"Do you believe in miracles???...Yes!!!"
- Al Michaels, 2/22/80
"Do we need a huge won???...Yes!!!"
- Scott Zakheim, 11/16/07
First, let me just say that for the first time in recent memory, there is zero buzz in this city over Cowboys week. It's truly sad. And well, maybe it's justified. The Skins are three games behind the Cowboys for the division, they will play without their best defensive player, their top outside weapon (again), and are coming off what amounts to the most egregious home defeat this decade (and we all know there have been many). The Cowboys, on the other hand, are white hot. Their offense is a juggernaut, Tony Romo has solidified himself as a top-5 NFL Quarterback and Terrell Owens is the most intimidating receiving threat in the league (and we haven't mentioned how good Marion Barber is). Their defense is 5th in the league against the run and have a fierce pass rush led by DeMarcus Ware. And oh yeah, they've just come off convincing road victories against the Eagles and Giants - two NFC East foes we couldn't take care of at home. The Boys are true Super Bowl Contenders.
On the flip side, the proverbial poopie is hitting the fan at Redskins Park. The Skins were six feet away from taking an insurmountable lead with five minutes to play on Sunday, and in a heartbeat were down eight points and looking at 1-2 in the division. Coach Joe, who has never taken so much heat from the media in his entire career, nearly got into fisticuffs with the DC locals at his Monday presser. Santana Moss and his bummed heel couldn't even bring themselves to watch practice yesterday. James Thrash, coming off a two TD performance, is on crutches. Sean Taylor is out for three weeks. And even Brandon Lloyd, who was penciled to be the number three this week, broke his clavicle on the last play of practice yesterday and is now down for the year. Wow. And it's only Thursday! Can it get any worse for the Skins? (Have no fear, Jimmy Farris is here)
Well, to be honest, this dreamer and yellow journalist is revelling in this situation and is about to create a hell of a storyline for my beloved Skinsservers.
The Skins are 10.5 point dogs, DC couldn't care less about this game, the Skins are losing headlines to a presidential debate in Nevada (where people still don't have the right to vote), and the season is slipping from their fingers. And yes, even though I believe deep in my innards that the Redskins have less of a chance to win this week than they did against the Patriots, they do have one amazing thing going for them: they're playing the Cowboys.
The Blue Stars are great, The Braves are playing poor, They're the Brady Bunch, we're an "E: True Hollywood story" - it just might be the perfect storm. Remember, after about a 10-year lull in joyous Skins Cowboys games, the last two years have been blissful. Do I need to remind you about Tana's 2 TD's in two minutes in 2005? Or Troy Vincent's block last year? The Skins have won 3 out of the last 4 of these matchups and shocked the world twice. This rivalry has become a true rivalry again, and just like the old days, the team who isn't supposed to win, usually wins. A Cowboys fan said something interesting to me today "If the Skins can keep it close, I'm really nervous. Anything can happen, it's the Redskins." They're actually scared of us! If for no other reason than the fact that our boys will be wearing the burgundy and gold.
So yes, on paper they should get creamed. But that never makes a damn bit of difference when indians go hunting for cowboys.
Don't let your babies grow up to be Cowboys,
In Case You Don't Believe Me, Here's 25 Years of Proof
1) 12/5/1982 - The Skins, the eventual Super Bowl champs, are shocked at home by the Boys 24-10. Joe Theismann is sacked 7 times.
2) 9/5/1983 - The Cowboys come back from 20 points after halftime to beat the defending champs 31-30 in the season opener at RFK on Monday Night Football.
3) 11/5/89 - The Cowboys, who finished the season 1-15, get their lone win at RFK against a playoff-bound Redskins team, 13-3.
4) 11/24/91 - The Skins, who came in undefeated (11-0), lose to the Cowboys at home thanks in large part to an Alvin Harper-caught Hail Mary just before halftime. As we all know, the Skins went on to with the big one.
5) 12/13/92 - The Redskins come up with a miracle at home, defeating the eventual Superbowl champs, 20-17, thanks to a sack-6 of Troy Aikman in the Washington end zone late in the fourth quarter.
6) 9/6/93 - Fittingly, the Redskins quickly took down the Super Bowl champs in the season opener, crushing Dallas 35-16 at home. The Skins went on to a 4-12 record and the Cowboys went on to win another Super Bowl.
7) The 1995 Season - The Redskins sweep the Cowboys in a year the Boys lose only two other games in route to another Super Bowl. The Skins only won four other games to finish at 6-10.
8) 9/12/99 - The Redskins blow a 35-14 lead and lose on a Rocket Ishmail OT TD catch, 41-35 in the season opener. The Skins would go on to make the playoffs and the Cowboys would finish at 8-8.
10) 9/18/00 - In a Monday nighter filled with huge expectations for the Skins (they got Deion and co. after making the playoffs), the Skins crumble at home 27-21 to a Cowboys team playing without Troy Aikman. Dallas would go on to win the next 8 out of 9 meetings.
11) 9/18/05 - On ring of honor night in Dallas the Skins go flat, finding themselves down 13-0 with two minutes to go, before Mark Brunell finds Santana Moss in the back of the end zone for a TD on fourth down and then again, just a minute later, for another long TD score. Skins win 14-13. The Skins finish one game ahead of the Cowboys and make the playoffs.
12) 11/5/06 - After missing a potential GW field goal, the Skins block a 35-yard Cowboys FG attempt and Sean Taylor returns the block to the Cowboys 44 yard line plus a 15 yard facemask penalty, setting up a game-winning 47 yarder by Nick Novak. Redskins 22, Cowboys 19.
Some Additional Thoughts
13) If They Lose - Losing in Dallas does not mean an end to the season by any stretch. A loss (or a win) would still set up a huge tilt in Tampa next week (who, by the way, have somehow become our other true rivals). I figure Tampa, New Orleans and Detroit to be our biggest #6 seed competitors, having a tiebreaker on 2 of 3 teams is huge. If we beat Tampa and head home to face Buffalo and Chicago, we're still looking pretty good for the post season.
14) Williams, not Gibbs, Should be Getting Slammed -
Gibbs has been getting killed for the third down call and the timeout situation. I believe that the offense actually turned a corner on Sunday and looked good for four quarters (for the first time all year). Gibbs should get credit for that and some of the blame for the debacle should go elsewhere.
Sometimes my natural Sunday commentary is curbed by the time Thursday rolls around, but one lingering criticism I had while at the game still resonates: why the heck didn't we blitz McNabb? We payed him way too much respect. The guy's accuracy is terrible, he has limited threats on the outside and does not escape the blitz like he used to. And yet, the Skins sat back and didn't force the issue at all. One specific play, a 3rd and 21, late in the third quarter could have been a huge momentum changer in the game, instead of blitzing, the Skins gave McNabb all day to convert a 20 yard pass, and gave up a QB sneak for the first down on the next play to extend the drive. Amazingly, the one time the Skins called for an all-out blitz, the Eagles knew it was coming and set up the screen for the go-ahead score. If you're so scared to blitz because Westbrook will burn you, why not spy him and send everyone else? I just don't get it. The Redskins defensive scheme let them down big time - 25 points was enough to win the game.
15) What do they do on defense?
After shpeiling about how we need to attack more on defense, I will tell you that if I'm scheming a game plan for Dallas, I would only rush three. Blitzing Romo doesn't work. If the Skins rush three and camouflage their coverage schemes, maybe they confuse the guy. The Cowboys love taking big shots and will not alter to the dink and dunk like the Patriots did. TO and company need to be fed the ball downfield and Jason Garrett will find ways to do it. If the Skins drop into coverage (pulling Landry further back in the cover 2 or 3 to help Prioulou on the big stuff) and show some different things than usual, Romo might do something stupid, as he did when Buffalo confused the heck out of him on MNF. I think Romo is way too good on the run and escapes the rush well so forcing him outside the tackle box will not work.
16) What do they do on offense?
Keep it balanced and stop showing their cards. I wish for one full game, the Skins would only pass on running downs and run on passing downs (except for 3rd and goal at the 7). I really feel CP has the hardest job in football - he's the only back who has to gain yards when everyone in the stadium knows the run is coming. They need to run CP out of spread formations, and on second down and not on first. The no-huddle had the offense moving against the Eagles so they might as well stick to that, although I don't know how affective it will be on the road. Somehow, the Skins will have ARE, Keenan McCardell and Reche Caldwell in their three receiver sets this week, and I hope that doesn't deter Joe from throwing because the Skins need to keep the Cowboys off balance.Hopefully if Campbell can get hot early then running lanes will open up for CP, similar to how they did against the Eagles (another very good run defense). A CP note - Sunday was the quickest I've seen him run it since he's been here. Choo Choo's really coming along nicely.
17) Injuries - If you ignore the fact that the Skins lost Taylor, Thrash and Lloyd this week and 'Tana is still hobbled, the injury situation is looking pretty good. The O-line keeps trucking (and is getting better with every week) and the Skins will get Marcus Washington back into the lineup (finally). Fred Smoot didn't have any setbacks with the hammy on Sunday so he should be in better form. On the other side, the Cowboys may not be with their best Guard, Leonard Davis, who hurt his ankle in practice yesterday, and might also be without starting corner Anthony Henry (cross your fingers). BTW - if Taylor plays this game is a different story, and it wouldn't take a miracle to beat them. That's a huge loss.
18) Prediction - No need. They keep it close, they win on a miracle. They go down 2 TD's early, you might as well start watching film on Tampa.