- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 24, 2002

When you're 6-9, playing out the string of another NFL season and preparing to watch the playoffs from your living room sofas for the third straight season, you'll gladly embrace any form of motivation you can conjure up.
For the Washington Redskins, that motivation comes in a familiar form: the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington rarely needs to be reminded of the importance of "Dallas Week," but Sunday's season finale at FedEx Field carries even more incentive than usual. The Redskins aren't just aiming to beat their long-time NFC East rivals; they're out to end a 10-game losing streak to the Cowboys.
"It's important for all of us to beat the Cowboys," coach Steve Spurrier said yesterday, 24 hours removed from a 26-10 victory over the Houston Texans. "For [quarterback] Patrick [Ramsey], me, [owner] Dan Snyder, [defensive coordinator] Marvin Lewis it's important for our fans. They need a taste of victory over that team, too."
Washington hasn't defeated Dallas since a 21-16 win on Oct.13,1997. During that time, the Redskins have had four coaches (Norv Turner, interim replacement Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer and Spurrier); the Cowboys have had three (Barry Switzer, Chan Gailey and Dave Campo).
Said Redskins guard Tre Johnson: "This thing's been going on longer than 'Star Wars.'"
Another Washington loss would extend the streak into 2003, by which time Dallas is expected to have yet another new coach. Owner Jerry Jones has all but officially fired Campo, with Bill Parcells hotly rumored to be his successor.
Jones has shown such little public display of confidence in Campo that when asked whether a change might be made before Sunday's finale, the owner/general manager didn't totally rule out the possibility.
"I don't think that would be the case," Jones said, and nothing more.
For a change, the Redskins actually appear to be a more stable franchise than the Cowboys at the moment. For the first time in three years, the coach is expected to return. And though Washington is still assured of a losing season, there were signs of encouragement in Sunday's victory over Houston.
Running backs Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson, who are expected to take over for Stephen Davis next season, each ran for more than 100 yards. The offensive line played its best game of the season, paving the way to a season-high, 247-yard rushing attack.
And Washington's defense held the Texans to 166 total yards of offense and no touchdowns. (Houston scored its lone TD on a blocked punt.)
A win over the Cowboys would, at the very least, send the Redskins into the offseason with raised spirits.
"This game will definitely be gratifying, to have them back here at home for the last game of the season," defensive end Renaldo Wynn said. "We have a chance to end the season on a good note against a big rival. It'd be a great holiday present for everybody, I'll tell you that."
Of course, Washington went into its Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium feeling good about its chances of ending the streak and then promptly blew a 10-point, third-quarter lead en route to a 27-20 loss.
"Even though they're a little bit in disarray with their coach, they seem to love to play the Redskins, that's for sure," Spurrier said. "So we'll get their best shot, we know that. We want their best shot."
But can Washington overcome the demons of the 10-game swoon against the Cowboys, plus the prospects of an 0-6 record against the NFC East (its first winless season in division play since 1994)? Those numbers have been thrown in the Redskins' faces all so much, they're impossible to ignore.
"You definitely don't want to add to the streak and all the [expletive]," said Johnson, who rejoined the Redskins this season after playing for them from 1994 through 2000.
"I think the streak affects a lot of guys around here mentally. A lot of guys, even the coaches, have bought into it, even guys who have never been here before. You buy into the hype that the media creates. Just do your job."
From the moment he was hired, Spurrier has embraced the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry. At his introductory news conference, he promised to give Snyder a game ball when his team beat Dallas.
It didn't happen on Thanksgiving, and if it doesn't happen Sunday, Spurrier and the Redskins will have the entire offseason to think about it.
"We need to beat them, sure we do," Spurrier said. "But we didn't do it last game; we didn't finish the game. We'll try to finish it this week."

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