Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cowboys-Redskins Once Meant Something

This Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins will meet in a renewal of what was once a great rivalry in the NFL.

They'll be playing in Cowboys Stadium in nearby Arlington and, because of the way the broadcasting rules are set up in the NFL, no other games can be televised locally while the team from the local market is playing a game in its home stadium.

That's too bad because there are several other games with playoff implications being played at the same time. But, if you live in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex, unless you have access to the satellite TV package that gives you the broadcasts of every NFL game being played on Sunday, you're stuck with the Cowboys and the Redskins.

There was a time when football fans around here wouldn't have felt they were stuck. They would have eagerly anticipated the game, stocked up on gameday food and drinks — and taken the phone off the hook when the game began.

It was more than a game. It was an event.

A Cowboys–Redskins game doesn't hold much allure now, with the Redskins at 5–8 and the Cowboys at 4–9, but 31 years ago, it was a different story.

On Dec. 16, 1979, at Texas Stadium in Irving, Roger Staubach brought the Cowboys back not once but twice from 13–point deficits against the Redskins, the second time for keeps. As a result of their 35–34 victory over the Redskins, the Cowboys went on to the playoffs, where they lost to the Los Angeles Rams. The Redskins went home.

Staubach's career ended shortly after the Cowboys' season did. Consequently, his last victory as a pro came against the Redskins.

Ironically, his coach, Tom Landry, also recorded his last victory (in 1988) against the Cowboys' old nemesis, and Landry's successor, Jimmy Johnson, recorded his first victory (and the only win of his inaugural NFL season) against the Redskins.

By that time, the mere mention of the Cowboys–Redskins rivalry could still make Dallas football fans' hearts beat a little faster, but the series clearly had lost something. Maybe it was the fact that, a decade after Staubach's departure, the Cowboys no longer possessed an offense that was capable of striking quickly and often.

Watch the attached clip and you'll see that there was a reason why they called Staubach "Captain Comeback."

But there was also a reason why the Dallas defensive unit was known in the 1970s as "Doomsday." You can see that, too, in the Cowboys' miraculous comeback against the Redskins 31 years ago today.

There were many reasons why the Cowboys–Redskins rivalry was special in those days.

Maybe, someday, it will be again.

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