Before they had begun even their prepractice calistenics, the Washington Redskins gathered at midfield at Redskin Park, yesterday, yelling and clapping and carrying on in the best tradition of Woody, Bo and Bear.
In the middle of all the tumult was George Allen, the master of the professional psych and a coach who knows full well his football team will have to play another one of those inspired, emotional games to smite the hated Dallas Cowboys today at 4 p.m. at RFK Stadium (WTOP-TV-9)
"They used to say Dallas wasn't an emotional team, but this year they sure have been," said Redskin running back Calvin Hill, who once gained a lot of yards down Texas way. "That's what we need Sunday. If we come out flat and play the way we have been playing lately, it could be a very long afternoon."
The pragmatic and cold-blooded oddsmakers say all the stomping and screaming by the Redskins won't make that much difference. They believe the Cowboys have enough talent to be rated at least a six-point favorite in the Redskiss backyard, even if neither team has even won both regular-season games in this bitter series going back to 1971, when Allen arrived in Washington. And the Cowboys have won only once in their last seven attempts at RFK. Overall, dating back to 1960, Dallas leads in the series with a 19-1-2 record.
The Redskins, 6-4, need a victory over the 8-2 Cowboys to stay even with St. Louis, 7-4, in the race for the NFC wild card. A half-dozen other NFC teams are still in that race for the playoffs. Redskin defeat would hurt badly.
Allen is pulling out all the psychological stops. He has had stick-on buttons with the inscription "Think 7" - as in seven victories - printed and plastered on his players helmets, lockers and playbooks.
He even was trying to keep the Cowboys guessing on his starting quarterback, insisting he was "leaning toward" starting Joe Theismann. Other sources say Theismann definitely will start, but that Billy Kilmer has been given more work this week and could see action in the second half if the offense bogs down.
Allen decided to pull the curtains down, lock the practice field gates and call for a rare closed workout yesterday, for the express purpose of "working on some stuff for Dallas, things that only a few people would notice, nothing major reallY."
He dusted off that cold, familiar warning to Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach. "If he wants to run, that's up to him. If he wants to run, he runs at own risk, and our defense hopes he runs."
And Allen even hinted the weather would be the Redskins' 12th man because the predicted cold, raw day with temperatures in the 30s "might be a factor with the shotgun.
"You have to snap the ball, and that's somewhat risky if it's slippery, cold or windy. You can get a bad snap."
And as long as Allen was in a semiboys once again for their War and Peace inquiry list, which has 17 players (all probable) on the updated NFB report.
"It's the longest of any club in the league every week," he said "it seems like if you have a toothache, you're on there."
One of the few Cowboys not on the list is Staubach, who reportedly has been lagued by hip and thumb problems the last month. "But I don't think there's anything wrong with him, at least not what I see on the films." Allen said. "He's moving around, he's running and he looks all right to me."
Staubach has completed 58 per cent of his passes this season, thrown for 11 touchdowns and had only five passes intercepted.
All also [WORD ILLEGIBLE] to see rookie tailback Tony Dorsett in the starting lineup, despite reports he had bruised his knee in practice earlier in the week. Dorsett is averaging 4-6 yards a carry and has scored eight touchdowns.
Allen also explains to see rookie tailback Tony Dorsett in the starting pears three defensive regulars - linebacker Chris Hanburger (sore knee), safety Jake Scott (broken ribs) and defensive tackle Bill Brundige (sprained foot) - will not be able to play.
Hanburger, as usual, will be replaced by Mike Curtis. Dave Butz, who has a sore ankle, probably will open for Brundige, and Eddie Brown should take Scott's place.
On offense, no one knows how long left guard Ron Saul can play. He has been battling bronchial pneumonia all week, and though he worked out yesterday and insisted between coughs "I'll be fine," he faces the sickening prospect of knocking heads with Handy White, the Cowboys' ferocious young defensive tackle from Maryland.
Allen admitted his main concern was handling the Dallas front four of White, defensive tackle Jethro Pugh and defensive ends Harvey Martin and Ed Jones. The front four has made 41 sacks this season.
"They've been playing so well," Allen said, fully cognizant that his oftensive desperately needs to catch fire and score points. "The other thing about them is that they're got guys who can make a lot of big plays.
"We know we have to play a great game to have a chance . . . We're fighting for our lives. They're 8-2, we're 6-4 and they can afford to lose another game and still win the division. We can't."
The Redskins also know they can not afford to give Staubach and his offense - ranked second in the NFC - the ball very often. In the first meeting of the teams, a 34-16 Dallas victory, the Cowboys ran off 81 plays to the Redskins' 65, and held the football for 35 1/2 minutes to the Redskins 24 1/2.
The Cowboys lead the NFC in total defense, allowing opponents only 84 yards a game passing and a 37 per cent completion rate. They also have intercepted 17 passes and recovered 10 fumbles.
Allen, as usual, said the Redskins will have to play "by far our best game of the year, and by far should be underlined and in capital letters. We have to score points and not make mistakes and we have to play an outstanding defensive game."
Allen didn't mention anything about emotion.In this rivalry, it doesn't seem necessary.