Cowboys - Redskins Preview & Prediction

The Redskins blew home halftime leads to Minnesota in Week 1, when a 13-9 advantage turned into a 19-16 defeat, and to Tennessee in Week 6, when a 14-13 lead became a 25-22 loss. But their last second half was the worst.

GAMEDATE: 11/05/06


TV: FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Pam Oliver

SERIES: 92nd meeting. Cowboys lead 55-34-2, including a win earlier this season.

2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 5th (5th rush, 10th pass); defense 4th (4th rush, 12th pass). Redskins: offense 14th (7th rush, 21st pass); defense 26th (15th rush, 30th pass)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 24-16

KEYS TO THE GAME: With WR Santana Moss likely to miss the game with a strained hamstring, it becomes even more critical for the Redskins to get a big effort out of RB Clinton Portis. Dallas knows the ground game sets up Washington's spread offense, so the Cowboys will load up against Portis if the Redskins are minus Moss, who leads the team in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns. Dallas will focus on its own running game as well in an effort to avoid putting too much pressure on QB Tony Romo in his second career start. The Redskins' defense has struggled, but it has been far stronger against the run (3.8 yards per carry) and the secondary should have CBs Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers together for the first time this season.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Coach Bill Parcells is 14-8 against Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. ... Have won 15 of the past 18 meetings. ... WR Terrell Owens' teams are 55-22 (.714) when he has at least one touchdown catch. Redskins: QB Mark Brunell has completed 64.1 percent of his pass attempts -- his career best for a season was 63.4 in 1996. ... Brunell has a 99.0 passer rating in seven career games against Dallas.

PERSONNEL NEWS - Cowboys: --TE Jason Witten says his numbers have been down this year because he has stayed in to block more than usual. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells isn't buying it. He says Witten just hasn't played as well as he'd like. But of course, Parcells says he really like Witten and his expectations for him are very high.

--QB Tony Romo doesn't have to look over his shoulder when he makes a mistake as Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said he's sticking with new quarterback no matter what -- save him "giving up 12 runs in the first then you have to go get him."

--RB Skyler Green is expected to return kickoffs against the Redskins in place of the injured Tyson Thompson.

--FB Oliver Hoyte has been added to the injury report with a bruised arm. He practiced Thursday and should play against the Redskins on Sunday. Still, the Cowboys are concerned enough that they signed FB Lousaka Polite to the roster and released RB Keylon Kincaide.

Redskins: --WR Santana Moss didn't practice yet again because of a strained left hamstring that he injured in the Oct. 22 loss at Indianapolis. Moss is iffy, at best, for Sunday.

--WR David Patten took limited work for a second consecutive day Thursday after straining a hamstring Monday. Patten missed the past three games with a thigh injury. He's still expected to be ready for Dallas especially because WR Santana Moss is unlikely to play.

--MLB Lemar Marshall practiced for a second consecutive day after missing the Colts loss and the subsequent practices with a sprained left ankle. He's expected to start against Dallas. --RB Clinton Portis practiced for a second consecutive day after missing the previous three practices with a sprained left ankle. He's expected to start against Dallas.

--QB Mark Brunell practice for a second consecutive day after missing the previous three practices with pulled ribcage muscles. He's expected to start against Dallas.

INSIDE THE CAMPS- Cowboys: Cowboys coach Bill Parcells admitted having some anxiety about replacing the veteran Drew Bledsoe with the unproven Tony Romo last week. But there's no looking back now.

"The time to worry is when you place the bet," Parcells said. "The bet is down now. The wheel is spinning. I didn't say I wish I didn't bet that. I can't do that. You have to play the game. The game is going. You find, 'Well, what number is coming up?' That's the way it is."

Parcells is confident that Romo can handle the job because he feels the quarterback has guts, which is what initially impressed him about Romo years ago.

"He's taking his swings," Parcells said. "You know what I mean. He is going to take his cuts. He is not standing there with his bat on his shoulder. I like that.

"Now, they haven't laid him out yet. They haven't bloodied his nose. But that is coming some day.

"I hope it's not soon. But that is coming. Then you'll know something else."

Romo's emergence has given the Cowboys renewed hope that they can make the playoffs and possibly live up to their preseason goal of making a Super Bowl run in what could be Parcells' final season as coach.

The key for Dallas is playing consistently and stringing a few wins together. Although the Cowboys expect a tough game against Washington (2-5), the Redskins are struggling. And with the hapless Cardinals (1-6) up next, the Cowboys have a chance to get on a roll.

While Parcells understands that Romo is the wild card in the Cowboys' revival, he is not worried about Romo because he says Romo gets it.

"This kid's not living in a closet," Parcells said. "He knows what kind of opportunity this is for him, and so I think he's going to do everything he can to be ready to go. Now, is it going to be less than perfect? Yeah. But it's less than perfect with all of them. So the first key mistake he makes ... everybody is going to say, 'Oh, did you lose confidence?' You can't look at it like that. The wheel's spinning."

Redskins: During only three of Joe Gibbs' first 14 seasons in Washington were the Redskins outscored after halftime. On average, Washington won the post-halftime battle 177-150. In ending a five-year playoff drought in 2005, Washington had three come-from-behind wins and outscored opponents 176-152 in the second half. This year, the Redskins have blown three halftime leads -- as many as they did all of last year -- and have been outscored 86-46.

"We have to play a whole game," offensive tackle Jon Jansen said. "The concentration goes from penalties to lining up right to running the play right to finishing a ballgame. That's all part of concentration."

Offensively, the Redskins average 172.4 yards and 12.6 points in the first half but only 153.3 yards and 7.4 points in the second half. They also have 19 "big plays" -- runs of 10-plus yards or passes of 20-plus yards -- in the second half, six fewer than in the first half.

The defense hasn't similarly slumped after halftime, allowing nearly the same yardage (176.1 in the first half, 174.0 in the second) and points (85 to 86). However, Washington's opponents have made 29 of their 46 big plays in the second half, while the defense has forced 13 three-and-outs in the first half but only five in the second half.

"We have a lot of guys that are trying to do too much, and if we just do our own jobs, that will take care of a lot of things," defensive end Phillip Daniels said.

The Redskins blew home halftime leads to Minnesota in Week 1, when a 13-9 advantage turned into a 19-16 defeat, and to Tennessee in Week 6, when a 14-13 lead became a 25-22 loss. But their last second half was the worst. Washington was surprising Indianapolis 14-13 at halftime. But here are the first three drives of the second half for each team: Redskins -- punt, punt, missed field goal; Colts -- touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. Ballgame. The Colts won 36-22 to drop the Redskins to 2-5.

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