Ol’ antagonist George Allen used to try to rile us up by declaring the days before a Cowboys-Redskins game “Dallas Week.” Back then it barely raised an eyebrow, much less the blood pressure, as Dallas routinely had loftier goals than simply dispatching of a finger-licking, hand-clapping coach hopped up on the early ancestors of Red Bull.
But this week, with Sunday’s game in D.C. much more crucial to the Cowboys than the Redskins, let’s make a proclamation: "Washington Week."
If the Cowboys – with Tony Romo and Felix Jones and Kyle Kosier and Terence Newman returning from injury – are who we think they are, they’ll win this game. Sitting at 5-4 and needing to go at least 5-2 in their final seven games to sneak into the playoffs, dare I say this is even do-or-die?
That’s exactly what I’m saying. Why?
Because a loss with all hands on deck would mean 5-5 and, without stretching the imagination too far, an absolute implosion. The Cowboys would have to go 5-1 down the stretch, with games at Pittsburgh, at Philly and at home against the Giants and Ravens looming.
With a win, they would improve to 6-4 with very winnable home games upcoming against San Francisco and Seattle. A win, and Dallas could be – should be – 8-4 heading into December.
But, remember, this is Cowboys-Redskins. It’s Red Sox-Yankees, Lakers-Celtics and Rosie O’Donnell-Elisabeth Hasselbeck in shoulder pads. Sunday’s game will determine the path of a season. Stakes or not, it’s usually anything but forgettable.
I covered several Cowboys’ games in D.C. where old RFK Stadium would shake, and attended some Redskins’ games at Texas Stadium where Cowboys’ fans were actually awake. Dallas has a 56-37 series edge, including its lone win during a 1-15 nightmare in ’89. But the Redskins have won the only two times – in ’72 and ’83 – a trip to the Super Bowl was on the line.
The Top 10 Most Memorable Games in Cowboys-Redskins History:
10. Cowboys 31, at Redskins 30. 11.15.66 Aided by a controversial late-hit penalty, Don Meredith drives Dallas for Danny Villanueva’s game-winning 29-yard field goal at the gun.
9. Redskins 14, at Cowboys 13. 9.19.05 On a night supposedly belonging to the induction of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin into the Ring of Honor, Santana Moss poops the party with two long touchdown catches in the final four minutes.
8. Redskins 31, at Cowboys 10. 12.11.83 In a showdown of 12-2 powers, the Cowboys trail 14-10 in the fourth quarter when Danny White audibles to a handoff that is snuffed on a key fourth down. On the sideline CBS cameras catches coach Tom Landry wincing “No Danny! No!”
7. at Redskins 14, Cowboys 7. 10.8.73 In an epic struggle that seems to go on for minutes, Washington safety Ken Houston finally wrestles Walt Garrison down at the 1-yard line as time expires on Monday Night Football.
6. Cowboys 31, at Redskins 30. 9.5.83 Danny White rallies Dallas from a 23-3 halftime deficit with four second-half touchdown passes on Monday Night Football.
5. at Redskins 22, Cowboys 19. 11.5.06 After Washington’s Nick Novak misses a 48-yard field goal in the final minute, Dallas drives for a game-winning 35-yard attempt by Mike Vanderjagt. But the kick is blocked and returned by Sean Taylor, who is brought down by Kyle Kosier with the help of a facemask penalty. Novak re-enters and nails a 47-yarder on the game’s final play.
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4. Redskins 13, at Cowboys 7. 10.19.87 Washington’s team of picket-line crossing “scab” players shock a team of Cowboys led by Danny White, Tony Dorsett, Too Tall Jones and Randy White in a game that spawned the movie, The Replacements.
3. Cowboys 41, at Redskins 35. 9.12.99 After trailing 35-14, Dallas wins a dramatic season-opener in overtime on Troy Aikman’s 76-yard touchdown pass to Rocket Ismail.
2. at Cowboys 24, Redskins 23. 11.28.74 Trailing 16-3 and with Roger Staubach knocked out of the game with a concussion, unknown backup Clint Longley authors an improbable Thanksgiving miracle with a 50-yard touchdown pass to Drew Pearson with 28 seconds remaining.
1. at Cowboys 35, Redskins 34. 12.16.79 In Roger Staubach’s final colossal comeback he rallies Dallas from a 34-21 deficit in the last two minutes, capped by a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tony Hill that clinches the NFC East. After the game Dallas defensive end Harvey Martin tosses a funeral wreath into Washington’s somber locker room. – Richie Whitt