That in itself would have made for a ‘special' game, but the Redskins' opponents were the Dallas Cowboys. No…the stakes weren't for playoff berths or home-field advantage. Neither team finds itself in such good circumstances, but The Rivalry lives on nonetheless. The Cowboys had won the previous 10 games in the series and Redskin fans have had to hang their heads in shame for a long while as teams we've felt were better fell to more spirited Cowboy squads.
Not this time.
I wish I could say it was an easy win, but that's just not the case. It never is in these games. The Redskins ended up on top by a score of 20-14. Not only does the win end The Streak, but it marked Coach Steve Spurrier's first ever win over an NFC East rival. It took the entire season to get it.
Coming into the game, I felt that the key to winning would lie in not turning the ball over. Wrong. We did that 5 times. Uncharacteristically, the Cowboys turned the ball over 4 times themselves. I knew we couldn't stop Cowboys' running back, Emmitt Smith (we never have), but felt if we might contain him. Wrong again. Not only did the Redskins' defense rise to the occasion to contain Smith – they stopped him dead in his tracks and refused to allow him to get the 38 yards he needed to reach 1,000 yards on the season. In fact, we held Smith, the NFL's all-time rushing leader to 13 yards in 18 carries for a 0.72 yard per average.
If you want a down by down report of the game, there are plenty available. All I can offer are some thoughts I had during the game – when my teeth were clenched and my insides were gripped by the tension of the moment.
· I noticed that whenever the Redskins turned the ball over,
· I recall thinking ‘Wow, Ekuban made a great play (stripping the ball from Ladell Betts before he entered the end zone. Why don't we make plays like that?' Not so long after that, Ifeyani Ohalete did the same thing, stripping the ball from Antonio Bryant. By the way, Redskin fans will remember Ebeneezer Ekuban from a game in Dallas two years ago, where he achieved a place in Burgundy and Gold infamy by dragging fallen Skins' QB Jeff George around the field. The guy stinks most of the time, but he makes plays against the Skins.
· Derrius Thompson, our young #2 Wide Receiver, dropped at least 3 passes. This is not the way to help our QB. And when you're set to become an unrestricted free agent, as Thompson is, it doesn't make much of a case for getting a new contract. I'm thinking it's time to put in another WR, Darnerian McCants.
· Patrick Ramsey made only one real bad play all game, but it was memorable. He threw a long pass downfield to…well…nobody in a Redskin uniform.
· I don't know if I've been as proud of our defense in the past decade. Arrington was all over the field. Gardener was a terror, disrupting the center of their line continuously. Throughout the game, I kept wondering if this excellent defensive effort – holding Emmitt Smith to less than a yard a carry – would be wasted.
· As lousy as Fred Smoot's play was all day, I had to chuckle over the play where Antonio Bryant drew a personal foul. Smoot clearly was holding Bryant's arm after the play and Bryant responded…right in front of the ref. You could see a sly grin on Smoot's face. That was the only thing in Smoot's performance worth smiling about.
· I would have loved to see Darrell Green pick off a pass, but it didn't happen. Still, he looked terrific on that reverse kick return – I believe he got about 38 yards on it. I'm glad the team called that. (I'm also glad that Darrell didn't have to cover Antonio Bryant by himself – that might have taken a lot of the luster off the day).
· Darnerian McCants was one of the young Redskins who stepped up. Earlier in the season, McCants had fumbled and was chewed out on the sidelines by Spurrier. I think he got the message. He caught several difficult slants (and when was the last time the Skins ran slant patterns?) and took some ferocious hits.
It was one of those games where the issue right up to when Patrick Ramsey began taking knees. Had Kenny Watson not gotten seven tough yards on a 3rd and 6, the Cowboys would have had another shot at it, but things worked out well.
I could complain about our kicking game, but we'll fix that in the off-season. I'd hold off buying any Joe Cortez or Craig Jarrett jerseys if I were you though. The important thing is that we outgained the Cowboys 352 yards to 186. We had 18 first downs to their 8. We held the ball for 35:27 – that's serious time of possession. By most standards, it was dominance. Of course, as a poster on the CPND board noted, "We kicked their butts for 4 quarters in order to win by 6 points."
The Streak is over…it's been a long time coming and we have a whole off-season to enjoy it. Daniel Snyder…this game ball's for you.