- The Washington Times - Monday, September 18, 2000

Forget the rivalry. The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys will be thinking about survival when they meet tonight at FedEx Field.
"You're going to see two teams that need to win very badly," Redskins coach Norv Turner said.
The Cowboys (0-2) have looked simply awful while losing key players like quarterback Troy Aikman and receiver Joey Galloway.
The Redskins (1-1) seek redemption after a 15-10 loss to Detroit last week. That defeat, combined with a season-ending knee injury to receiver Michael Westbrook and a sputtering offense, leaves the Redskins' Super Bowl hopes in early peril.
The Redskins face a critical test. They must show that their deep offense can survive the loss of Westbrook or defenses will walk up the safeties into eight- and nine-man fronts to stop running back Stephen Davis. A quarterback controversy could follow another bad outing by the offense. And if the team starts to flounder, the "Impeach Norv" movement could return from its two-year hiatus.
"It still comes down to the teams that handle adversity the best," Turner said. "We lost our second game. That's adversity. We've lost a very good football player. Other teams have lost players. You have to find a way to overcome it."
Said quarterback Brad Johnson: "When you lose, you can't play soon enough, and when you win, you can't celebrate long enough. It hurts when you lose, but you have to let it go because it's a long season. Everyone's disappointed, but you learn not to panic."
The Redskins need a confidence boost as they move into the brutal stretch ahead: They play the four 1999 conference finalists (Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Tennessee and St. Louis) in the next eight games, plus division rivals New York and Philadelphia and surprisingly strong Baltimore.
That makes these Cowboys perhaps the worst Dallas team since the 1989 squad that finished 1-15 the perfect opponent.
"It's a good opportunity to make up for last week and feel good about ourselves," Redskins receiver Irving Fryar said.
Said rookie linebacker LaVar Arrington: "All eyes are on us and the Cowboys. It's time for people to shine. Time for the Redskins to shine a little."
The rivalry, making its record 11th Monday night appearance, certainly has produced plenty of shine in the past:
Ken Houston saved a 14-7 Redskins victory in 1973 with a goal line tackle.
Rookie cornerback Darrell Green chased down Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett in a 31-30 loss in the 1983 opener.
The "ScabSkins" scored a 13-7 victory over a Cowboys team filled with picket line-crossing veterans in 1987, a game that inspired the recent movie "The Replacements."
Coach Rich Petitbon's victory in his 1993 debut was considered the Redskins' last great win before the club's slide into six straight non-playoff years.
"It will be fun to get after the Cowboys," Arrington said. "If it's important to the fans, it's important to us."
Turner and his assistants discussed how to balance the team's emotions in their first Monday night appearance in two years. (The Redskins also play Tennessee and St. Louis on Monday.)
"The excitement and emotion on being on Monday night I don't know if you have to do a lot," Turner said of his team's emotional readiness. "If guys do their job [during weekday practices] I know they'll be emotional."
Offensively, the Redskins want to reestablish the deep passing game. Receiver Albert Connell becomes the primary target, and Fryar also will start. James Thrash and newly signed Andre Reed will be used in frequent three- and four-receiver sets.
"I don't know if Albert has been as productive [as in past seasons] I'm not sure he's had the opportunities," Turner said. "He's going to make big plays up the field [eventually]. It adds pressure for Albert, as well as Irving and James."
Said Connell: "Defenses are playing 20 yards off to take away the deep stuff, but we're going to get back to the Redskins' offense."
Defensively, the Redskins will face backup quarterback Randall Cunningham as Aikman remains sidelined because of a concussion Sept. 3. Although Cunningham's elusiveness is more taxing on the defense, Turner said the Cowboys' offensive philosophy remains unchanged.
"They're going to run the same offense. They just feature different things when Randall's in there," Turner said. "We saw him play last week and what they want to do with him. Certainly, we have to contain him."

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide