The war of words in the NFC's Eastern Division raged on yesterday.
Aware that his Redskins are favored by 5 1/2 points over the Dallas Cowboys in a 4 p.m. game today at RFK Stadium that will determine sole possesion of first place in the division (WDVM-TV-9), Coach Joe Gibbs yesterday accused Dallas of devising a week-long "propaganda" attack to help beat the Redskins.
"I just want to say one thing," Gibbs began, wagging an index finger for emphasis. "I think what has happened this week is we've been getting propaganda from Dallas.
"They are saying things like, 'We're just trying to survive,' or 'We're just trying to hang on until the end of the season.'
"We've been hearing that coming from the Dallas coaches, from their press, from everybody down there. I think they've made a real effort to lull us to sleep. It's been a real concerted effort.
"I just want everybody around here to know that we're not buying it. Their offense is quite a bit better than ours. If they're having problems on offense, then we're having real problems, because their offense is ranked eighth in the league and we're 11th.
"Their defense is better than ours, too (Dallas is ranked seventh in total defense, compared with the Redskins' eighth spot). They're saying they have all of their players hurt and they have a lot of new players. Well, we've got more players hurt than they do and we have more new players, too.
"I've never heard the Dallas organization do anything like this before. They've purposely tried to do this to us. I think it's a charade, a propaganda ploy. It's a tactic. I just don't want people to think we're buying it. We know what's at stake here from the start and we expect to play the same great Dallas team that we've faced in the past years."
Responding to Gibbs' charges, Doug Todd, Dallas' public relations director, said yesterday, "Our team really hasn't established a personality yet and what happens in games from week to week would flavor whatever comments you get from the players and coaches in the following week. Right now, the memory of Roy Green (the St. Louis receiver who caught two touchdown passes in a 31-20 victory over Dallas last week) running through our secondary is probably fresher in our minds than anything."
And what of the Cowboys' braintrust creating a "propaganda ploy?" Said Todd: "If you can figure out how to get 49 football players in this day and age to all say the same thing, then please alert this office."
Gibbs has appeared tense all week, once interrupting a practice to chew out his players for performing without emotion. It seems that his attitude stiffens each time he's about to face Dallas. Gibbs has a 2-3 record against Dallas.
Perhaps Redskins linebacker Monte Coleman didn't realize how perfectly he had described the current state of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry when he said, "Man, George Allen isn't around anymore. Things have changed."
Now, instead of the one-upsmanship banter that used to come from such former Redskins as defensive tackle Diron Talbert or from such former Cowboys as quarterback Roger Staubach, there seemingly has evolved an era of one-downsmanship. It's as if both sides are saying, "We're not as good as they are."
"As far back as I can remember, Dallas has always been rebuilding, ever since I was a little boy growing up in Lubbock, Tex.," cracked Redskins free safety Curtis Jordan. "Boy, isn't it amazing how they've just barely made it to the playoffs for 17 straight years (16 of 17, actually)."
"Put it this way," said the Redskins' veteran defensive end, Tony McGee, "We know that at 4 o'clock on Sunday, Dallas will have a good team."
Injuries have redefined the lineups of both of these 4-2 teams. For the Redskins, all-pro wide receiver Charlie Brown (sprained ankle) is out and will again be replaced by Mark McGrath.
Three other Redskins -- defensive end Dexter Manley (sprained ankle), strong safety Tony Peters (abdominal muscle pull) and linebacker Rich Milot (elbow injury) -- are expected to play only in role situations.
It is likely newly acquired veteran Tom Beasley will replace Manley (who has not missed a game in his four pro seasons) on running downs and, if possible, Manley will play on passing downs. Manley is the player who knocked quarterback Danny White unconscious, then deflected a pass by White's replacement, current starter Gary Hogeboom, that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown by tackle Darryl Grant in the Redskins' 31-17 victory in the NFC title game in January 1983.
Milot hasn't played in two weeks, since having a bone fragment removed from his left elbow. Yesterday, Milot said he expects to play in second- and third-down passing situations against the Cowboys. "I feel like I'm ready," Milot said.
Gibbs said that Ken Coffey will start for the second straight week at strong safety, ahead of Peters. However, don't be surprised to see Peters (run) and Coffey (pass) begin a platoon system that might become the norm for this season.
Part of the reason Dallas holds a 28-18-2 lead in this rivalry is because of the running of Tony Dorsett, who has averaged 74 yards per game in 13 games against the Redskins.
However, Dorsett, now 30, hasn't run for 100 yards in any of his past nine games. That sickly (for him) streak began with his 14-carries-for-34-yards effort in the 31-10 loss to the Redskins last year. He went over 100 yards against St. Louis last week, but a penalty negated a six-yard gain, leaving Dorsett with only 96 yards.
Of course, Redskins defenders were quick to note that Dorsett appeared quite himself on a screen pass that he turned into a 68-yard touchdown against Chicago two weeks ago.
At least part of the reason for Dorsett's slack numbers has been the change in the Cowboys' offensive line. Three of the Cowboys' current five down linemen (left guard Glen Titensor, left tackle Phil Pozderac and right guard Brian Baldinger) weren't starters when the Cowboys last met the Redskins.
Hogeboom was not the starter then, either. Thus far this year, Hogeboom has completed 56 percent of his passes, four for touchdowns, and has thrown five interceptions.
Hogeboom has yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver. He might be helped in this respect by the return of Tony Hill, who was activated this week from the injured-reserve list. Tight end Doug Cosbie (sprained knee) and wide receiver Doug Donley (hamstring and shoulder) are tied for the team lead with 26 catches and each is expected to play against the Redskins, despite injuries.
There are two things to note about the Cowboys' defense in the wake of their loss to St. Louis: 1) their pass defense is much better than it seemed to be against the Cardinals, when it yielded 354 yards to quarterback Neil Lomax; in fact, the Cowboys had been giving up a league-best 134 passing yards per game before last week; 2) the Cowboys' run defense seems to be as flawed as the numbers indicate and will be forced to prove otherwise against Redskins fullback John Riggins today.
"We've heard and seen all of the things Dallas has been saying," Redskins linebacker Mel Kaufman said. "It's possible that they have tried to set us up. But once we're on the field, words mean nothing. It's just a game of football."