Know When To Hold 'Em

averaging 34 points a game during the previous three-game winning streak, and one averaging 25 points a game over the first 12, Parcells figured his defense wasn't good enough to stop the Chiefs. He knew the Cowboys were going to have to score. You know, take some chances - like taking that hit on 16 with a dealer's 10 showing. Because if you play it conservatively, the percentages say you are going to lose anyway.

So what the hell? You just sort of hope the young tackles play well enough, and if someone knocks the ball out of your quarterback's hand, as K.C. did, that you recover the ball, as Marion Barber did. But had he not, well, you saw Marcus Spears going the other way with one of those quarterback fumbles.

Parcells then was asked what his definition of a gunslinger was.

"If you put your team at risk, however you do it, I think that's a gunslinger's attitude," he reasoned. "If you put your team at risk too much, you put your team at a lower percentage to win.

"I think there is risk and calculated risk. We calculated yesterday."

More of a gunfighter.

He was right, scoring 28 points would not have been enough on Sunday against the Chiefs. He was right, his defense just didn't match up against the so very balanced offense of Larry Johnson running the ball (143 yards) and Trent Green passing (340 yards). He was right, the Cowboys had to step on the offensive gas peddle on Sunday if they were to have a chance of surviving.

But, don't get all giddy if you subscribe to the "gunslinger" mentality. Just because Parcells decided to open up the offense on Sunday against the Chiefs doesn't mean he will do the same thing against the Redskins.

First off, the Redskins will not come into the game with the 27th-ranked defense and 30th-ranked pass defense as the Chiefs did. Washing ranks ninth in total defense and 11th in pass defense. So there is somewhat of a risk involved - higher risk - to open up against a quality defense.

Also, while the Redskins offense is improving, Washington does not come in as the third-ranked offense as Kansas City. The Skins are 14th, and they average 19.8 points a game, and unlike the Chiefs who had averaged 34 points a game during their erstwhile three-game winning streak, the Redskins have score more than 17 points only once (24) in their past four games. So they don't figure to score a bunch.

And, bet it's not 64 degrees and sunny at kickoff.

Now it will be interesting to see how Parcells sizes up this matchup. Scouting your opponent is one thing. But knowing your own team's capabilities and vulnerabilities is another, and to me, even more important. You can't ask a car averaging 160 mph a lap to suddenly pick up the pace to 180. You just might blow an engine.

So here is the warning: Don't draw a lot of everlasting conclusions from one game. It's just one game. The next game is a different game. From a strategy standpoint, you can't play them all the same.

And by the way, don't think any of this is new to Parcells, all this challenging of his offensive sanity, and the inference that behind his back his offensive players are grumbling to let them out of conservative jail. He's heard it all before.

"Just from the start of it," Parcells said nonchalantly, referring to his first year in coaching. "Nineteen sixty-four."

Now, 41 years later, he's still at it, still coaching. Guess he's played those risk-reward percentages pretty well, wouldn't you say?    MICK SHOTS


!So here is a note that got past me Sunday, since we were discussing Drew Bledsoe. Did you realize he has become the first Cowboys quarterback to throw 20 touchdown passes in a single season since . . . Troy Aikman's 23 in 1992? You kidding me? The highest total since has been Aikman's 19 in 1998.
!This Washington game is a "big game" for the Cowboys. Where have we heard that before? Not just from an overall

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