To most of a planet not quite as breathless as Washington, Cosmic Collision I today matches the awesome arsenal of the Cowboys against the plucky-lucky Redskins. Lots of numbers jump up and scream otherwise, demand attention as loudly as the Redskin whom Dallas very likely will test first, Dexter Manley.

The masses assume the Cowboy defensive line doesn't even bend, let alone break, that the opposition quarterback spends most of each game with Randy White perched on his chest. In truth, the Redskins have two more sacks so far.

And the same number of interceptions.

John Riggins has rushed for 28 more yards, although in 34 more carries, than Tony Dorsett; Joe Theismann is statistically superior to Danny White; Charlie Brown has caught one more pass, for 96 more yards, than Drew Pearson, and Mark Moseley has kicked Rafael Septien from here to Kenosha.

The Redskins also have a better record (4-0 to 3-1), even though their schedule has been tougher.

Devoted NFL watchers figure Washington's edge to be the special teams--and that very well may prove correct. But the unheralded Cowboy, Ron Fellows, has slightly better averages on kickoff and punt returns than all-pro Mike Nelms.

Patience will be rewarded at RFK Stadium shortly after the dinner hour tonight: either for the Cowboys, for refusing to panic shortly after being formed and for building a foundation stronger than any other in the NFL the past 16 years; or the Redskins, for being more thorough with more players this season.

Because the Indians did not give their game plan to Custer, all the Redskins are telling Tom Landry is that they plan to run some and pass some. Based on results, they are likely to run more this year against the Cowboys than last -- and pass better.


Last season, the Redskins roared after they reined in the offense. In that season-opener here against Dallas, they threw 49 times -- and got clobbered; they threw 25 times against the Bears -- and broke a five-game losing streak. Balance gets it done, Joe Gibbs discovered.

In Riggins and the freshly mended Joe Washington, the Redskins have a backfield that can run over and around Dallas' vulnerable linebackers. Theismann has been having a dream season.

But can the defense keep Dallas under 30?

The responsible aide, Richie Petitbon, who has been battling Landry for more than a decade, makes no promises.

"He's the best," Petitbon said, "because he's won so often with so many different players. He's won with Roger (Staubach) and Danny (White) at quarterback. That's no accident. Dallas always has had great runners; it always will. If Landry isn't alone at the top, it won't take long to call the roll."

In Dallas last season, it didn't take the Cowboys long to exploit Washington's weakness. Recently, Manley was arrested on a charge of impersonating an officer; his sin last season was impersonating a defensive end.

"My worst game since I've been associated with football," he volunteered. "They worked on me. But I'd like them to run my way now. Every time, if they like. That would make me more famous, hopefully."

Ever since George Allen brought paranoia and parity here, the Redskins have thought they could beat Dallas if the game more closely resembled footbrawl. Get 'em in a street fight, intimidate 'em, the reasoning went.

Historically, the mismatch has been on special teams. Not the flashy types, the punters and placekickers, but the anonymous headhunters. Many years the Cowboys have yielded slightly more yards on punts and kickoffs than they have gained. The Redskins always have had a very positive return-coverage ratio, until punts this season.

Mostly because of Jeff Hayes' erratic efforts, especially last week, the Redskins are averaging less than 30 net yards on punts. The Dallas average is above 35.

The major Redskin maulers, Greg Williams (with 34 total hits), Alvin Garrett (31), Pete Cronan (30), Larry Kubin (28), Quentin Lowry (28) and Otis Wonsley (27), are being primed. They have made sure Nelms usually gets nearly 25 yards on kickoffs and that opponents don't get a foot more than 16.

At Texas Stadium last year, on the kickoff that followed Moseley's game-tying field goal early in the second half, Dallas muffed the ball. It bounced 11 yards, directly, as if on command, to a Cowboy the Redskins had just planted on the turf. So while they can cause fumbles, these reckless Redskins cannot control fate.