Despite being contained for much of the first half, early in the third quarter the Cowboys suddenly looked like the unit that entered the game with the NFL's top-ranked offense. On second and 11 from the Cowboys 19, Cowboys wide receiver Antonio Bryant snagged a 48-yard pass despite being shadowed by cornerback Fred Smoot. After a reception by wideout Keyshawn Johnson, the Cowboys had the ball on the Washington 10. On a play-action pass, tight end Jason Witten beat Washington's linebackers to the right corner of the end zone, catching a pass to give Dallas a 14-3 lead.
Washington responded on its next drive, propelled by several tough, darting runs by Clinton Portis. On third and one from the 1, wideout Gardner went in motion toward the left. He confused the defense enough to get open, and Brunell hit him in the end zone to cut Dallas's lead to 14-10. Tight end Mike Sellers flipped the ball into the stands in jubilation and Gardner pointed skyward.
Cowboys' Eddie George, until then held in check by the Redskins' defense, finds room for a one-yard touchdown run with 4 minutes 1 second remaining in first quarter. The drive was aided by a pass interference call on Walt Harris.
(Jonathan Newton -- The Washington Post)
Last week, Gibbs said that the rivalry against Dallas was threatened if the Redskins didn't start winning because of the one-sided nature in recent years. Beginning in 1997, Dallas won 10 straight before the streak was halted by Steve Spurrier's Redskins in the 2002 regular season finale. But the rivalry, which dates from 1960, remains as intense as ever, especially because the teams are now coached by Gibbs and Parcells, who have combined for five Super Bowl titles.
In Gibbs's first NFL stint, Parcells was his biggest nemesis, winning 11 of 17 games against Gibbs as coach of the New York Giants. But the outcomes were extremely close, with Parcells winning five straight at one point by a total of 18 points.
About 45 minutes before the opening kickoff last night, Gibbs stood on the 5-yard line wearing a burgundy-and-black windbreaker matching his black Redskins cap. Gibbs appeared to have an invisible shield with a serious, almost grim exterior. Almost directly across on the other side of the field, Parcells stood near the goal line with his arms also crossed. Parcells looked stern in a silver-and-blue Cowboys windbreaker and blue pants while watching passing drills.
As smoke filled the air from the fireworks set off shortly before the opening kickoff, the Cowboys players trotted out the tunnel to lusty catcalls. Parcells's name was booed the loudest when it was announced. Spectators turned delirious after the Redskins trotted out of the tunnel through an oversized burgundy-and-gold helmet. The cheering continued when the Redskins were announced as a team, a ritual that started this season under Gibbs.
The crowd's enthusiasm dimmed by the end of the first half as Washington's offense sputtered behind quarterback Brunell, who was 6 for 14 in the half. The Redskins didn't get on track until their final drive of the first half, when John Hall's 19-yard field goal cut the lead to 7-3.
The Redskins lost an opportunity to tie the game at the half, however. Laveranues Coles's 20-yard catch gave Washington a first and goal at the 1-yard line with 1:12 left in the half. Brunell was stuffed trying a quarterback sneak. Portis was halted by a wall of Cowboys while attempting to plow through the right side. On third and goal from the 1, Brunell rolled right and his pass was deflected near the line of scrimmage.
After pulling his hamstring early in last week's 20-14 loss to the New York Giants, Brunell was uncertain as a starter. Brunell looked nimble last night, but his long throws were off against the Cowboys' eighth-ranked defense. Gibbs surprisingly used several multiple wide-receiver sets, keeping the H-back -- a hybrid fullback-tight end that normally is a key part of the Redskins' offense -- on the bench. Before Coles's big catch late in the first half, he had uncharacteristically dropped a few passes.
Dallas took the lead with a one-yard run by Eddie George with about four minutes left in the first quarter. The drive was set up by a pass interference penalty against cornerback Walt Harris. On third and seven from the Washington 41-yard line, Gregg Williams, Washington's assistant head coach-defense, sent in six defensive backs in anticipation of a pass. Harris covered Cowboys wideout Terry Glenn on a deep route. Harris appeared to have good position, but the players got entangled near the goal line, triggering the penalty.