Continued from page 1

Beating either the Redskins or the Lions next Sunday would keep Dallas’ season afloat. Winning both would really be something. Losing both could leave the Cowboys staring at 1-4 _ they go to New England after the bye _ and would draw all sorts of comparisons to last year’s 1-7 start.

“It’s a big week for us,” tight end Jason Witten said.

Washington is 2-0 for the first time in four years, and enjoying the rare treat of being in first place in the NFC East, even if it is so early. It’s still the first big indication that coach Mike Shanahan is spending Dan Snyder’s money wisely and perhaps putting together a contender.

Beating the Giants and Cardinals at home doesn’t stamp a team for greatness. How they did it is what stands out. They’re following the Shanahan blueprint on offense and might be even more improved on defense. History is on their side, too: five of the six previous Washington teams that started 2-0 ended up in the playoffs.

“Guys are a lot more relaxed,” said outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who’s become tougher to stop with offenses also trying to slow rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “Our abilities in everything we’re showing up so far from preseason to the first two games has been through the roof. We couldn’t ask for anything more. I really feel like guys are playing well, playing hard and playing fast.”

Rex Grossman is doing an effective job leading the offense. Running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are loading up on carries and grinding out yards, and tight end Fred Davis is emerging as quite a threat. Santana Moss is someone to watch, too, as many of his best games have come against the Cowboys. In 12 career games against Dallas, he has 73 catches for 1,055 yards and six touchdowns.

The Cowboys have their own series star in DeMarcus Ware. He has nine sacks in 12 games against Washington, and comes in leading the NFL with four sacks this season. He’s already led the NFL in sacks twice in the last three years.

Dallas is 0-2 in home openers at Cowboys Stadium. Washington is 0-2 at Jerry Jones’ $1.3 billion palace, having lost by a total of four points.

Romo will be playing at home for the first time since another Monday night game _ the one against the Giants last October when he broke a collarbone and was done for the 2010 season. And this time he’ll be coming in already brittle.

“We’re going to blitz him every down if he’s playing, the first 15 plays,” Shanahan said, laughing. “No, obviously everybody’s got a game plan for everything, but usually if a guy can play he’s got a legitimate chance to do what he’s capable of doing or else they couldn’t have him in there.”