- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

The Washington Redskins know the Dallas Cowboys don't fear them. After all, rivals seldom do.
The Cowboys will seek their ninth straight victory over the Redskins today at FedEx Field. Dallas is 3-20 against the rest of the NFL since last season but 3-0 against Washington. In a rivalry marked by the Cowboys derailing Redskins playoff hopes, and Washington's two NFC Championship victories, the game once again might determine the Redskins' postseason fate.
No matter that the Redskins have won five straight while the Cowboys are on their fifth quarterback change of another meaningless season. The Cowboys always believe they'll beat Washington.
"They're coming in thinking even though they don't have a great record, they feel as though they can beat us because we haven't beaten them," Redskins guard Ben Coleman said.
Even Cowboys coach Dave Campo concedes Dallas has an edge because of the streak though perhaps not enough of one to overcome poor play. The Cowboys won 9-7 on a last-second field goal following a Washington fumble Oct. 15, and Campo believes turnovers might again decide the game.
"There is something to having the feeling that there's a jinx or there's something there, but you still have to execute," he said. "If we turn the ball over, it will be a long day for the Dallas Cowboys and vice versa."
Washington (5-5) last week became the first team to win five straight after opening 0-5. Beating Dallas (2-8) would leave the Redskins one game behind NFC East leader Philadelphia (7-4), with only lowly Arizona (4-6) between Washington and a first-place showdown with Philadelphia on Dec. 16. However, with only five games remaining, the Redskins probably can't stumble against the Cowboys and still catch the Eagles.
Dallas could be the spoiler once more, but the rivalry has swept through Washington's locker room. Only five Redskins remember the last victory over the Cowboys, but many have embraced the series' intensity. They've worked too hard in recent weeks to be set back by the Cowboys once again. The Cowboys had better respect the Redskins, one Washington player said, or they'll get paid back for each of the eight losses in one knockdown win.
"We've been getting respect from our peers for the last six to seven weeks even before the winning streak," Redskins quarterback Tony Banks said. "If you don't have your 'A' game and shoulders aren't as fresh as they need to be, it's going to be a long game."
Guard Dave Szott has looked for signs of "BGS" that has become the hot phrase among players. That's "Big Game Syndrome," where he notices coaches and players getting a little tight before a meaningful game. Szott saw it before the Redskins' 13-3 victory over the Eagles last week, but he has found the team more light-hearted in recent days.
"Dave Szott said no 'Big Game Syndrome,'" Banks said. "We're not having the mentality around here that we have it all figured out. I don't think anybody can at 5-5."
Said defensive end Marco Coleman: "We still have a chance to fall down the hill or get to the top."
The Redskins might rely on the defense to set up the offense. Washington probably will blitz Dallas rookie quarterback Quincy Carter often in the first quarter hoping to create turnovers. Jumping to a big early lead is Washington's primary goal. Linebacker LaVar Arrington might be assigned to Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith, who gained 105 yards in the first meeting.
Campo realizes the Redskins will play eight-man fronts and leave the secondary to single-cover receivers. If the pass rush harasses Carter and Smith is neutralized, playing the safety closer to the line isn't a big gamble.
"The Redskins are not using a lot of tricks," Campo said. "They're using their athletic ability. They've got good players on that defense. They're lining up and playing base defense. They're not doing a lot of blitzing. They're either playing man-to-man or they're double-covering wide receivers. Couple the corners they have with the pass rush they have that's what causes you to have a good defense."
Offensively, the Redskins figure to run Stephen Davis and Ki-Jana Carter nearly 40 times to control the clock, with Banks probably throwing 20 passes. Washington has won time of possession in four straight games behind the offensive line's emerging dominance, and the Redskins would like to do it again. They'd rather simply grind it out against Dallas.
Beating the Cowboys would show that the Redskins truly have overcome not only their bad start but their recent history of late-season folds. The streak has players sensing they're in a special season. After all, no team opening 0-5 has ever reached the playoffs.
"It is a little fairy-tale feeling on Sundays," Banks said. "But now, we put it behind us."

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