Game SnapShot: Washington at Dallas

<b>Game Snapshot</b><br> <b>KICKOFF:</b> Sunday, 4:15 ET<br> <b>GAMEDATE:</b> 11/02/03<br> <b>SURFACE:</b> Sportfield Real grass<br> <b>TV: </b>FOX, Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, Cris Collinsworth<br> <b>SERIES:</b> 85th meeting. Dallas leads the all-time series 50-32-2. Washington won the season finale last year against the Cowboys to snap 10 straight losses in the series. One of the NFL's fiercest rivalries is filled with great stories and bad blood.

The Redskins' biggest win remains the 1972 NFC Championship Game, when the "Over the Hill Gang" validated George Allen's attempts to surpass America's Team.
Washington Redskins (3-4) at Dallas Cowboys (5-2)

2003 RANKINGS: Redskins: offense 18th (19th rush, 12th pass); defense 21st (21st rush, 18th pass). Cowboys: offense 12th (11th rush,17th pass); defense 1st (3rd rush, 3rd pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said he's going back to the aggressive game plans he employed in the first two games despite the struggles of his offensive line to protect QB Patrick Ramsey. To keep Ramsey healthy, Washington is counting on RB Trung Canidate to return from an ankle injury and provide a presence on the ground. The Cowboys like to use RB Troy Hambrick to open the play-action pass, so the Redskins' linebackers need to improve their discipline and play their gaps. With CB Fred Smoot out and Champ Bailey bothered by wrist and shoulder injuries, Washington could be hard-pressed to keep up with the Cowboys' trio of top receivers.

FAST FACTS: The past four meetings have been decided by seven points or less. Redskins: DE Bruce Smith needs two sacks to pass Reggie White (198) for the most in NFL history. ... LB Jessie Armstead leads NFC linebackers with 3.5 sacks. Cowboys: They lead the series 50-32-2 and have won seven consecutive home games against Washington. ... Dallas is the only team with three wide receivers that each have at least 300 yards receiving.

PREDICTED SCORE: Cowboys 27, Redskins 16

PERSONNEL NEWS
Redskins:
--CB Fred Smoot (chest) returned to the practice field Thursday. Although he didn't do much, his workout reinforced the glimmer of hope that he might play at Dallas.

--LG Dave Fiore (knee) all but conceded he won't play at Dallas. He remains upbeat about returning to practice next week.

--RB Ladell Betts (forearm) almost certainly will miss the upcoming game at Dallas, even though he was listed doubtful.

--CB Rashad Bauman (ankle) did not practice Wednesday or Thursday. He could return Friday, but ultimately he and coaches will make game-time decision on his status.

--RB Trung Canidate (ankle) increased his work in Thursday's practice. He remains hopeful he'll play at Dallas.

--DT Jermaine Haley (thumb) practiced Wednesday and Thursday with a giant cast on his hand. If there isn't too much pain, he'll play at Dallas.

--DT Martin Chase (calf) practiced Wednesday and Thursday. He should play at Dallas.

--CB Champ Bailey (wrist/shoulder) practiced this week and will play at Dallas.

--Despite tremendous quickness and big-play ability, scatback Chad Morton has just a 3.6-yard rushing average and an eight-yard long run this season. Morton could start at Dallas due to injuries to RBs Trung Canidate and Ladell Betts.

--Young WR Darnerien McCants is a fantasy-football sleeper with four touchdowns on just 16 catches. He also scored twice last season in nine games, his first NFL action.

--DE Bruce Smith (1 1/2 sacks) should get a big boost from the signing of DT Darrell Russell. Smith has beaten his man on occasion this year but quarterbacks often could step up into the pocket because the Redskins had no interior push.

--DE Regan Upshaw has only seven tackles, no sacks and three pressures this season, far under performing expectations when Washington signed him as a free agent in the opening days of the league year.

--KR Chad Morton continues to lag on kickoffs, his 21.9-yard average ranking just 13th in the NFC. After two solid games to start October, he struggled Oct. 19 at Buffalo.


Cowboys:

--RB Adrian Murrell had a good first day at practice and said in third person vernacular that he just wants to help the Cowboys become a playoff team.

"I'm here to help us, not show anybody up," the 33-year-old back said. "He doesn't need me. They could win without Murrell, but I'm glad that Murrell has an opportunity to come in and be a part of it."

What Murrell knows and knows enough not to say is Murrell is here because Murrell has the speed; elusiveness in the hole and ability to run outside the tackles that starter Troy Hambrick has yet to demonstrate.

--RB Troy Hambrick, with his 444 yards and 3.2 yards-per-carry average and three touchdowns, knows the production from the running game is not good. He sarcastically said that he hopes the newly signed Adrian Murrell can be the savior, while admitting his "money year" performance has been anything but a money year performance.

"My running, I wouldn't give myself an F because things just weren't there," said Hambrick, who rushed for a season-low 25 yards against the Buccaneers on Sunday. "You need to be able to get to the line of scrimmage. I am leading the league in negative plays. Is that me or ya'll want me to ... Ya'll knew me when I was here, what kind of back I was. I need to get to the line of scrimmage and get through the line. I'm not a guy who can make an amazing cut backside even if I wanted to."

--FB Richie Anderson didn't practice Wednesday and Thursday and is considered highly questionable for Sunday's game. If he cannot go, Jamar Martin will take his place at fullback with the newly signed Adrian Murrell logging his carries. A bruised shoulder and a slight herniation in his back bother Anderson.

--QB Quincy Carter knows everybody is watching how he responds this week after a dreadful performance against Tampa Bay. For him, it is not just about the Redskins game -- it is an ongoing scrutiny about whether he will be the long-term answer at quarterback.

"We need to turn it up," Carter said. "Every game means something from here on out. We need to go out and make sure we are giving our maximum effort. It's time for all of us to step our games up to the next level."

INSIDE THE CAMPS
Redskins:

 The Redskins finally have the difference-making defensive tackle they have been lacking since Daryl Gardener signed with Denver and Dan Wilkinson was cut in training camp.

Controversial former Raider Darrell Russell signed this week, bringing in addition to his well-known rap sheet a certainty that opposing defenses will alter their schemes to stop him. Fellow Redskins defenders expect to benefit considerably.

"They have to account for him -- there's no question," defensive end Bruce Smith said. "Just like they had to account for Daryl Gardener. Just like, they had to account for Big Daddy. He's that type of player."

Still, some question whether Washington should have signed Russell, given his past. Two drug-related suspensions, since-dropped charges that he drugged a woman and videotaped two friends raping her, and a suspicion of drunken driving charge while leaving a legal brothel (while awaiting trial for the rape charges) made some Redskins players oppose the signings.

Russell was reasonably contrite at his introductory meeting with reporters, saying he appreciated the organization taking a chance on him.

"I think (owner Daniel) Snyder is taking a big gamble with me, because look at my past and the way everybody views me at this current time," Russell said. "Whether he needs a D-tackle or not, I think enough people are on his back as it is. All I can do is be thankful for him and (coach Steve) Spurrier to give me this opportunity."

Cowboys:

So how disappointed was coach Bill Parcells following Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay?

Well, so much, so that he told them to go home after watching film on Monday, refusing to take them through their usual day after game conditioning drills.

Parcells was upset because he did not believe the NFC-East leading Cowboys (5-2) gave their best effort against the Buccaneers and let an opportunity to establish themselves slip away.

When the players returned on Wednesday, he told them they will get no more free passes and the time to perform was now if they hoped to make something of this season.

Starting Sunday against the Redskins, four of the Cowboys' next five games are home. They play the Bills Nov. 9 before playing at the Patriots Nov. 16 followed by the Panthers Nov. 23 and the Dolphins Nov. 27. And even though the schedule is tough, he said they have an advantage over their division rivals, considering the Giants have three of four on the road, the Eagles have three of five on the road and Washington has four of six on the road during that same time span.

"This month is going to be show time for the Dallas Cowboys," Parcells said. "It really is show time. It is the time of year when you have to knuckle down. So if we can play good football now, and get to December, then I think we will have a chance. If we do not, then I think we will be a middle-of-the-pack or less team. Simple as that. Either you have it or you do not have it. In addition, when this month is over, I will know a lot more about the Dallas Cowboys, the people on the Dallas Cowboys and where the future will be for some of those people. I know that."

When Parcells scrutinized his team, gearing up for this crucial stretch that in his opinion will determine whether the Cowboys are a playoff team or just another pretender that got off to a fast start, he decided they needed a running back other than Troy Hambrick to really give this a go.

Therefore, Adrian Murrell was not only signed, but he has expected to dress and play Sunday against Washington.

Murrell is a Parcells guy from his days with the New York Jets. Except for a stint in Carolina's training camp in 2001 and the Cowboys' training camp in August, he has been retired since 2000.

Parcells' reasoning sounded good when asked, "Why now? Why Week 8?" Hambrick and fullback Richie Anderson handle a bulk of the Cowboys' running duties, and Anderson is questionable with a muscle stinger. In addition, Murrell gives the team "versatility."

What Parcells didn't exactly say but hinted at is what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was saying at the NFL owners' meetings Wednesday in Chicago: Expectations have risen. Goals have changed. Playoffs are a possibility.

No rock is to be left unturned as the Cowboys try to get in.

"I would have to say that to even look ahead to the playoffs in any way, we have to think of winning the division," Jones said.

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