Pivotal Pro Football Moments
pivotal NFL postseason moment: A decision by a coach or an action by a player that establishes, continues or changes the momentum of a playoff game.
"He shouldn't have said that."
1972 NFC Championship: Dallas Cowboys @ Washington Redskins
George Allen's second year as Washington head coach began with a quarterback contro­versy. Billy Kilmer, "the retread quarterback from New Orleans," was the starter for the first three games. The Redskins won the first two, but Kilmer threw for a total of only 154y in the victories. When the Skins lost the third game, Allen decided to start 38-year-old Sonny Jur­gensen the following week.
Anchored by the best defense in the NFC, the Redskins won the first three games with Sonny under center. But early in the next game against the Giants, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon and was lost for the season.
NFL pundits predicted the Redskins wouldn't make the playoffs with Kilmer at quarterback. Determined to prove his critics wrong, Billy led Washington to six straight wins to clinch a playoff berth and home field advantage throughout the postseason.
The Redskins and their "Over the Hill Gang" defense stifled Green Bay 16-3 in the division round to earn a spot in the NFC title game against NFC East archrival Dallas. The home team won both of their meetings during the regular season, Washington 24-20 October 22 and Dallas 34-24 December 9.
Kilmer recalled: "It was always a lot of fun going against the Cowboys' defense. They had one of the very finest defenses in the league ... and you had to execute with precision to beat them. They were big and physical, but overpowering you wasn't their game. It took a thinking man to beat Coach Tom Landry's defense. They would always be prepared to stop what you do best."
Dallas also had its own quarterback controversy. Craig Morton started 14 games, including the two regular season meetings with the Redskins, but Roger Staubach came off the bench in the Division round the previous week to lead a miraculous come-from-behind victory over the 49ers. So Landry went with Roger the Dodger against the Redskins.
Landry inadvertantly gave Kilmer extra motivation for the game. Billy recalled, "I remem­ber not being able to sleep the night before the game. I got up around six o'clock that morn­ing–it was New Year's Eve day–and went down to the restaurant to get a cup of coffee. I picked up the paper and there was a statement by Landry that read, 'One of the things that gives us an edge is that Roger Staubach is a better athlete than Kilmer.' He shouldn't have said that. That comment had me on edge the rest of the day–it was a four o'clock game and I couldn't wait to get at the Cowboys."

Billy Kilmer passes as Walt Rock (76) protects one side, and C Len Hauss (56) blocks Jethro Pugh.
Redskins Target Waters
After a scoreless first quarter in 49° weather, Curt Knight put the Redskins on top with an 18y field goal.
Soon afterward, Kilmer connected with WR Charley Taylor on a 41y pass. "We were going after Charlie Waters at left corner," said Kilmer. "He was a young player who had beaten out Herb Adderley for the job that season." That led to a touchdown pass to Taylor from the 15 to put Washington up 10-0.
Dallas move deep into Washington territory later in the half and should have had a touch­down. But RB Calvin Hill overthrew FB Walt Garrison in the end zone. So the Cowboys set­tled for a 35y Toni Fritsch field goal. Washington 10 Dallas 3 at halftime.

Jack Pardee tackles Roger Staubach.
Kilmer felt he was outplaying Staubach but added: "The line play made a big difference, I must admit. I received good protection while our defense seemed to be chasing poor Roger all day."
Kilmer Picks on Backup
Dallas' secondary problems got worse when Waters broke his arm in the third quarter and was replaced by Mark Washington. Kilmer continued to exploit that area. "We iced the game in the fourth quarter when I threw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Taylor."
With the defense stifling the Cowboys, the Redskins played conservatively on offense but were still able to add three more Knight field goals. FINAL SCORE: REDSKINS 26 COWBOYS 3

Charley Taylor catches TD pass behind Mark Washington.
Post Game
Aided by an offensive line that gave up no sacks, Kilmer outplayed Staubach. Billy com­pleted 14 of 18 passes for 194y with no interceptions. Staubach complete just nine of 20 pass for 98y and ran five times for 59y, which was more than all the other Dallas backs combined.
The Redskins gave Coach Allen another game ball. C Len Hauss spoke for his teammates. "Here's ball for a guy that works real, real hard, and he's been in a lot of these games before, but it took a lot of castoffs, a bunch of Redskins and a helluva great group of guys to get him his second one."
Landry was asked why he went with Staubach the whole game. "We never moved the ball at all. That's why I didn't change quarterbacks. If we had been in a different situation, moving the ball but having the breaks go against us, I would have gone with Morton."
Dallas All-Pro DT Bob Lilly summarized the game. "Give them credit. They wanted it. ... They just beat the hell out of us."
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