So here we are again, and hasn't it been nice of the Redskins to wait for the most tense and sweaty-palms moment to bop the stars off the Cowboys?

Make it Washington 27, Dallas 7.

The Cowboys surely will muster a touchdown, although it might not come in the conventional manner. The last two weeks, the Dallas offense has outscored the Dallas defense only by a touchdown, 3-2.

Most of America most of the week has been letting its eyes overrule its memory with the Cowboys. Is it possible that a once-peerless offense cannot nudge the football into the end zone more than once a week?

It is.

"You have to realize the defense is the dominating force of this football team right now," quarterback Danny White admits. "We've got to play the game with that in mind."

Who's running this Dallas show now, Tom Landry or George Allen?

Two parts of the Redskins' anatomy are critical: John Riggins' back and Joe Theismann's arm. If Riggins is three-quarters hale and seven-eighths hearty, the Redskins will cause a Dallas defense that rarely even bends to break now and then.

Nobody has enough hands to cover an all-pro fullback following two all-pro blockers (Joe Jacoby and Russ Grimm) when two all-pro receivers (Art Monk and Charlie Brown) can spread the defense from sideline to sideline.

That was evident last season, when the Redskins never scored fewer than 23 points in the 18 games before the Super Bowl.

Also, Theismann had a dream year at quarterback. If it was necessary to throw a ball through eight flapping arms to reach Brown, Theismann hummed it home; if it required floating the ball 55 yards into the outstretched arms of a Smurf in full flight, that's what happened.

It hasn't happened much this year. One reason may be that it is humanly impossible to repeat that sort of season-long touch. Some others surely include the injury to Brown, getting acquainted with Calvin Muhammad and off-the-field personal problems involving a highly publicized marital breakup.

Theismann has been troubled by his dropoff; this stretch of vital games would be a marvelous time to reassume his eminence among quarterbacks. Television ratings have been down all season; roasts will get burned for Washington-Dallas.

By discussing the recent past in the papers here, the Cowboys very likely have tipped some of their strategy Sunday at Texas Stadium.

"We know the tight end can't beat us," cornerback Everson Walls said. "We want to contain the wide receivers and prevent the big plays."

Beginning four games ago, the Cowboys have made the tight end the primary responsibility of a linebacker, freeing a safety to help deep. They are fifth this season in passing yards allowed; they were 27th a year ago.

The major unknown in this big-game equation is rookie Eugene Lockhart, who has assumed Bob Breunig's job at middle linebacker for the Cowboys. At 230 pounds, he is capable of evading blocks and stinging Riggins.

Lockhart has risen with a start quite a lot late at night this week, but it hasn't bothered him. "Means I'm concentrating," he said.

Each team had chances to glide by the other all season and run away with the NFC East. Thankfully, neither did, for there have been more than enough no-interest divisions in the NFL.

If the loser here fails to gain the playoffs, as is likely, the kick in the rump will be for that Sorry Sunday three weeks ago.

Glancing back, the only Redskins loss of the five that absolutely should not have occurred was to the Eagles. That very day the Cowboys were losing to Division III Buffalo.

Quarterback White explained the recent change in Cowboy offensive philosophy: "We are not going to score on every drive; we've got to realize that going in. If we have third and 15 and nobody is open at 15 yards, we have to take five yards, punt and give the defense better field position rather than take a risk.

"Since I've been here, we have always been high-scoring. With the team we've had the last three-four years, we were able to take a lot more chances. We had such experience and talent. We knew what to expect.

"Personally, this is not as much fun. I want to score points and play all-out offense and throw the kitchen sink at them. I get paid a lot of money to do what I do, and I'm going to do what's best for the team. This kind of play is a change for me, but I've got to be able to do it."

The inexperience and lack of talent to which White was referring includes wide receiver and the offensive line. The Cowboys almost never get caught with a plodder such as Mike Renfro or a one-dimensional receiver such as Doug Donley.

The blockers either have been injured or playing out of position most of the season. Two of them, tackle Phil Pozderac and guard Kurt Petersen, will return to play against the Redskins.

Like basketball, most of football is matchups. And the important ones favor the Redskins. Their defensive linemen ought to outplay the Cowboys blockers, as usual, Dave Butz having become a national celebrity in recent collisions.

Somewhat hidden by the excellence of the Dallas defense lately has been the terrific play of Washington's maulers. Off recent form, the Redskins ought to blanket every Cowboys receiver except Tony Hill.

History is all that favors the Cowboys. Never in their 25 years have they lost twice in the same season to the Redskins. That habit will get broken Sunday.