Let's Play Two

Alex Barron's three holding penalties was the most talked about topic last week.

Peppers and Brian Urlacher and Tommie Harris, the Bears have their worries, too, like DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff, Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Felix Jones, Jason Witten and now Dez Bryant. 

These 16-game marathons are just excruciating, no matter the record. 

No, the Cowboys didn't beat the Redskins. Yes, they did give one away - both raising the anxiety thermometer for Sunday. No, they were only one of three in the red zone, although one of those misses was an errant 34-yard field goal and the other red-zoner was just three plays, the last of which a was penalty wiping out the winning touchdown on the last play of the game. So it wasn't like just abhorrent. 

Yes, there were no takeaways by the defense. But for the third consecutive regular-season game, there were no touchdowns allowed, either. And for the third consecutive regular-season game there were no more than 250 yards allowed. And for the third consecutive game against the Redskins, just to be sure no one thinks Mike Shanahan is some offensive genius, the Washington's offense failed to score a touchdown on the Cowboys. And for the second time in the last three games against the Redskins, the Cowboys failed to score more than one touchdown and have not scored more than two in any of the past four meetings. 

So as you see, in three of the last four games against the Redskins, no matter who their head coach has been or the starting quarterback or the defensive coordinator, the Cowboys have been one play away, one weird play like a fumble returned for a touchdown at the end of the half or a holding call on what could have been the game-ending winning touchdown, from losing. 

And if you would like me to go back some more with these games against the Redskins, the Cowboys actually lost to them the two games before that, beat 'em by all of five the game before that and then for those with good memories lost at FedEx in '06 when Romo drove the Cowboys in position for the winning field goal in a 19-19 game with mere seconds remaining, but instead there were the Redskins attempting and making the game-winning field goal with no time left on the clock after the Cowboys attempt was blocked and a facemask penalty was committed on the return to extend the game one more play. And Bill Parcells was coaching that team. 

Now how ya like 'dem trends? 

Weird things just happen when these two teams get together. For like forever. Go ask the Redskins, they know, too. They haven't forgotten Thanksgiving of '74, losing a chance to clinch a playoff berth in the final 35 seconds thanks to some guy named Clint Longley. They haven't forgotten the Cowboys beating their 12-0 1991 team at RFK even after Troy Aikman had been knocked out of the game in the third quarter. And for sure the 'Skins haven't forgotten becoming the only team in 1989 to lose to the 1-15 Cowboys, that taking place as late as Game 9 of the season, again at RFK. 

Stuff happens, I swear, when these two get together. 

"We played one game," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips tried to emphasize the other day, "and I don't think there is any statistical analysis that you can say you're doing this bad or red zone, or you're doing this good - moving the ball - all those things. ... I just don't think you can say right now. If through five games we're not doing well in the red zone, if through five games were not doing something turnover-wise then ..." 

This is what is so hard about opening games. Teams, but mostly fans, enthusiastically point toward that first game of the season, and do so for like four or five months, like as soon as the schedule comes out. And also the focus is on that first game almost as soon as training camp starts - at least the talk had been around here, the Redskins, the Redskins, the Redskins. 

And then you lose? 

Oh my ... that's it. Cut Alex Barron. Cut David Buehler. Fire Jason Garrett. All after one game

Expectations and anxiety walk hand in hand. 

"The build up to that first game, there is so much work that is done, so much preparation, there is so much excitement, and when you lose that first game it's tough to deal with," says Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking, a veteran of a few

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