Heading into the next-to-last game of the 1983 season, the Redskins were determined to psyche out their foe.
The target was none other than the Dallas Cowboys.
The game had the makings of a heavyweight duel. The 12-2 teams were tied for first place in the NFC East and owned the best records in the league.
The Redskins, in their third season under coach Joe Gibbs, won Super Bowl XVII the previous season. The Cowboys had been to three straight NFC championship games. Both teams were seeking more.
A few days before the game, Redskin players bought military fatigues at a D.C. surplus store. They wore them on the flight to Dallas and on the bus to the hotel, aiming to prove they were on a mission in what was called the “Invasion of Dallas.” The media caught wind of their outlandish attire.
“The press was going nuts, they wanted one of us to talk about this,” Redskins offensive tackle George Starke said. “Our spokesman was (middle linebacker) Neal Olkewicz. Olky told reporters, `We’re just going to war, we want the Cowboys to understand this.’ It freaked the Cowboys out and got into their heads.”
“He said if you’re going to dress in these fatigues, you’d better go out and play,” Coleman said. “That’s what we came to do. We weren’t doing it to try to be boastful. It was one of those games where we weren’t going to be denied.”
The Redskins raced to a 14-0 first quarter lead on John Riggins’ short scoring run and Joe Theismann’s 40-yard pass to tight end Clint Didier.
The Cowboys scored on their last two possessions of the half to create a 14-10 game, leaving one to wonder if they’d pull off a comeback similar to the Redskins-Cowboys season-opener. In that Monday night game, Dallas rebounded from a 20-point deficit to win, 31-30.
This time, the Redskins stayed in control. Theismann threw a 43-yard scoring pass to Art Monk, Riggins ran for another touchdown, and the defense intercepted quarterback Danny White for the third time and held Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett to 34 yards rushing.
Dallas came unglued in the second half. Cowboys coach Tom Landry yelled “no, no, no, Danny” before a fourth-down audible by his quarterback that failed. A frustrated Dorsett threw the ball at the head of Redskins defensive tackle Darryl Grant, and two angry Cowboys tried to break up a celebration by the Fun Bunch, the Redskins’ sub group that slapped high-fives in the end zone after touchdowns.
Plus, Dallas also lined up only 10 players for a Redskins extra point try.
“Anytime you can get into a player’s head and get them out of their game plan, that’s a big plus for you,” Coleman said. “That’s what happened in that game. The things we were doing were working. The things they were doing were not.”
The resounding 31-10 win marked one of the Cowboys' most embarrassing defeats ever at the hands of their long-time rival. “They just beat the stink out of us,” Cowboys cornerback Ron Fellows said.
Washington captured the NFC East with a 31-22 win over the Giants in the season-finale. The victory gave the Redskins 14 wins, something no other NFC team had ever done, and secured homefield advantage in the playoffs.
They beat the Rams, 51-7, in the first round and the 49ers, 24-21, in the NFC championship game, but lost to the Raiders in Super Bowl XVIII, 38-9.
Mike Richman is the author of The Redskins Encyclopedia and the Washington Redskins Football Vault. His web site is redskinshistorian.com. Check out his Facebook Friend and Fan pages and follow him on Twitter.