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Crunch time for Redskins

Dallas has won 10 of last 11 meetings


Date published: 11/2/2003

Dallas has won 10 of last 11 meetings

ASHBURN--In recent years, the rivalry has gotten a little lopsided.

Like the spider against the bug spray. Or the crumb against the vacuum cleaner.

The Dallas Cowboys have defeated the Washington Redskins in 10 of their last 11 meetings.

And these have been some of the bad Cowboys teams.

The Redskins did start to save face last season, taking the second matchup of the year, 27-20.

"In rivalries, you've got to win some and lose some," Redskins linebacker Lavar Arrington said. "Obviously they've dominated the series over the last few years. But we started a streak of our own last year. Now we'll see if we can build on it."

This Cowboys outfit, however, enters today's 4:15 p.m. home game against the Redskins atop the NFC East with a 5-2 mark.

The Redskins, meanwhile, are riding a three-game losing streak and are 3-4 on the season.

"Where this could put us in the division is more important than the rivalry," Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey said. "We need a win."

After three consecutive 5-11 seasons, the Cowboys hired Bill Parcells as their head coach, and "The Tuna" has made big things happen. They've done it with their defense. Dallas has the top-ranked unit in the NFL, holding opponents to 244.7 yards per game.

The combination of that damaging defense and Washington's bruised and battered offense could produce some ghoulish results for the visitors.

The Redskins will take an interesting approach to running the football this afternoon. With Trung Canidate extremely questionable with a high ankle sprain and Ladell Betts doubtful with a broken arm, the carries will have to come from elsewhere.

"We have confidence in the guys we'll have in the backfield," Ramsey said. "I don't think it will change much about what we do."

All indications are that the Redskins will rotate between fullback Rock Cartwright and kick-return specialist Chad Morton.

Cartwright, used primarily as a blocker, has 15 carries for 30 yards and two touchdowns this season. He's gotten the ball mainly in short-yardage situations.

Cartwright played fullback at Kansas State and says he hasn't played an entire game at halfback since high school. The 5-foot-7, 223-pounder gained 2,060 yards as a prep senior.

"It's about getting used to being seven yards deep rather than four yards deep," Cartwright said of the adjustment. "You're able to see the big holes and read the defense a lot better when you're seven yards deep."

Morton has 13 carries for 47 yards on the season. He saw his most extensive action when Betts went down in the teams' 24-7 loss to the Buffalo Bills, as he gained 35 yards on eight carries.

Ramsey said he's back to full strength after leaving during the fourth quarter of the loss to Buffalo with a bruised throwing hand and sore shoulder.

The Redskins brought in Joe Bugel--the team's offensive line coach from 1981-89--to look at what was going wrong in pass protection.

Last week the Redskins released backup quarterback Rob Johnson and signed Tim Hasselbeck. So if Ramsey, who's been sacked 22 times, goes down, he would be replaced by either Hasselbeck or seventh-round draft pick Gibran Hamdan.

"I've put in a lot of time in terms of learning everything from the terminology and calling everything in the huddle and knowing what everyone's doing," Hasselbeck said. "I feel like I have a good jump on things, considering the situation."

Today's game could mark the Redskins debut of defensive lineman Darrell Russell. The two-time Pro Bowler and second overall pick in the 1997 draft cleared waivers after he was let go by the Oakland Raiders following a 1 year suspension by the NFL for testing positive for Ecstasy.

Russell was charged with rape in 2002, but the charges were later dropped.

Said Arrington: "He'll be obligated to do the same things as we do--worry about his number and do what he can to help this team win."

To reach ADAM HIMMELSBACH: 540/374-5442 ahimmelsbach@freelancestar.com

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