FRISCO, Texas – The Washington Redskins are pulling out all the stops.
And, why wouldn't they?
If you think Sunday's game at FedEx Field is a big game for the Cowboys, well, it's gigantic for the Redskins, who have been wallowing in mediocrity for the past 18 years. During that span, going all the way back to 2000, the once very proud Skins have won more than eight games only four times, the most being the 10, in 2015 and 2005. And for a franchise winning the division title five times from 1982 through 1991, playing in four Super Bowls and winning three, they have won the NFC East only three times since 1992 and just one playoff game in the past 18 seasons.
And you think the Cowboys have been in this vast drought.
So now, the Redskins come into the nationally-televised 3:25 p.m. game at 3-2 leading the NFC East, and no matter it's just a half-game. First place Washington Redskins. And they are being reminded the Cowboys have won the past four meetings and the last five at FedEx.
On top of that, it's the Cowboys coming to town. The dastardly Cowboys, and my guess is it's been a while since they have referred to this lead-up as "Cowboys Week," the moniker back 25, 30, 40 years ago that would stir the passions of the locals like you've never seen.
So, the Skins are breaking out pre-game concerts, marching bands, free-ticket contest, likely whatever they can do to prevent their stadium from being overrun with those despised blue Cowboys jerseys that have these past years.
And while this is just Week 7 in the 2018 season, the Dallas Cowboys, at 3-3, better understand that while this might be just Game 7 of the season, they are walking into a hornet's nest, and they better be prepared and not looking forward to next week's bye. This is not just another game for the success-starved Redskins and their fans who have no love lost for anything Texas, and especially Dallas.
Cowboys beware. Because you know what, no matter you beat up on Jacksonville, 40-7, this past Sunday, the offense awakening from a deep slumber over the first five games, there is a huge difference between 4-3 and 2-0 in the East and 3-4 and 1-1 in the East, thus basically falling 1½ games behind Washington.
"They are No. 1 in our division," says Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. "It's huge, what the NFC East is all about."
Too bad the vast majority of the Cowboys players have no knowledge of what this rivalry used to be. Why, just 18 guys on the 53-man roster, 10-man practice squad and the eight on injured reserve – that's 71 guys – were born before 1991, the last season the Redskins won a Super Bowl when the rivalry still was raging.
"Some guys are football junkies and know this stuff inside out," says Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who knows all about the passions that juiced this rivalry growing up and also while playing for the Cowboys in the '90s. "And some guys are live-in-the-moment guys . . . it certainly is a storied rivalry, no question about that."
But a rivalry void of any past shenanigans this decade. Come on, how about some pushing and shoving during pregame warmups? How about some Harvey Martin throwing a funeral wreath into the Redskins' locker room after a victory to win the NFC East in 1979? How about some Ron Fellows having enough of Joe Theismann dancing around to run out the clock after kneeling a time or two in a Redskins victory and leaping over the line the next time Joe tried to pull that B.S. to knock the daylights out of the Washington quarterback? Or some Redskins linebacker like Diron Talbert saying before the 1974 Thanksgiving Day game all they had to do was knockout Roger Staubach, which they did in the second quarter, and they'd beat the Cowboys, only to have Cowboys rookie quarterback Clint Longley earn the nickname "Mad Bomber" for his second-half passing heroics leading the Cowboys to an improbable victory?
Now don't tell me those aren't the good ol' days?
Now we'd be fining guys. Got to act right. There's no charging into the stands as Charlie Waters, Cliff Harris and Randy White did that one time at RFK to set straight the perpetrator who cracked a beer bottle over Charlie's helmet as the team was heading to the locker room.
But no matter what, this generation of Cowboys needs to instigate their own selves, to, as Nate Newton would said, get geeked up, just do it. And while it's still early in the season, and one loss will not spell doom and gloom, a victory just might create the momentum and confidence this young team needs to plow forward.
"This league is a momentum league – putting good games on top of good games is important," Cowboys OC Scott Linehan says. "We need to get a road win."
No kidding. In the worst way since the Cowboys have won all three home games and lost all three road games. And that's a little unstable since in the previous four seasons the Cowboys have gone 16-16 at home and 22-10 on the road.
Can't just sit there and beat Jacksonville 40-7 one week at home, and then go lose on the road to a Washington team with a darn good defense, but a 25th-ranked offense that doesn't seem any better than the 29th one the Cowboys will trot into FedEx.
That is why the Cowboys had a little offensive meeting on Thursday, wanting to make sure they not only emphasize the importance of this game, but also the importance of communicating much better in this road game than they previously have. Can't have missed assignments. Can't have missed signals. Can't have busted plays.
"We've had terrible communication on the road," admits Ezekiel Elliott. "I've said it before, if we don't build on last week then everything we did means nothing."
So just to make sure they are accustomed to noise, that they get the communication right, the music inside Ford Center for practice on Friday was hitting the highest decibel level possible. Why, the music was so loud, thought I was at a NASCAR event. Needed headphones/speakers to talk to Rob right in front of me with Jimi Hendrix blasting away. Made my ear drums hurt.
Now Zeke is right about how the Cowboys would minimize the victory over Jacksonville if they lose at Washington on Sunday.
They don't hand out brownie points in the NFL for 35-point victories, nor scoring 40 points – the Cowboys scoring more points in one home game than they have scored in all three road games (37) so far.
Just protect the quarterback. Protect the ball. Convert third downs, no matter if you are only reasonably "behind the chains." Throw the ball with the word that popped up this past Sunday, "conviction." Get Zeke going. And if the Skins decide to gang up on Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, you're about to shed your rookie status. Get on your high horse.
The defense? Just keep doing what you guys been doing. Turn off the water on Adrian Peterson's recently-found fountain of youth. Grab another couple of takeaways, as you have with two each in the past two games. And let Alex Smith know the Hot Boyz are in town, D-Law and Dino and Maliek and Randy and Ty and Taco and Antwaun.
And Brett Maher? Keep going one-for-one. That's the only field-goal streak he needs to worry about, especially in a game where every three-points will matter.
Plus, no matter the hostility the Redskins are trying to conjure up from the past, no matter their banners or hashtags or any men who happen to dress up as Hogettes in the stands, in the immortal words of Jason Garrett, it sure shouldn't make a difference if you're playing at home, on the road, out in the parking lot or on the moon.
Time to start right now.
And if they need some latter-day Randy White to stir things up, keep an eye on Sean Lee walking out there for Sunday's coin flip. Should have seen him out here on Friday leading the squad in those warmup-ending jumping jacks. His game face already was on after missing the past three games.
Yep, no matter FedEx or the moon, just win baby.