Cowboys-Redskins return to the scene of the comeback
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Dallas Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe got home from the Monday night game against the Washington Redskins last year, he found voice mails and e-mails congratulating him on the victory.
The problem was, the Cowboys didn't win the game.
Dallas blew a 13-0 lead in the final four minutes. The friends who left Bledsoe the messages live on the East Coast, and they went to bed before Santana Moss caught two long passes in a 14-13 Redskins victory that became an instant classic in the long-running Cowboys-Redskins rivalry.
"They called back the next day and said, 'I'm sorry," Bledsoe said.
While Bledsoe was receiving apologies, Moss was receiving flowers. Two dozen red and yellow roses awaited the receiver at Redskins Park the next day, sent from an anonymous fan who was reveling over the Redskins' first win in Dallas since 1995.
"We've seen Dallas do that to us so many times," tackle Jon Jansen said. "And to be able to come out with a win in Dallas was a huge momentum swing for us."
One year later, the Cowboys and Redskins are again meeting in Texas Stadium in Week 2, this time on Sunday night instead of Monday. And, just as last year, Washington enters the game needing a boost after a tepid Week 1 performance.
The Redskins didn't score a touchdown in the first 7½ quarters of the season last year, a drought that ended with Moss' hauls of 39 and 70 yards. They had relied on field goals in a 9-7 win over Chicago the previous week, and coach Joe Gibbs' coaching comeback was looking more and more like a flop.
The two scores to beat the Cowboys were a psychological lift, and Gibbs went on to lead the team to a 10-6 record and the franchise's first postseason berth since 1999. Dallas finished one game back at 9-7, with no playoffs.
"We were beaten late in a couple of games last year by what I term as unusual circumstances," Dallas coach Bill Parcells said. "That was one of them."
This year, the situation is more critical on both sides. They are both 0-1 in an NFC East that is expected to be extremely competitive. The Redskins scored only one touchdown in their season-opening loss at home to Minnesota, and Moss, whose place in franchise lore is secure even if he never plays another game, realizes his teammates can't sit around hoping for another Texas miracle Sunday night.
"One or two plays are not going to get you a win," Moss said. "Last year we were fortunate that it did, but you cannot go out there and bank on that again. I would never want to be put in that situation again and have to dig that deep late. I would like to get it out of the way early. If we can do it early, I'd be willing to go down there and make those plays."
Moss was new to the Redskins last year, and he didn't realize the importance of the Cowboys game until he received the nonstop adulation following the comeback victory. The truth is, the rivalry had dimmed for several years because it was so one-sided, with Washington winning only once from 1997-2004. Last year, a 35-7 home victory in December completed a rare Redskins sweep.
Now, the thought of revenge has revived the spice of the matchup, at least for some of the Cowboys.
"Since I've been here, we've basically had our way with them, buying into that rivalry," linebacker Bradie James said. "We've been beating them every time. They finally beat us twice. Now's our turn to get back on track."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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