny pulled off a miracle. We scored so fast it blew their minds."

"Twenty-eight years ago, the Redskins emigrated to Washington from Boston and since then have won 158 games in the National Football League," Washington Post columnist Shirley Povich wrote at the time. "But for lingering glow there were few, if any, to compare with Sunday's 34-31 success against Dallas."

Jurgensen enjoyed squaring off against the blue and silver during that era.

"Playing the Cowboys was a tremendous challenge for us," he said. "The rivalry grew because they were a class organization, a very good football team. For us, we were struggling and trying to get better, and anytime we played them, we knew we had to be at our best.

"We had to score a lot of points to beat them, we couldn't stop them defensively. They lined up and said, 'Hey, this is what we're going to do, see if you can beat us.'"

Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. He also hosts "Redskins Legacy," which will begin airing on Sports Talk 570: Powered by ESPN from 9:30-10 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 27. His web site is and his email is

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