'Skins focus on Cowboys

This time, rivalry game means even more

Pro Football

December 13, 2005|By EDWARD LEE | EDWARD LEE,SUN REPORTER

ASHBURN, Va. -- Before making his way to Redskins Park yesterday, Randy Thomas stopped at a nearby fast-food restaurant to enjoy some breakfast. Once inside, the massive offensive guard who dabbles in competitive eating got an earful from several patrons.

"I went into McDonald's, and people were talking about the Dallas game [Sunday]," Thomas said with amazement. "They weren't talking about the game we just won. ... They told me to beat Dallas, and I'm trying to eat my breakfast meal. And you know how I am with my food."

In the fickle nature of the NFL, Thomas and his fellow Washington Redskins barely relished their 17-13 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday before looking ahead to their home game against the Cowboys, which will be the most meaningful game in this storied rivalry in 13 years.

Even with the win against Arizona that pushed its record to 7-6, Washington did not budge from its ninth seed in the NFC. Aside from the four division leaders, the Carolina Panthers (9-4), Dallas (8-5), Minnesota Vikings (8-5) and Atlanta Falcons (8-5) are ahead of the Redskins.

With three remaining games against NFC East foes - Dallas at home, the New York Giants (9-4) at home and the Philadelphia Eagles (5-8) on the road -the Redskins believe that they must win all three and hope that the teams ahead of them stumble.

They almost got some help on Sunday. The Giants went to overtime with the Eagles until the Giants prevailed with a field goal, and the Cowboys scored the winning touchdown in the final minute against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Yeah, that would've been nice," quarterback Mark Brunell said. "But there are some good teams out there. Dallas and the Giants are very good football teams, and they're finding ways to win football games. That's why they're at where they're at."

The Redskins nearly didn't get to this stage after Brunell ended three drives in the red zone in Arizona with interceptions in what he called his worst first half of his 13-year career.

But running back Clinton Portis' sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season, Antonio Brown's 91-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and a defense that stopped three Arizona possessions in the fourth quarter propelled Washington to its first back-to-back road victories in consecutive weeks since 2001.

Brown downplayed his winning touchdown return.

"My moment was last night," said Brown, who was released by the team after the season opener but called back three weeks ago. "We're not going to get caught up into the moment or into this or into that. So a lot of people know that it's over for me. This is a new week, and we have another challenge in front of us."

That challenge is taking on a Cowboys team that ended a two-game losing streak by defeating the Chiefs, 31-28.

The task becomes more difficult if cornerbacks Shawn Springs (strained back and groin), Carlos Rogers (bruised biceps muscle) and Walt Harris (strained calf) miss the game.

If those three can't play, the Redskins would have just one healthy cornerback in Ade Jimoh. Coach Joe Gibbs said Dimitri Patterson could be promoted from the practice squad.

"We're going to have to hope for some miracles here," Gibbs said. "But we'll just kind of play this out and see how it goes this week."

Offensive tackle Chris Samuels (sprained right knee and right ankle) won't practice, but he said he will play. Director of sports medicine Bubba Tyer said linebacker LaVar Arrington (bruised thigh), wide receiver James Thrash (pulled hamstring) and defensive tackle Joe Salave'a (torn plantar fascia) should be able to practice tomorrow.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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