Cowboys hope to make up for 2005 Sweep

IRVING, TX. - Dallas Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said Wednesday that he hasn't spent much time thinking about his team's pair of losses last season to the rival Washington Redskins.

"History," he said, "doesn't mean much in the NFL."

Maybe Parcells is telling the truth about how much time he spends pondering what might have been last year when the Redskins got two late touchdown catches from wide receiver Santana Moss to win, 14-13, in Dallas, and then administered a 35-7 beating to Dallas in their home stadium.

But his players remember.

"They got us twice last year," Dallas quarterback Drew Bledsoe said, adding that he thinks he "owes something" to the Redskins this season. "We lost a real heartbreaker here, and then they got after us pretty good up there."

Cornerback Anthony Henry said the Dallas defense also remembers the losses all too clearly, and that this year's Washington offense might be more dangerous than the 2005 version.

"This game is a good challenge for us," Henry said, "especially when you get the rivalry aspect into it. I don't beat myself up over last year, but yeah, we remember."

Last year's version of the Washington offense was less than potent. The 'Skins featured one of the NFL's best running backs in Clinton Portis, a blazing wide receiver in Moss, an emerging star at tight end in Chris Cooley (who caught three touchdowns in the teams' second meeting) and an offensive line with exceptional tackles (in Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen -- who played a year ago with two broken thumbs) and question marks in between. But that was about it. Moss was the only legitimate threat at wideout. The backup tight ends were (and are) outstanding blockers, but rarely get the ball thrown their way. Backup running back Ladell Betts is very capable but was limited last year as he watched Portis get a majority of the carries.

As is his wont, Washington owner went on an offseason shopping spree, the primary focus of which was to upgrade the receivers around Moss. The team traded for enigmatic San Francisco wideout Brandon Lloyd and signed Super Bowl star Antwaan Randle El away from the Pittsburgh Steelers. All of a sudden, aging quarterback Mark Brunell has an array of targets to whom he can throw.

The biggest addition to the offense, however, might well be new offensive coordinator Al Saunders, who arrived in the offseason from Kansas City. Snyder paid handsomely to get Saunders, and Gibbs -- who is in the Hall of Fame because of his prowess as an offensive genius -- turned over the reins of the Washington offense to Saunders, who has installed an entirely new offensive scheme. The 'Skins still will run the ball a lot with Portis, but they now have a legitimate passing game to go with it. A year ago, Washington's idea of a passing game was to have Brunell heave it as far as his arm would allow, and hope that Moss could get there before the defense did (it worked 84 times, but he and Cooley were just about the entire passing attack). Saunders has brought with him a playbook that relies more on quick timing passes and an endless number of different screen passes.

Cornerback Aaron Glenn said that he'll study as much film for this game as he will all season.

"Teams with a new offensive coordinator are the hardest to prepare for," Glenn said. "We've got to study what (Washington) did Monday night against Minnesota, we've got to look at their games last year to know what their players are capable of, and we've got to study Kansas City tapes to understand what (Saunders) is going to have them do. There's a lot we have to learn by Sunday -- there's just so much to study."

Henry agreed that the preparation time will be lengthy. He said Lloyd and Randle El bring a new element to the Washington offense, because of their versatility and speed. But Moss, Henry said, remains the leader.

"He's quick, he's fast, and he keeps coming up with deep plays again and again," Henry said. "He's a great athlete, and he has a lot of talent."

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