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There is really no point in recounting and rehashing the futility
that the Redskins have experienced against the Dallas Cowboys in the course of
their domination—there’s no other word for it—of the Redskins over the past 15
games. Some games have been close, some have been routs. In some, the Cowboys’
star players have come through in the clutch, in others it’s been obscure
players shining in key moments. Sometimes the Redskins have had better talent
and/or a better record, sometimes the other guys have. Barry Switzer, Steve Spurrier, Bill Parcells, Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs, Dave Campo, it hasn’t
The Dallas Cowboys have been the Washington Redskins’ daddy.
The Dallas Cowboys have owned the Redskins like a rented
mule (or something like that).
All that, however, has nothing to do with Monday night’s
matchup. It’s not 1999, it’s not 2001, it’s 2005. The game will come down to
offense vs. defense, blocking and tackling, strategy, game plans and the like.
The past will not matter a whit.
It doesn’t matter they will have the induction ceremony for
Dallas Hall of Rings or whatever it is for Aikman, Smith, and Irvin at
halftime. That’s something for the fans and the press. If the Dallas
players are paying any attention to it whatsoever Parcells will rip them a new
one. They’re not going to try to win one for the Triplets, they’re going to try
to win one so as not to have to face the Tuna the rest of the week if they lose
a division home game.
And, speaking of the Tuna, his eight-game winning streak
against Joe Gibbs will buy a gallon of gas if it’s accompanied by about three
bucks. It means zilch.
Both teams are adjusting to new schemes and new players. Dallas
spent $50 million in bonus money to buy some upgraded defensive talent and have
switched to a 3-4 scheme. It was modestly successful in San
Diego last week as they allowed almost 300 yards and
three touchdowns to the Chargers, who were playing without star tight end
For their part, the Redskins have made the
seemingly-contradictory moves of installing a big-play passing offense while
reinstalling Mark Brunell as the starting quarterback. They racked up a
respectable 325 yards but no touchdowns in their season-opening 9-7 win over Chicago.
Neither is an elite team, neither is awful. Overall, these
two teams are a lot like the others in the muddled middle of the NFL. They both
have some strong points and some weaknesses. The two quarterbacks both are past
their primes. Brunell vs. Drew Bledsoe would have been a marquee matchup in
1998; in 2005 it’s misplaced in prime time. Dallas
has some older, slower but accomplished receivers, some suspect spots on the
offensive line and a questionable secondary with the exception of safety Roy Williams, while their defensive front seven could be very strong. Washington
counters with a very good offensive line, some small, speedy receivers whose
effectiveness with Brunell throwing the ball is questionable, and a defense
that is greater than the sum of its parts although the parts include a stud DT
in Cornelius Griffin, a Pro Bowl linebacker in Marcus Washington, a revived
Shawn Springs at cornerback and a potential superstar in safety Sean Taylor.
The game is a coin flip and it could well come down to which
running back performs better. Clinton Portis is more the proven commodity, with
over 4,000 rushing yards to his credit in three NFL seasons. And, after holding
Chicago’s Thomas Jones to 31 yards
on 15 carries last week, the Redskins will try their luck against his younger
brother Julius. Last year their luck was pretty good.
Jones’ 57 yards rushing (in 22 attempts) in the teams’
second meeting last year was by far his lowest output of the nine games he
participated in. In the other eight games he played in during his
injury-shortened rookie campaign he never gained fewer than 80 yards. And don’t
try to say that he was wearing down after a long NFL season—he hung 149 yards
on the Giants in the season finale the next week.
If Jones gains 57 yards on Monday, the Cowboys will lose.
Should Portis put up just 2like he did in Dallas
last year before he left with an injury, Washington
will have a very tough road to a win.
So who will it be? Which back will lead his team to a win
and a 2-0 start to the season?
Last year the policy in this space was that there would never
again be a prediction that the Redskins would beat the Cowboys until such time
that the Redskins actually did beat them. But, keeping with the theme here that
what’s in the past is irrelevant, the final will be:
Washington 17, Dallas