November 13, 2010

1966: Hayes & Cowboys Overcome Taylor & Redskins in Aerial Shootout

Over the years, the rivalry between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins has produced many exciting games. One of those contests – and one in which two of the best pass receivers of the era excelled – occurred on November 13, 1966 at DC Stadium.

The Cowboys, in their seventh season of existence, had been steadily developing talent and were now contenders for the first time. Head Coach Tom Landry had built his reputation as a defensive innovator, and the unit built around DT Bob Lilly, DE George Andrie, CB Cornell Green, FS Mel Renfro, and linebackers Chuck Howley and Lee Roy Jordan was a strong one. However, Dallas also featured an explosive offense led by QB Don Meredith. While the running of FB Don Perkins and HB Dan Reeves was productive, the presence of second-year split end Bob Hayes (pictured above), former Olympic champion in the 100 meter dash, gave the Cowboys an outstanding deep threat. They came into the game at Washington with a 5-2-1 record.

Washington had not had a winning season in eleven years and was under the direction of a new head coach, former all-time great quarterback Otto Graham. Graham chose to emphasize the pass, and with QB Sonny Jurgensen (pictured at left) and a receiving corps of split end Charley Taylor (converted during the season from running halfback), flanker Bobby Mitchell, and TE Jerry Smith, he could do so. However, there wasn’t much of a running game, and the defense was highly suspect. The Redskins were 5-4 coming into the game.

The score was 7-6 after the first quarter as Washington’s Charlie Gogolak kicked field goals of 35 and 33 yards and, in between, the Cowboys got a touchdown on a one-yard run by Meredith. Neither offense was able to make any big plays.

That changed in the second quarter when Meredith connected with Hayes for a 52-yard touchdown. The Cowboys defense continued to stifle the Washington offense and Dallas took a 14-6 lead into halftime.

The score was 21-6 early in the third quarter when Meredith passed to the speedy Hayes for a 95-yard TD. But it took the Redskins just three plays to come back with a touchdown of their own. Jurgensen completed passes of 11 yards to HB Joe Don Looney, 30 yards to Taylor, and then four yards for the score to Smith.

A few minutes later, Jurgensen tossed a long pass that Taylor gathered in at the Washington 35. Fighting off Dallas defenders, the ex-halfback ran the ball the rest of the way for a 78-yard touchdown. The Redskins were now down by just a point.

The defense came up with a big play as LB Sam Huff recovered a Dallas fumble at the Washington 20; the Redskins drove to an 11-yard field goal by Gogolak that put them ahead 23-20, still in the third period.

The Cowboys surged back, driving 59 yards with HB Dan Reeves plunging the last yard for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. However, Taylor put the Redskins back in front with a diving catch of an 18-yard pass from Jurgensen with 5:36 left on the clock.

Dallas was unable to score as time ran down, but Washington was unable to run out the clock. Still, Pat Richter’s punt was downed at the Cowboys’ three yard line by Jerry Smith and the situation didn’t look promising for Dallas with a minute left and no timeouts.

Washington went to a three-man rush in an effort to prevent long passes, but on the first play Meredith connected with flanker Pete Gent for a 26-yard gain. Rolling out on first-and-ten at his own 29, the quarterback took off on a 12-yard run before stepping out of bounds. After an incomplete pass followed by a one-yard completion, Meredith went to Gent again on third-and-nine, picking up 25 yards to the Redskins’ 33.

On first down, Meredith scrambled and was chased out of bounds after running six yards, where a late hit by LB John Reger gave the Cowboys an extra 15 yards to the Washington 12. With 16 seconds left, Danny Villanueva kicked a 20-yard field goal and Dallas came away with a 31-30 win.

The Cowboys piled up 515 total yards to 341 for the Redskins – however, while Dallas gained 132 yards on the ground, Washington’s running attack accounted for just 23 yards on 16 attempts.

Don Meredith completed 21 of 29 passes for 406 yards (second most of his career) with the two long touchdowns against one interception; he also ran for 32 yards on six carries. Bob Hayes had a huge performance, catching 9 passes for 246 yards and both TDs. Dan Reeves led the Cowboys in rushing with 59 yards on 13 carries, followed by Don Perkins, who ran the ball 15 times and gained 41 yards.

The Redskins had some significant performances of their own in the loss. Sonny Jurgensen was successful on 26 of 46 throws for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions (the Redskins suffered no turnovers). Charley Taylor (pictured at right) had 11 pass receptions for 199 yards with two scores – his big day was trumped by Hayes’ spectacular showing. HB A.D. Whitfield led the anemic running game with 17 yards on 7 attempts.

Dallas went 4-1 the rest of the way – losing another hard-fought game to the Redskins in the rematch at the Cotton Bowl – to finish at the top of the Eastern Conference with a 10-3-1 record. They lost to Green Bay in the NFL title game. Washington broke even at 7-7 to place fifth in the eight-team conference.

Bob Hayes had career-highs in pass receptions (64), yards (1232), and touchdowns (a league-leading 13). His 246 receiving yards against the Redskins remained the club record until 2009. A consensus first-team All-NFL choice, he also was selected to the Pro Bowl for the second of four straight seasons.

Charley Taylor, making the transition to wide receiver in his third season, led the NFL with 72 pass receptions. His 1119 yards and 12 touchdowns (he added three more rushing) were high marks for his career.

Don Meredith (pictured at left) achieved career-highs in passing yards (2805) and TD passes (24). He was selected to the Pro Bowl for the first of an eventual three straight times to close out his career.

Sonny Jurgensen led the NFL in pass attempts (436), completions (254), and yards (3209). His 28 touchdown passes ranked second. He went to the Pro Bowl for the third of an eventual five times.