The memory of the ill-fated, all-out blitz that turned the last Washington-Dallas game into a runaway Cowboy victory still lingers at Redskin Park.
Roger Staubach beat the 10-man Washington rush by flashing a hand signal to Drew Pearson and then floating a 59-yard touchdown pass to him on third down and 13 yards to go with Dallas holding a precarious 20-16 lead. The final score was 34-16.
"Yes, when you go all out usually a big play will happen either way," LaVern Torgeson, Redskin defensive coordinator, said yesterday. "They were right and we were wrong that time. Maybe next time, we'll be right and they'll be wrong . . . It would be ideal not to have to ever blitz."
"If you don't play it right, then it's a home run," said coach George Allen.
The Cowboys come to RFK Stadium for a 4 p.m., nationally televised rematch Sunday, and Dallas scouting reports say the Redskins blitz more often than any other team on the Dallas schedule - on 17 per cent of all defensive plays this season.
The same report also notes that the Redskins blitzed - that is, rushed two or more defenders other than linemen - 25 per cent of their plays in the last Dallas game.
In contrast, the Cowboys have blitzed only 5 per cent of their defensive plays this season, Dallas ranks No. 1 in the NFC in defense; the Redskins rank ninth.
Why do the Redskins blitz so much, especially when coach George Allen emphatically says, as recently as two days ago, "We're not a dogging (blitzing) team. We're not a dogging team at all. I don't care to dog that much. I never have."
Allen answers the question indirectly when referring to the Cowboys' few blitzes:
"They've got a real good pass rush. They've probably got the best pass-rushing front four in football."
So, the Redskins blitz to overcome one problem area in their defense and create another - more one-on-one coverage - as they did successfully against Green Bay rookie quarterback David Whitehurst in key situations Monday night.
"We did it because of necessity," Allen said of the Packer game. "Late in the ball game we were worrying about giving him too much time to throw."
Time and surprise are the essence of a successful blitz.
"If you don't get to him (the quarterback) in two to three seconds, then things get tense," said Redskin linebacker Mike Curtis.
"I guess you classify blitzes as a gamble," Torgeson acknowledged. "But you've still got people covered. It's a gamble if you go and don't cover people. But we don't have anything where you don't cover everybody. It just comes down to the question of sometimes you're putting one man on the spot, because he's got to cover man-for-man.
"You try to pick the right time to use it, when it's most effective. That's the important thing. If you blitz and it's not effective, that's when you're getting in trouble.
"You figure it out and make your blitz effective, and then it's a pretty good weapon. You've just got to go with what you think is right at the time. It would be ideal not to have to ever blitz. It just doesn't happen that way very often."
There is little difference in blitzing a rookie starting his first NFL game and trying it against Staubach, a 35-year-old veteran who has led the Cowboys to a Super Bowl win, Torgeson said. "You just try to disrupt what he's doing. Staubach has seen a lot more than Whitehurst has."
The Redskins worked extra long in yesterday's closed practice. Allen said both quarterbacks, starter Joe Theismann and Billy Kilmer, each worked a complete two-minute drill . . . Guard Ron Saul worked out briefly for the first time this week. He is recovering from the flu and bronchitis and is expected to play against the Cowboys . . But safety Jake Scott (broken ribs) and defensive tackle Bill Brundige (sprained foot) again did not even dress for practice. And linebacker Chris Hanburger (sprained left knee) was on the field but did not practice with the defense. All three are listed as "doubtful" and only Hanburger is given the slightest chance of playing Sunday, sources said . . . Allen is leaving no stone unturned in the psychological buildup for the game. Each Redskin helmet had a "Think 7" insignia stuck on it yesterday, and Allen said next week he would have a similar insignia with the words "Think 8" . . . There are also nine newspaper stories, a Redskin record, posted throughout the locker room, according to veteran players, and even enlargements of the best lines boosting the Cowboys. The best one: Cowboy defensive end Harvey Martin has a bet with fellow end Ed (Too Tall) Jones. Martin gets a six-pack of beer from Jones for each sack more he makes than Jones. Martin is quoted as saying he's had to throw out food to make room for the beer.