Cunningham shines for Cowboys

Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2000

LANDOVER, Md. -- Troy Aikman might not get his job back as the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback.

Washington's Brad Johnson may not keep his.

Randall Cunningham, filling in while Aikman recovers from the ninth concussion of his career, threw two touchdown passes Monday night as Dallas beat stumbling Washington 27-21.

Cunningham had a 76-yarder to Chris Warren and a 16-yarder to Jackie Harris as Washington, which entered the season as a prohibitive favorite to win the NFC East, lost for the second time in three games.

''We've got to play better in all areas for the quarterback to play better,'' Washington coach Norv Turner said after another ragged game by Johnson, who was 30-of-48 for 241 yards but threw a critical interception late in the fourth quarter.

''There are 11 guys out there and they have to perform in sync. We're not in sync.''

Asked if he might replace Johnson with Jeff George, Turner replied: ''That's not a question I'm going to deal with now.''

It was the first victory of the season for the Cowboys, who allowed 73 points in losing to Philadelphia and Arizona.

Cunningham passed for 185 yards and scrambled for 32 yards on three carries, and also had a 44-yard completion to Rocket Ismail to set up the pass to Harris that made it 24-14 with 9:19 left.

''That's why we got him. We felt he could play for us if Troy was hurt,'' said Dave Campo, who won his first game as Dallas' head coach. ''The thing he did was move around and make plays with his legs.''

The Redskins made it 24-21 with a nine-play, 69-play drive that was capped by Johnson's 7-yard TD pass to Mike Sellers. But Izell Reese intercepted Johnson's pass with 2:09 left to set up Tim Seder's 38-yard field goal.

It was Dallas' sixth consecutive victory over Washington.

''It could have been any team out there. We needed a victory badly,'' Warren said. ''If we were 0-3 it would have been tough. Who knows what can happen now.''

It also makes the next two games critical for the Redskins, whose free-agent signings during the offseason made them one of the Super Bowl favorites -- at least in their own minds and the minds of their fans. They face the undefeated New York Giants, who lead the division by two games, at the Meadowlands next Sunday night, then play Tampa Bay the following Sunday.

''We can't worry about who we play,'' Turner said. ''We just have to play better.''

Washington, which looked sluggish in a win over Carolina the first week and a loss in Detroit last week, was even shakier this week against what had been a porous Dallas defense.

This game ended much the same way as last week's 15-10 loss in Detroit -- with a critical interception of Johnson.

Dallas had a 14-7 lead at halftime.

Washington scored first on a 7-yard fourth-down run by Stephen Davis in the first quarter on a 32-yard drive set up by Champ Bailey's 54-yard punt return on a handoff from Deion Sanders.

But six minutes later, Cunningham dropped the snap on a first down from the Dallas 24, but managed to pick it up and hit Warren 10 yards ahead of Sam Shade for the TD that tied the score. Shade appeared to be looking at the fumble as Warren breezed by him.

The second Dallas TD came after Leon Lett knocked the ball from Johnson's hands and Greg Ellis recovered at the Washington 49. Eight plays later, on fourth and inches from the 3, Emmitt Smith took a pitchout from Cunningham and drove into the end zone.

Smith carried 24 times for 83 yards.

Seder's 32-yard field goal on the first series of the second half made it 17-7 for Dallas. The key play on that drive was a 27-yard pass-interference call on Darrell Green.

But the next time Dallas got the ball, Cunningham's first-down pass deflected off Warren and into Shade's arms at the Cowboys' 24. Davis carried five straight times, going in from the 1 to cut Washington's deficit to 17-14.

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