Dallas head coach Bill Parcells tried to downplay the storylines with which he was barraged by the media at Wednesday's press conference: the
revenge factor from his team's last-minute loss to the Washington
Redskins earlier this year, the seemingly renewed rivalry between the
Cowboys and Redskins, and the matchup of two of the greatest coaches in
NFL history in Parcells and Hall of Fame Redskins coach Joe Gibbs.
"Washington's a very good team," Parcells said, "and they're very
well-coached. I expect a good football game."
Huh? That's it? That's a far cry from the days when the coaches
compared the game to life and death, and accusations flew between the
teams of the other team having spies peaking into the teams' practices.
That attitude that Washington-Dallas is almost "just another game"
doesn't filter down to the players. The intensity of the rivalry
permeates the locker room, according to several players. Perhaps none
expressed the idea as emphatically as guard Marco Rivera.
"It's a great rivalry, and you can't be around it and not feel it,"
Rivera said. "I compare it to the Packers and Bears."
If the Chicago-Green Bay battle has been played more often than any in
NFL history, the Cowboys and Redskins still has to be considered among
the most intense in the league. The dislike was turned up a notch
earlier this season -- at least for Dallas fans -- when the Cowboys
whipped the Redskins for more than 55 minutes, only to watch Mark Brunell heave two Hail Mary passes to Santana Moss in the waning
minutes, allowing the Redskins to slip out of Texas Stadium with a
somewhat baffling win.
"We've had a lot of tough losses, but I think it took a while for that
one to sink in," tight end Dan Campbell said. "I think I was in shock
for a few days. I didn't really understand for a while what really had
Considering the tradition of dislike between the teams -- and their
fans, it might be hard to further intensify the significance of the
game. Rivera said the Cowboys have to recognize the importance of the
game, without letting it become overwhelming.
"It's a game in the division, so it's always important," he said.
"We've got to go out and play hard, because this is always a tough
Rivera said that he expects the intensity of Sunday's game against the
Redskins to exceed even that the Cowboys dealt with two weeks ago when
they traveled to East Rutherford, N.J., to take on the NFC East-leading
New York Giants.
"I expect this game to be even tougher than the Giants game," Rivera
said. "It's in their stadium, with their fans -- that's a really tough
place to play."
Rivera said that as far as he's concerned, the Cowboys' last three
games are not for determination of which teams get into the playoffs.
"In my book, the playoffs are here already," Rivera said. "We've got to
go into the Redskins' place and get a win, or there are no playoffs.
Hey, they came in here (Sept. 19) and they won -- congratulations.
"Now let's go do it again."