September 27, 2004
I'm not real big on making predictions, but in this space it's one of those things that's called for, so here goes:
--Eddie George will not gain much more than about 50 yards, but Testaverde will throw for close to 300. The Dallas O-line has been protecting well and there's no reason to think that the Redskins will generate much pressure. With time, Vinny will burn you. I don't see a lot of long completions, but he'll dump off to Meshawn and to Witten.
--Brunell won't be significantly better this week than the last two. Well, probably a little better than against the Giants, but I don't see him having 250 yards passing up his sleeve. The Dallas D may be sort of weak in the backfield, but they're not going to get lit up by a quarterback who doesn't have a great arm and is still learning the offensive system.
--Clinton Portis is one key. It's not simply the "if he gains 100+ the Redskins win" thing, because that often confuses cause and effect. A team protecting a lead will hand off to its prime back frequently in the fourth quarter to move the chains and kill the clock. If Portis can get it going consistently in the early going, that will open up the rest of the offense. If he doesn't, well, as noted above Brunell's arm isn't likely to win the game for Washington.
--So, in an incredible oversimplification, it comes down to Vinny vs. Ports. Whichever one is more productive will be playing on the winning team.
Given the Redskins' current 1-12 skid vs. Dallas, with that one win coming in a meaningless season finale in 2002, it's hard for me to envision anything but a Dallas win. Sorry, and this is one of the reasons I hate to make predictions, but I think that Vinny will have the better game and Dallas will win 24-17. Hope I'm wrong.
September 25, 2004
Dallas at Washington conjures up different memories in different people. I have attended about three dozen of their encounters at RFK Stadium and at FedEx Field and there are plenty of images and sounds etched into my mind.
My thoughts, however, always go back to 1967, October 8 to be exact. I was 12 and I'd take a moderate interest in football. My dad, who had acquired season tickets that summer, asked me if I wanted to go see the Redskins play. Sure, why not, even though I'd be missing seeing my Boston Red Sox play in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
For the first time I settled into what would become "my" seat at what was then DC Stadium—Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated the following summer and the stadium was named in his memory prior to the next season—in Section 219, Row 12, Seat 8. The only thing I remember vividly was that someone with a transistor radio was keeping us folks in that end zone, the left one as you watch on TV, apprised of the score of the World Series game by recording each inning's score on a cardboard square and using masking tape to post it on the wall behind his seat. This was more low-tech than the scoreboard at Fenway Park itself.
After kickoff, I paid scant attention to the progress of the baseball game. I was focused on what was happening on the grass field in front of me. Now, I'm not going to pretend that I recall what happened in the game in any detail. I got that in the course of doing research for my book The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games.
Washington led 7-0 at the half on Ray McDonald's one-yard touchdowns run. Dallas scored a touchdown and a field goal to take a 10-7 lead late into the fourth quarter. The Redskins took a 14-10 lead on an eight-yard TD pass from Sonny Jurgensen to Charley Taylor with 1:10 left to play. Those were two of the, I think, eight Hall of Famers who were either playing or coaching in this game—Krause, Huff, Taylor, Jurgensen, Mitchell and Graham (HOF player, not as a coach) for Washington, Landry and Lily for Dallas (I may be missing a Cowboy, I'm not sure).
Now we're getting to the point where my memories become much more vivid. The crowd noise was loud and getting louder as Dallas faced a fourth down with just seconds left (my further research indicates that it was fourth and four at the Washington 36 with about 15 seconds left). Don Meredith, future Monday night football color man, dropped back and threw a pass intended for Dan Reeves, the future Broncos, Giants, and Falcons coach. The instant that the ball left Meredith's hand, the crowd fell instantly silent. The phenomenon was due to the fact that Reeves was so wide open at the Washington 10 that the only hope for the Redskins to win the game was for Reeves to drop the ball and the crowd was holding its collective breath in hopes that it would happen. It did not and the only sound left to make was a disappointed exhale as Reeves trotted in for the winning TD.
So my Dad, myself and some 50,000 other Redskins fans filed out of the Redskins' home stadium in silence. This was in keeping with a tradition of disappointing losses for the Redskins, who hadn't played in a playoff game for, at that time, 22 years. Still, I was hooked and begged my father to take me to games whenever there was a spare ticket. Interest had turned into fascination which eventually turned into obsession.
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