They Live For This

IRVING, TX. - Bill Parcells almost downplayed Sunday's rivalry game against the Washington Redskins Wednesday, but the players would have none of it - especially Marco Rivera.

Dallas head coach Bill Parcells tried to downplay the storylines with which he was barraged by the media at Wednesday's press conference: the revenge factor from his team's last-minute loss to the Washington Redskins earlier this year, the seemingly renewed rivalry between the Cowboys and Redskins, and the matchup of two of the greatest coaches in NFL history in Parcells and Hall of Fame Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.

"Washington's a very good team," Parcells said, "and they're very well-coached. I expect a good football game."

Huh? That's it? That's a far cry from the days when the coaches compared the game to life and death, and accusations flew between the teams of the other team having spies peaking into the teams' practices.

That attitude that Washington-Dallas is almost "just another game" doesn't filter down to the players. The intensity of the rivalry permeates the locker room, according to several players. Perhaps none expressed the idea as emphatically as guard Marco Rivera.

"It's a great rivalry, and you can't be around it and not feel it," Rivera said. "I compare it to the Packers and Bears."

If the Chicago-Green Bay battle has been played more often than any in NFL history, the Cowboys and Redskins still has to be considered among the most intense in the league. The dislike was turned up a notch earlier this season -- at least for Dallas fans -- when the Cowboys whipped the Redskins for more than 55 minutes, only to watch Mark Brunell heave two Hail Mary passes to Santana Moss in the waning minutes, allowing the Redskins to slip out of Texas Stadium with a somewhat baffling win.

"We've had a lot of tough losses, but I think it took a while for that one to sink in," tight end Dan Campbell said. "I think I was in shock for a few days. I didn't really understand for a while what really had happened."

Considering the tradition of dislike between the teams -- and their fans, it might be hard to further intensify the significance of the game. Rivera said the Cowboys have to recognize the importance of the game, without letting it become overwhelming.

"It's a game in the division, so it's always important," he said. "We've got to go out and play hard, because this is always a tough game."

Rivera said that he expects the intensity of Sunday's game against the Redskins to exceed even that the Cowboys dealt with two weeks ago when they traveled to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on the NFC East-leading New York Giants.

"I expect this game to be even tougher than the Giants game," Rivera said. "It's in their stadium, with their fans -- that's a really tough place to play."

Rivera said that as far as he's concerned, the Cowboys' last three games are not for determination of which teams get into the playoffs.

"In my book, the playoffs are here already," Rivera said. "We've got to go into the Redskins' place and get a win, or there are no playoffs. Hey, they came in here (Sept. 19) and they won -- congratulations.

"Now let's go do it again."

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