Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins
Today: 8:15 p.m.
Where: FedEx Field
TV: Chs. 4, 11
Radio: ESPN 980
WR82Antwaan Randle El
PR82Antwaan Randle El
Out: DT Anthony Montgomery (achilles).
Questionable: RB Clinton Portis (knee), CB Shawn Springs (calf).
Probable: RB Ladell Betts (knee), WR Malcolm Kelly (knee), G Pete Kendall (knee), WR Santana Moss (hamstring), T Chris Samuels (knee), DE Jason Taylor (calf), WR Devin Thomas (illness), LB Marcus Washington (shoulder).
Out: LB Bobby Carpenter (groin), RB Felix Jones (hamstring), WR Isaiah Stanback (shoulder).
Probable: G Leonard Davis (foot), G Kyle Kosier (foot), CB Terence Newman (abdomen), QB Tony Romo (right finger), TE Jason Witten (ribs).
REDSKINS SECONDARY VS. COWBOYS QB TONY ROMO
Before the Redskins upset the then-undefeated Cowboys 26-24 at Texas Stadium on Sept. 28, Dallas quarterback Tony Romo had passed for 892 yards and six touchdowns in three games. Shawn Springs was Washington’s No. 1 cornerback, as he had been since signing with the Redskins in 2004.
Much has changed since. Romo broke his right pinkie two weeks later at Arizona, where Dallas suffered the second of what would be four losses in six games - including two defeats in the three contests Romo missed - to crash from Super Bowl favorite to 5-4. Springs strained a calf in the second half in Dallas but rallied to play the next week before reinjuring the calf in practice Oct. 16. The Redskins (6-3) are a shaky 2-2 since and have a tentative hold on a wild card berth.
Romo returns Sunday in his first game with receiver Roy Williams, the ex-Detroit star who was acquired at the trade deadline to go with Terrell Owens and Jason Witten. All were unproductive while Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger took over at quarterback.
Springs might remain sidelined tonight, but Carlos Rogers has played like a No. 1 corner all year and Fred Smoot has held his own in Springs’ place. Rookie Chris Horton, whose interception of Romo sealed the victory in Dallas, has formed a solid safety tandem with LaRon Landry since taking over for Reed Doughty in that game. The Redskins signed two-time Pro Bowl corner DeAngelo Hall during last week’s bye, which followed a loss to Pittsburgh in which they held their foe under 225 passing yards for the fifth straight game. They also recorded five sacks, half as many as they managed in their previous eight games.
1. Don’t become one-dimensional
If star runner Clinton Portis can’t play because of a sprained knee and backup Ladell Betts is less than 100 percent in his return from five weeks off with a similar injury, the Redskins need to maintain some semblance of a ground game. Dallas could key on Washington’s passing game and make it a long night for quarterback Jason Campbell.
2. Keep Ware off Campbell
Washington’s Chris Samuels is a five-time Pro Bowl left tackle, but he has been unable to shut out speedy Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Ware has a sack in each of the teams’ past five meetings. Second in the NFC with 10 sacks, Ware just completed a league record-tying streak of 10 straight games with a sack.
3. Win the takeaway battle
The winner of the turnover battle usually wins the game too. Undefeated Tennessee ranks first in turnover margin for the season at plus-10. Washington is 4-1 when winning the battle and 2-2 when losing it. Dallas is 3-1 when winning or tying the battle, but 2-3 when losing it.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Whether Portis plays or not could change plenty in this matchup. Not only is he the NFL‘s No. 2 rusher, he’s also an excellent pass protector - a key factor against elite edge rushers Ware and Greg Ellis. The good news for Washington’s offense is that Campbell now knows he can beat Dallas. Receiver Santana Moss has ripped the Cowboys with 41 catches for 747 yards and four touchdowns in seven games; tight end Chris Cooley has 34 catches for 391 yards and five touchdowns in nine games against them. Dallas Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman returns from a five-game absence with an abdominal strain.
WHEN THE COWBOYS HAVE THE BALL
The Cowboys have a vastly better offense with Romo (averaging 402 yards and 28 points) than without him (232 yards and 11.3 points), but Washington limited Romo and Co. to 344 yards and 24 points in Week 4 despite playing without pass rusher Jason Taylor and Springs (who might play tonight). Bruising Cowboys running back Marion Barber has yet to have a big game against the Redskins, whose defense is fourth overall and sixth against the run. The addition of Hall will help downfield against Owens, Williams and Patrick Crayton; linebackers London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh are the top run-stuffers.
Dallas kicker Nick Folk is excellent, but he has attempted just 11 field goals, making nine. Washington’s Shaun Suisham is 18-for-23. Both teams are on their second punters - the Cowboys’ Mat McBriar is out with an injury and Washington’s Durant Brooks was cut. Neither replacement has been special. The only superb return or coverage unit for either team is the Redskins’ kickoff group, which ranks fifth. Their punt team is 30th, but Dallas’ punt return group is just 27th with Crayton replacing the suspended Adam Jones. If Moss, not Antwaan Randle El, were Washington’s regular punt returner, the Redskins would have the edge.
- David Elfin