It seems like the second game against Washington means something big every year. Last season, Jason Garrett was trying to prove he was the man for the Head Coaching job. In 2009, it was Dallas’ ticket to the playoffs. In 2008, it was Tony Romo’s return to the field after a four-week hiatus in which a win was necessary for the Cowboys to make the playoffs (they did not, despite beating Washington). In 2007, a win meant the best record in Cowboys history and keeping Washington out of the playoffs (it was a loss).
Once again, the second “leg” of this rivalry means a great deal for Dallas. Predictably, Washington has squandered an early season NFC East lead and in current five-game losing streak, sit on the brink of playoff elimination. The Cowboys need this win to keep pace with other NFC East wild card teams and the New York Giants, who are only one game above Dallas in the standings with a rather tough schedule forthcoming. The consensus around the country is that the Cowboys will blow into Washington and sweep the season series by destroying a wounded team.
I know our beloved Cowboys are coming off a huge win against a good ball club, and I know Washington is mired in a five-game losing streak. If you think that has anything to do with this game in Landover then you have “eaten the cheese” as Bill Parcells used to say. Let’s explore.
In the past six seasons, the Cowboys have gone 2-4 in Landover and have only averaged 11.6 points per game in those contests. They accomplished these dubious feats while being one of the better offenses in the National Football League. The Cowboys may bring the most balanced attack they have had in years into this season’s game, but Washington is currently ranked 12th in the NFL in Total Defense; 9th in the league in pass defense and 18th in the league in run defense. Their quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck are playing extremely poorly but that negative QB play could easily be balanced by the fact that the Cowboys are tied for 4th-worst in fumbles and 21st in penalties. Not to mention our team is merely 1-3 on the road this year. With the loss of FB Tony Fiammetta (unidentified illness) the Cowboys have little room for error this weekend, despite the national consensus.
I usually like to give the bad information before the good, but it’s not all doom-and-gloom for us Cowboys fans. The Cowboys are simply a much better team than Washington. Those statistics listed above must be pointed out because it is foolish to suggest that Dallas will walk into Landover and the Redskins will simply roll over. In reality, if Dallas can restrain themselves from turning the ball over and force Rex Grossman into the same mistakes that he has been making for the past five weeks (or five years, really) then they will be successful.
We have seen this team expect success before without the work. Look no further than the match-up in Week 8 against the Eagles as proof. Or 2008. Or the 2007 playoffs. Nothing in this game can be taken for granted, and it appears as though Jason Garrett may finally have his opportunity to show the world that he has been preaching and practicing that creed with this football team.
We will all know who the Dallas Cowboys are at the end of this game. I have criticized them for not turning the corner and being soft. If Dallas wins in a convincing manner as it did last weekend, then maybe the playoff train has left the station and my opinion will be changed. If they need a final drive to win or lose, then the mentality has not changed yet. With the Redskins struggling on every front including injuries and poor play, the Cowboys should take full advantage of being a vastly superior team in every aspect today.
I have never wanted more than to be wrong today.