The surprise of this Redskin-Cowboy week has been the pregame aggressor. All the bulletin-board material, the quotes likely to get angry men snorting even heavier, has gone from Washington toward Dallas.
Dallas, defending NFC champion, master of the flex defense and the flipp remark, has been silent. The allegedly rebuilding little Redskins have been firing the verbal salvos that make today's 1 p.m. collision in RFK Stadium special.
"Hollywood" Bacon has said: "Tell'em we're going to kill the Cowboys."" "Thrill" Kuziel startled a Monday night channel hopper by predicting victory. The usual Cowboy cutups have remained publicly quiet.
"It's not so much that we're so confident," said Bob Kuziel, the Redskin center, "as that we love playing them at home. And the Cowboys have to be concerned about themselves. They haven't had it as easy as in the past.
"No one (in the NFC) is that great."
So far. No one is quite sure about the Cowboys, including themselves. Is losing two of the last three games merely their annual midseason siesta? Or will the post-Steeler blues linger too long? Or did Too Tall Jones leave the front four with too little"?
Even that public worrier, Tom Landry, could not look ahead during training camp to a November afternoon in Washington where his Cowboys could slip into a first-place divisional tie with the Redskins and Eagles.
"Thanks to the Cowboys," he said, "we've got a new race in the Eastern Division. We've had good stretch drives in the past, but usually we go into the situation we're in now earlier in the season. This year we had a pretty good record early; now we're in a slump."
They are hoping history is kind. The last time they were in a similar situation, a Monday night game followed by a Sunday game followed by a Thanksgiving game, was in 1970. Like the thumping to the Eagles this week, Dallas played badly that prior Monday night, losing by 38-0 to the Cardinals.
Their record slipped to 5-4 and doom was seen for the Doomsday defense. What happened? They beat the Redskins here, by 45-21, the following Sunday and did not lose again until the Super Bowl, when Craig Morton passed them to defeat against Baltimore. t
Dallas is a four-point favorite to right itself again today.
The Redskins also are more than slightly mysterious. Few had them figured as a contender at the moment, but Joe Theismann's arm, Mark Moseley's leg, Pardee's mind and the sort of emotion unexpected winning generates has them 7-4 and ties with Philadelphia.
They seem confident without being giddy, though that sort of atmosphere was evident the week before the Steelers knocked their helmets off. Also, there is one misconception that ought to be corrected now.
Although the Redskins have been patched with new and seemingly durable new material in several spots, their starters and kickers still are a teen bit older than those of the Cowboys. Even with Rayfield Wright starting at right offensive tackle.
Special teams have been pivotal, both for and against the Redskins, in these showdowns with Dallas. Today a new veteran, Bobby Hammond, plucked from the waiver list after Buddy Hardeman's jaw injury, returns punts and kickoffs.
Rafael Septien has been inconsistent for the Cowboys, missing five of eight field-goal tries from beyond 40 yards. Moseley may well be the Redskins' most valuable player this season.
Football minds insist teams must be unpredictable against Dallas, that throwing on first down is mandatory and keeping Randy White relatively tame is the only way a quarterback can safely step into the pocket and throw.
White is the Cowboy most seriously infured, with a foot infury, though he undoubtedly will play. He and another wounded defender, safety Cliff Harris (bruised heel), are about as vital as two players on an 11-man unit can be.
The entire known world realizes the Redskins have little speed and that Dallas is extremely mobile. But the way to counter a quick defense is with straight-ahead strength -- and Pardee has been building that since training camp, perhaps looking forward to this very moment.
"We've had a good week," Pardee admitted. "We're as ready as we can get. It's time now for the stretch run. The jockeying for position is over."
Traditionally, the Redskins have tried to be extremely tough, if not quite nasty, against Roger Staubach and the offense, hoping to force a fumble or a letdown during a game that simply does not mean the season to Dallas.
Staubach, with a troublesome thigh, remains the top-rated quarterback in the NFC, 18 points higher than fourthranked Theismann. Staubach has two exceptional receivers in Tony Hill and Drew Pearson, but is missing his clutch hands, those of infured Preston Pearson.
"Their shotgun (passing) production is down with him out," Pardee said. "With Preston, he'd beat one man and Roger would go to him most of the time. Now they're spreading it around a lot. We've had pretty good success against it."
Defense is difficult, because Dallas is so versatile and swift, though Pardee is confident of his secondary against the Cowboy comets. Whether some of his lightly tested new players, especially Neal Olkewicz at middle linebacker, maintain their poise during the Dallas presnap trickery is a key.
Staubach has rallied Dallas time and again -- and Theismann and the Redskins' two-minute offense has become competent. In Pardee's first season, last year, the Redskins won a low-scoring game here and lost the high-scoring rematch.
"We hope to be in a position to test (their two-minute) drill," Pardee said. "I'd rather be in that situation -- us ahead."