The Dallas Cowboys are more concerned about what another loss would do to them than they are about the state of their long rivalry with the Washington Redskins. Coach Tom Landry said Thursday that Sunday’s meeting with the Redskins won’t have quite the same feeling as usual, since both teams are trying to avert a fourth defeat and stay in contention in the NFC East.
Dallas (2-3) has lost three straight to the Redskins, while Washington (2-3) is trying to avoid three straight regular season losses for the first time since 1981, and their records make Sunday’s meeting at Texas Stadium strictly a matter of survival in the division.
“It doesn’t feel the same as a lot of Washington games,” Landry said today. “But it’s still a big game. Everybody around here certainly knows what it means for us, and of course it’s important for them, too.
“If New York plays up to its potential it’s going to be hard for anybody to catch them. But they haven’t done it yet. They’ve been on a roller coaster, and anything is possible, I’ll tell you.”
Dallas has two chief tasks prior to Sunday: to overcome nagging injuries, and to iron out some troubling mistakes that have made for a near-thing season thus far. Landry said receiver Michael Irvin, who bruised his right ankle in Monday night’s 20-17 loss to New Orleans on a 49-yard field goal with 24 seconds left, is listed as questionable for Sunday.
The Cowboys have suffered their setbacks in all sorts of ways, losing three games by just eight points. The New Orleans game was typical of how their potent offense, rated fourth in the league, somehow has failed to score enough points. On five opportunities inside the 20-yard line they converted just three times. Roger Ruzek missed a 39-yard field goal and quarterback Steve Pelluer threw an interception in the end zone in the second half.
“We make an error here and an error there, and our games are so close that it costs us,” Landry said. “If we come out with points when we should have, then we could easily be 4-1 or 5-0. You can’t keep knocking at the door and missing, and keep your morale up. You’ve got to get a reward some time.”
It may come this week, as Pelluer appears to have settled down and is second in the league in yards passing (1,213) only to Boomer Esiason. He has also rushed 147 yards, second only to Philadelphia’s Randall Cunningham among quarterbacks. Between his scrambling and a young but stubborn offensive line, Pelluer has been sacked only four times.
Those factors combine to present a whole new set of problems for the Redskins. Landry recognizes some of the Redskins’ difficulties, because the two teams are suffering from similar fits and starts in both the quarterback situation and kicking games.
“They’re struggling, like most Super Bowl winners do, for whatever reasons,” Landry said. “It’s an overall feeling you have when you just aren’t operating effectively. But when a Super Bowl team performs as anything less than that, it’s called a struggle. Some of us would like to struggle that way.”