Why be delicate about this? The Cowboys are in the Redskins' division but not in their league as a team. Also, they will not win any of these semiseasonal wars until somebody better than Bob Breunig plays middle linebacker and Dave Butz spends less time in their backfield than Tony Dorsett.
Breunig is one of the class men of sport. Courteous and bright, the sort of player who exudes dignity and leadership. He has one flaw: the Redskins keep belting him toward what would be the cheap seats if such things existed in the NFL.
Yesterday in RFK Stadium, Breunig was closer to the trombones than to John Riggins, jammed and twisted by a revolving door named Jeff Bostic. When the one back in a one-back offense gains 208 yards and the middle linebacker gets credited with one solo tackle, point parity isn't possible.
"The middle linebacker is essential to stopping the run," said center Bostic, being more realistic than snooty after Riggins rambled for 165 yards and two spear carriers added 43. "He's supposed to make the tackles. The front people are supposed to keep us off him."
That never happened. The Hogs and Riggins are as much of a mismatch these days against the Doomsdayers as they are against mortals called Colts and Eagles.
Late in the first quarter, Riggins became the fifth player to gain 10,000 yards in his career. At 35, he is doing to whippersnapper tacklers what George Bush wanted to accomplish in debate.
The once formidable assets Riggins kicked yesterday are hampered by rules changes and age, very likely in that order.
A league that allows a 300-pound blocker to throw out his hands, pistonlike, on each snap deserves to see television ratings dwindle. What we're seeing, much of the time, is little more than tag-team wrestling.
Still, there was the usual fierce hitting common to these teams that had the squeamish covering their eyes; the collision that most excited the Redskins very likely was missed by most fans.
That was the blow Joe Jacoby laid on Too Tall Jones. Players and coaches accustomed to high-speed body wrecks were giddy and awe-struck about that one.
"An all-time great block," said defensive tackle Perry Brooks. "A Hall of Fame block."
"KO job," defensive end Tony McGee kept saying. "KO job. KO job."
The scene of the accident was the right side of the Redskin line, where Jacoby and Russ Grimm lead Riggins toward anyone brave enough to try moving mobile mountains.
Jones, a mere 275, had played off George Starke and was vulnerable to the charging Jacoby. Upright. Close to helpless.
Where I am?
The earth trembled.
"So did my shoulder," Jacoby said.
That is part of the reason poor Breunig looked so useless. His buddies up front, including all-pro Randy White, also were getting hammered. Spaced out in every way possible.
"We wanted to spread 'em out on the line as much as we could," Bostic explained. "Make them cover more ground. We tried to put Breunig out on an island, out there by himself with me and John."
Several times, Bostic could be seen spinning Breunig in such a way that he could scarcely pitty-pat Riggins on the way by. Even in the diluted NFL, one-hand touch doesn't quite do it.
When a defense structured to stop the run cannot contain the most basic play in football, fullback between the tackles, touchdowns come in clusters.
Breunig's frustration caused a greater appreciation of the Redskins' Neal Olkewicz. Undervalued throughout the league, replaced on passing downs, he is exceptional against the run.
"Just to keep him humble," said linebacker coach Larry Peccatiello, "we tell him he's just another nose guard."
Will someone please tell Joe Gibbs not to get in such a public panic before the rematch? Tom Landry was right; his team isn't ready for your guys just yet.
On the other side of the line, Landry surely is wondering: where's mine? The Dallas offensive line has not found a way yet to contain Butz, though it did invent a play to score a touchdown on him.
That first Cowboy score, the 29-yard run by Dorsett, came about because Landry used one of Butz's strengths against him.
"I get upfield so quickly," he said, "that my man pulls the other way, I charge ahead and the center gives me a little chip shot."
That little chip shot by Tom Rafferty sprung Dorsett past the line, and a fine runner suddenly overshadowed by such as Riggins and Walter Payton broke free.
"It's hard to combat something like that," Butz said. "It's a cheap way to block, using your momentum against you."
Ah, but Butz more than gained revenge. The Cowboys alternated guards against him, usually with the same futile result.
"I think they were using silicone on their uniforms, to make 'em slippery," Butz insisted. "I figure that's what they were doing, because when I came off the field my gloves weren't wet.
"I also saw some sparkly stuff on my fingers."
How could Butz be certain Dallas had resorted to such trickery?
" 'Cause I've done it too."