Beware The Ambush

grasp. The Cowboys were 6-5, and had lost three of their past four and two straight. Sound familiar? Well, the Cowboys won that game, 24-21, and as it turned out, was the only legitimate loss for the eventual Super Bowl XXVI champion Redskins who finished 14-2 since they basically punted the meaningless final regular-season game - their only other loss. 

The roles reversed the following season. The Cowboys came struttin' into Washington D.C. with an 11-2 record and a victory over the 8-5 Redskins away from clinching their first NFC East title since 1985. But this weird late end-zone fumble recovered for a touchdown gave the Redskins a 20-17 victory over the eventual Super Bowl XXVII champion Cowboys. Johnson was so mad on the flight home, he suspended dinner service. 

Come with me to the 1993 season opener, the defending Super Bowl champions opening up at RFK against the dreaded Redskins, but without Emmitt Smith, in a contract dispute with Jones. The Redskins pounded some reality into the Cowboys, beating them, 35-16. OK, that was only the opener, but look what we were dealing with: The Cowboys went on to win back-to-back Super Bowl titles and the Redskins would win only three more games that year, finishing 4-12, the consequences of both finishes siphoning off Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner to become Washington's next head coach. 

Want to try 1995, the year the Cowboys finished 12-4 and the Redskins 6-10? Why, the Redskins beat the Cowboys twice that season, beating the 4-0 Cowboys and then the 10-2 Cowboys. 

Or 2000 and 2001? The Cowboys would finish 5-11 both of those seasons. The Redskins would finish 8-8 both seasons. But guess what, the Cowboys swept the season series from the Redskins both seasons, accounting for 40 percent of their eventual victory totals those years. 

And just for good measure, although this might seem as if piling on since the majority of this Cowboys roster remembers last year when the 2-5 Redskins arose from the defeated to beat the 4-3 Cowboys at FedEx Field, 22-19, kicking the winning field goal even after the clock had totally expired, a new one for sure in this 94-game series. 

Go figure. All of it. They threw sense out the window when it comes to Cowboys-Redskins. The only common thing about these occurrences is their spooky regularity. 

So here we go for the 95th time, and me, I'd beware of the Cowboys heralded as 10- or 11-point favorites. For as Ellis knows, dating back to his first Redskins entanglement, "They are up for that game," meaning Cowboys-Redskins. 

And he doesn't mean suddenly come Sunday the Redskins will transform into fire and brimstone. He means now, during the week, when you begin preparing for what takes place on Sunday. As Canty says, "Everybody wants to win on Sunday. But do you want to win on Thursday?" 

The Cowboys are saying, yes. 

"I'm speaking for the team," Owens said. "There is a real fire, a real hunger." 

That's good. There needs to be. Because below the surface of Cowboys and Indians, history tells us they had better be. 

And history don't lie.      

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