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NFL.com: No love lost between Cowboys and Redskins


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No love lost between Cowboys and Redskins

By Pat Kirwan

NFL.com Senior Analyst


(Sept. 27, 2004) -- I have to hand it to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Redskins owner Dan Snyder. They correctly figured out that coaching can add a competitive edge in the National Football League, and they went out and got two of the greatest coaches in the history of the game to run their teams.

Bill Parcells and Joe Gibbs combined have 301 victories between them, and the expectations in both cities for some more winning is at an all-time high. For all Joe Gibbs has accomplished on his way to the Hall of Fame, he is only 6-11 versus a Bill Parcells-coached team. It's not just Gibbs who has had a problem with Parcells, but the Redskins in general -- Parcells swept Washington last year.

Ask anyone in the DC area and they will tell you the Cowboys are their biggest rival, but they have only beaten Dallas once in the past 12 games! Worst of all, Dallas has won in Washington five of the last six times. Coach Gibbs has his work cut out for him.


If you want to defend your reasons for thinking the Redskins will win this game, keep in mind the following points:

The Redskins run defense is tops in the NFL after two weeks and only gives up 46 yards a game.

Clinton Portis went 279 carries or receptions without fumbling before last week and should be back on track.

The Redskins defense has given up one touchdown in two games.

Redskins opponents have only converted four of 26 third downs.

Four of the six Redskins sacks come from non-defensive linemen, which means the blitz is getting to the quarterback.

Now, if you want to defend your position that the Cowboys will win this game, keep in mind the following points:

Dallas is averaging 432 yards of offense a game.

Vinny Testaverde has only been sacked two times in 85 pass attempts.

Dallas controls the ball for almost 33 minutes a game.

Throw out the 64-yard run by Portis in Week 1 and he only averages 3.0 yards per carry.

Hard to tell who the main Cowboys receiver is because Terry Glenn, Keyshawn Johnson and Antonio Bryant all have 11 receptions each and all have racked up over 150 yards.


Bill Parcells would love to have an explosive running game to control the clock and balance up his offense. Heck, he probably misses Troy Hambrick, whom he let go in the offseason, because he rushed for 189 yards last year in the 27-0 beating of the Redskins. Eddie George will plod along and grab 40 or 50 yards, especially behind Flozell Adams and Larry Allen on the left side. If this team ever traded for Corey Dillon last spring to run behind those big linemen, the Cowboys offense would be hard to beat. Instead Parcells turns to his strength, and that is the forward pass. Testaverde will put the ball up close to 40 times tonight and will spread it out among his three wide receivers. I also expect tight end Jason Witten to be on the receiving end of at least five passes. Look for Testaverde to get rid of the ball off the quick three-step drop or from the shotgun because of the constant blitz pressure of the Redskins.

No team in the NFL is as willing as the Redskins right now to bring pressure from every possible defensive position. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams will bring linebacker pressure through his right side just in case Dallas has decided to run the ball, and he can have his people at the point of attack. Testaverde is a stationary target and the Redskins defenders know the launch point for the passing game is five yards behind the center. Whenever you see the Cowboys offense in a "bunch" set with a tight end and two wide receivers close together, keep an eye out for pressure away from the set. Washington knows how much Dallas likes to let Testaverde set his feet and throw to the open receiver when they explode from this formation. Rarely are there audibles when they do run this phase of their offense, so a corner blitz from Shawn Springs or an outside linebacker blitz from LaVar Arrington while the front side zones off the bunch receivers should be in the game plan.

The Cowboys will put up some yardage in this game, but recent history says they don't score the points they should. Two touchdown passes and three interceptions in 85 pass plays won't scare the Redskins at home. The home field crowd of 90,000 will have an effect on the Cowboys offense -- especially in the shotgun.


The first piece of good news is that Mark Brunell will start at quarterback. I expect him to use an occasional "hard count" to get the aggressive Cowboys defense to jump offsides. Watching the Cowboys defense on video tape, it is very clear that the front four can get off the ball as well as any front in the league. A good veteran QB can help slow that down. The Redskins will run the ball and they will be patient with the run if it gets off to a slow start. The penetrating Cowboys front is tempting to trap on the playside as the defenders get up field quickly, but the backside of those traps and counters can be a big problem. It's a lot harder to cut off the backside against the kind of quickness Dallas possesses, so I expect Washington to come out and spread the Cowboys out a bit with some three wide receiver sets or even some two tight end sets and run the zone cutback play to get the Dallas defense flowing one way and have Clinton Portis work back.

I spoke with Portis late last week on Sirius Satelite Radio, and he is hoping for a big night. I asked him if this game rivals his experiences with Denver at home against the Chiefs and Raiders, and he said it sounds like an even bigger deal to play the Cowboys.

When the Redskins decide to utilize the passing attack, I like the matchups between Redskins receivers Laveranues Coles and Rod Gardner versus Cowboys corners Pete Hunter and Terence Newman. One of my favorite Gibbs offensive traits is the guarantee that he will throw some deep balls in this game. Back in his first coaching stint with Washington, you could always count on Gibbs to go deep about two times a quarter no matter what the game was shaping up like. I think Coles has some success on Hunter and Gardner takes advantage of his three inch height advantage on Newman.

Dallas watched the Redskins-Giants game tapes very closely during the week and know the Giants had success pressuring the Gibbs offense, so I expect Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer to heat things up, especially since Brunell has a questionable hamstring and may not be as mobile as usual. Brunell will never come to the line of scrimmage without finding Cowboys safety Roy Williams and accounting for him with a blocker. According to one offensive coordinator who has coached against Roy Williams, "The best way to deal with Roy is to start the running game at him and work back away from him. If you try to just run away he flows to the play, if you try to run at him he defeats the block and makes the play, so get him tied up at the line of scrimmage and use the cutback."


I look forward to this classic matchup of two heavyweight coaches in one of the great NFL stadiums with close to 100,000 fanatical fans, a marching band and the guys dressed up in their Hog costumes. It should be a low scoring game, but these fans don't need a lot of points to be entertained. They will be screaming for first downs, big hits and great blocks. They know their football in the Nation's capital, and they are starving for a Redskins win over the Cowboys. I think they get one in a game decided by a field goal, but don't expect the Dallas Cowboys to go down easy. Parcells will pull out all the stops with a trick play or two, a wrinkle on special teams and as many pass plays as it takes.

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A bunch of Cowpuke fans over on Cowboyzone are saying our D sucks. I don't know what they are seeing but they are either blind or still think its 2003.

The D line has been stout for two games and Tiki is a quality RB which Dallass doesn't have. Vinny will have to throw it and our LB's should tee off on him.

The Cowpukes are in for a rude awakening.

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we are not playing Lavar, i think that will hurt us a little. Also, our d has played against one really bad offense and one average offense. I think our run defense should hold, im skeptical of our pass defense, hopefully Taylor will finally make the impact.

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