Gameday Graphic for Game on 12/19/2010
ARLINGTON, Texas. – When Redskins coach Mike Shanahan announced the switch of quarterbacks last week, he said he timed it to avoid creating a circus.
Here we are, just a few days later, and we've seen everything but elephants, cotton candy and clowns stuffed in a tiny car.
The featured performer in this three-ring affair on Sunday was Rex Grossman, if not the heir apparent to Donovan McNabb at least the stopgap. He hadn't started a game since the 2008 season, and that was three teams ago. He hadn't thrown a pass for the Redskins since the final, ill-fated end of the club's loss to the Detroit Lions, when Shanahan first hooked McNabb and indicated the depth of his dissatisfaction with the veteran's adaptation to his system.
What are we to make of his debut as the starter against the Dallas Cowboys?
He threw four touchdown passes and twice completed passes for two-point conversions. He passed for 322 yards. He led the Redskins back from a 20-point deficit in the second half. He got the Redskins to the 30-point mark for the first time since last season.
All in his first start since 2008. None of it was enough, as the Redskins succumbed 33-30.
"He played with a lot of poise," Shanahan said. "No, it doesn't surprise me. He's been doing it in practice consistently."
Sure, there was a bad interception early, a strip and a fumble that led to a Cowboys touchdown and the crushing interception at the end. No intent here to minimize those. On the whole, though, and after a painfully slow start, the Redskins began to move with a certain authority and crispness generally lacking in previous weeks under McNabb's guidance.
The Redskins, losers now of four straight, came into this so-called "rivalry" game, ahead of the Cowboys in the NFC East standings but third and fourth place were the ones at stake. That doesn't stir the passions as would a battle for the playoffs but this game would likely determine which team finishes last in a division long on prestige. Now they're both 5-9.
Planting McNabb on the sideline and starting Grossman changed the Redskins' entire dynamic. Receiver Anthony Armstrong said it was a tricky transition because the two are "polar opposites, in a way." It certainly appeared difficult at the outset.
From the leaky coverage of the opening kickoff, to the field goal surrendered on that ensuing drive, to the three-and-out on Grossman's first series, to more special team's ineptness, the goofs and gaffes came early and often under the arched roof of Jerry Jones' big top. Imagine trapeze artists with no nets beneath them trying to make those risky exchanges with hands coated in sweat. Lions that bite off the heads of their trainers. Clown cars that explode ... with the clowns still in them.
Grossman threw one early interception that led to a touchdown and turned the ball over on a fumble. The Redskins defense, put in untenable positions by the special teams and turnovers, wilted after a decent early effort. The Cowboys scored or threatened to almost every time they had the ball in the first two quarters, built a 13-0 lead and took the Redskins out of their game plan, such as it was.
The Cowboys, though, have a little Bozo in them as well. One penalty for a late hit enabled the Redskins to keep a drive alive and score their first touchdown. Two others hurt their field position and gave the Redskins defense breathing room, though the Cowboys ultimately overcame their own screwups and the Redskins recommenced committing theirs. Andre Carter drew a flag for hitting quarterback Jon Kitna in the head on a third-down pass that was incomplete and that gave the 'Boys a fresh set of downs and the chance to score on Kitna's 14-yard pass to Jason Witten for a 20-7 lead.
That was Witten's 600th career catch and it only seems like 500 have come against the Redskins. What this one did do, however, was allow the Cowboys to finish a 91-yard drive with a touchdown.
The 20-7 halftime lead might have been much larger. The Cowboys skipped out on trying a field goal early in the game from the Redskins 1-yard line and got thrown back on fourth down by linebackers London Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh. At the end of the half, David Buehler missed a 35-yard field goal. So a potential blowout was actually less than a two-touchdown game.
Not for long, though. Grossman's third turnover, on a sack and strip by DeMarcus Ware, gave the ball to the 'Boys at the Redskins 15 and Tashard Choice scored from three yards away for a 27-7 lead.
On it went, these trapeze artists swinging back and forth. Touchdown, Redskins. Field goal, Cowboys. Touchdown, Redskins, after Anthony Spencer, with a ticky-tack slap to Grossman's facemask, drew a roughing the passer penalty that allowed a drive to thrive and Grossman to find Santana Moss in the end zone for a second time.
Then came the five-yard pass to Chris Cooley for a touchdown. And Grossman completed yet another pass for his second two-point conversion of the afternoon. The Redskins were back.
When Grossman got sacked on consecutive plays and the Redskins, tied 30-30, punted, the Cowboys got the ball with 3:11 and in relatively good field position. That led to what became the winning field goal of 39 yards by David Buehler.
And on the Redskins' last possession, with no times-out left but hope building? Yeah. The interception. Terrence Newman picked off a Grossman floater on third-and-one, rambled around the field until the clock showed zeroes and then gave himself up to be tackled.
That's always been the knock on Grossman. Streaky. Terrific for a series, terrible for a series. Hideous for half, then heroic. Five sacks and endless pressure complicated his day.
So close and yet so far for the Redskins. One bit of nuttiness follows the next – the first benching of McNabb at the end of the Debacle in Detroit, the suspension of Albert Haynesworth, the McNabb benching part deux – and the circus, rather than coming to town, never actually leaves. It's carnival rides and funnel cakes, sideshow barkers and helium balloons every day.
The only thing missing? The fun house. At least for a while, this game provided some fun.
The Redskins renew their rivalry with the Cowboys this Sunday when they travel to Dallas for an NFC East matchup at Cowboys Stadium. Kickoff is 1 p.m. ET.
The stadium seats 80,000, but is expandable to an estimated 110,000 with a standing-room only area. The artificial surface is called RealGrass Matrix.
The Redskins are 2-2 in NFC East games this season. They have recorded wins over Dallas (13-7 in Week 1) and Philadelphia (17-12 in Week 4) and losses to Philadelphia (58-29 in Week 9) and New York Giants (31-7 in Week 12).
The Cowboys are 1-3 in the NFC East. They lost to the Redskins, split two games with the New York Giants (41-35 loss in Week 6, 33-20 win in Week 9) and lost to Philadelphia (30-27 last Sunday).
In road games, the Redskins are 3-3 this season. At home, the Cowboys are just 1-6.
The Redskins have announced that Rex Grossman is going to start the game at quarterback ahead of Donovan McNabb.
The game will be televised on FOX. Kenny Albert calls the play-by-play with color commentary by Daryl Johnston. Tony Siragusa is the sideline reporter.
On radio, the game will be broadcast locally on ESPN 980 and the Redskins Radio Network. Larry Michael calls the play-by-play with former Redskins and Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen and Sam Huff adding color commentary. Former Redskin Rick 'Doc' Walker reports from the sidelines.
Compass Media Networks broadcasts the game nationally on radio. Chris Carrino calls the play-by-play and Brian Baldinger provides color commentary.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS
|WR||89 Santana Moss||11 Roy Williams|
|LT||71 Trent Williams||68 Doug Free|
|LG||78 Kory Lichtensteiger||63 Kyle Kosier|
|C||61 Casey Rabach||65 Andre Gurode|
|RG||63 Will Montgomery||70 Leonard Davis|
|RT||69 Jammal Brown||75 Marc Colombo|
|TE||47 Chris Cooley||82 Jason Witten|
|WR||13 Anthony Armstrong||19 Miles Austin|
|QB||8 Rex Grossman||3 Jon Kitna|
|FB||45 Mike Sellers||44 Chris Gronkowski|
|RB||46 Ryan Torain||24 Marion Barber|
|DE||94 Adam Carriker||99 Igor Olshansky|
|NT||96 Ma'ake Kemoeatu||90 Jay Ratliff|
|DE||64 Kedric Golston||72 Stephen Bowen|
|OLB||97 Lorenzo Alexander||93 Anthony Spencer|
|ILB||59 London Fletcher||56 Bradie James|
|ILB||52 Rocky McIntosh||51 Keith Brooking|
|OLB||98 Brian Orakpo||94 DeMarcus Ware|
|LCB||23 DeAngelo Hall||41 Terrence Newman|
|RCB||31 Phillip Buchanon||21 Mike Jenkins|
|SS||41 Kareem Moore||43 Gerald Sensabaugh|
|FS||37 Reed Doughty||20 Alan Ball|
|P||1 Sam Paulescu||1 Mat McBriar|
|K||4 Graham Gano||18 David Buehler|
|H||1 Sam Paulescu||1 Mat McBriar|
|LS||57 Nick Sundberg||91 L.P. Ladouceur|
|KOR||16 Brandon Banks||37 Bryan McCann|
|PR||16 Brandon Banks||37 Bryan McCann|
Sunday's Redskins-Cowboys matchup marks the 102nd time the two clubs have played since their storied rivalry began in 1960.
The two teams have played at least twice a year each regular season since 1961, with the exception of the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Dallas leads the all-time series 59-40-2, with victories in 19 of the last 26 games.
In Week 1 this year, the Redskins defeated the Cowboys 13-7 at FedExField.
With seconds left before halftime, DeAngelo Hall stripped the ball from running back Tashard Choice, scooped it up and raced 32 yards for a touchdown.
In the game's final seconds, the Cowboys appeared to score a game-winning touchdown, but Brian Orakpo was held by right tackle Alex Barron and the score was nullified.
In 2009, the Redskins were swept by the Cowboys in the season series. They lost to the Cowboys 7-6 at Cowboys Stadium in Week 11 and lost 17-0 at FedExField in Week 16.
Prior to 2009, the Redskins and Cowboys had split their season series the three previous seasons. The Redskins swept the Cowboys in 2005.
The first time the two clubs met was in 1960. The Cowboys were just three weeks old as a franchise and had just lost their first NFL game. Dallas headed to Washington for its first-ever road contest and lost 26-14 in front of 21,142 fans.
The Redskins and Cowboys have clashed twice in the postseason, with Washington winning both meetings: 26-3 in the 1972 NFC Championship Game and 31-17 in the 1982 NFC Championship Game.
TALE OF THE TAPE
|REDSKINS 2010 RANKINGS|
|COWBOYS 2010 RANKINGS|
FAMILIAR FACES ON THE COWBOYS
Combine scout Kevin Simon was a 2006 seventh-round draft pick by the Redskins but he was cut in preseason.
Midwest area scout Bill DeKraker was in the Redskins' scouting department from 1995-97.
REDSKINS-COWBOYS NEWS & NOTES
-- Meet Jason Garrett
Since Jason Garrett took over as Cowboys head coach on Nov. 8, Dallas is 3-2.
The Cowboys rank third in the NFC and fifth in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 141.0. Through the first nine weeks, the Cowboys ranked 31st in the NFL in the same category at 75.6 rushing yards per game.
Garrett previously served as the Cowboys offensive coordinator from 2007 through Week 10 this season.
Garrett's offenses have been among the most prolific in Cowboys history. During the last two seasons, the Cowboys averaged 25.5 points per game and more than 355 yards in total offense per outing.
He joined the Cowboys in 2007 after two seasons as quarterbacks coach with the Miami Dolphins.
As a player, Garrett was a backup quarterback to Troy Aikman in Dallas from 1993-99. He was a member of Cowboys teams that won six division titles and three Super Bowl championships.
Garrett played college football in the Ivy League at Princeton.
-- First-Year Redskins Head Coaches
Entering Sunday's game vs. Tennessee, Mike Shanahan is 5-7 in his first season as Redskins head coach.
Looking back at Redskins head coaches in their first season, five have gone on to have winning seasons (excluding Dick Todd, who was 5-4 in taking over three games into the 1951 season.)
Twelve first-year head coaches suffered losing campaigns, including Joe Gibbs's return in 2004. Additionally Herman Ball coached the final seven games in 1949 and finished 1-4, while Terry Robiskie finished 1-2 while coaching the last three games of 2000.
Eight first-year head coaches ended their seasons with a .500 record, including Jim Zorn in 2008.
-- How the Redskins' Roster Was Built
The Redskins have 15 players on the roster that the team drafted, including 2010 first-round pick Trent Williams and 2009 supplemental draft pick Jeremy Jarmon.
Mike Sellers is the longest-tenured Redskins. He had a stint with the Redskins in 1998-2000 and rejoined the team in 2004.
Washington has used unrestricted free agency to acquire 28 players, including Casey Rabach in 2005, Andre Carter in 2006, London Fletcher in 2007, DeAngelo Hall in 2008, Albert Haynesworth in 2009 and Ma'ake Kemoeatu in 2010.
Five Redskins players were acquired as undrafted rookie free agents. This group includes offensive linemen Stephon Heyer and cornerback Byron Westbrook, both local products.
The team has five players on the roster acquired via trade: Santana Moss, Donovan McNabb, Adam Carriker, Jammal Brown and John Beck.
-- Highlights of the Rivalry
The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is always a highlight of the NFL regular season. Heading into Sunday night's game, here's a breakdown of the series (courtesy of the Cowboys public relations staff):
-- 50 games have been decided by 10 points or more
-- 34 games have been decided by two or more touchdowns
-- 19 games have been decided by three or more touchdowns
-- 41 games have been decided by less than a touchdown
-- There have been two ties, a 28-28 game in 1961 and a 35-35 game in 1962
-- Dallas had a 10-game winning streak from 1997-2002
-- Biggest Redskins win was by 28 points in 2005
-- Biggest Redskins loss was by 35 points in 1993
-- The two clubs have played 14 Monday Night games, six Thanksgiving games, five Sunday night games and a Saturday game
-- The two clubs have played eight season openers and eight season finales
-- From Texas to the Redskins
The Redskins have eight players who who hail from the state of Texas.
Mike Williams, who is on the Redskins' injured reserve list, grew up in Dallas.
Anthony Armstrong, Derrick Dockery, Trent Williams and Hunter Smith grew up in the suburbs of Dallas. So did Robert Henson and Malcolm Kelly, who are on injured reserve.
Brian Orakpo hails from Houston.
Orakpo recently said the rivalry between Dallas and Houston has been intense over the years.
"Houston and Dallas, we don't like each other, man," Orakpo said. "We hate each other. We are always trying to see who's the better big city down there."
-- McNabb vs. NFC East
Donovan McNabb has had sustained success against the NFC East in his 12-year career.
Overall, McNabb is 36-25 against the NFC East for a winning percentage of .590.
The three other starting QBs in the division -- Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Michael Vick -- are a combined 43-35 against the NFC East, a winning percentage of .551.
McNabb is 12-9 vs. Dallas in his NFL career.
He is 11-9 vs. New York Giants, 12-7 vs. Washington and 1-1 vs. Philadelphia, the team he played for from 1999-2009 before joining the Redskins this year.
In the regular season, McNabb has swept an NFC East opponent 10 times.
-- Fletcher's An Iron Man
London Fletcher has continued to be a model of consistency in his 13th NFL season.
He has not missed a game since entering the league as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams in 1998.
With Brett Favre's consecutive games played streak having been snapped last Monday night, Fletcher is now tied with Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber and Indianapolis's Peyton Manning for the longest active streak with 205 consecutive games played.
Fletcher is third among active players with 164 consecutive starts. Manning is first with 205 consecutive starts and Barber is second at 180.
Since joining the Redskins in 2007, Fletcher has led the team in tackles in each of his three seasons with the club.
His 146 tackles this season is the 12th straight in which he has recorded at least 100 tackles. The streak dates back to 1999, when he was in his second season with the Rams. It is the longest current streak in the NFL.
-- Redskins' Strenth of Schedule
The Redskins have the NFL's eighth toughest schedule in 2010, according to the NFL.
The Redskins' opponents this season produced a 134-122 record last year, a .523 winning percentage.
The Houston Texans (.547), Tennessee Titans (.547), Dallas Cowboys (.543), Cincinnati Bengals (.539), Jacksonville Jaguars (.535), New England Patriots (.531) and New York Giants (.527) have tougher schedules.
The Redskins play 11 games against teams who finished .500 or better last year. They play seven games against 2009 playoff opponents.
-- Shanahan's Moving Up
With the Redskins' Week 10 win over the Tennessee Titans, Mike Shanahan recorded his 159th career win (regular season and postseason) as a head coach.
Shanahan's career record is 159-110, a .591 winning percentage. That win total is 16th best among all-time NFL head coaches.
He needs three wins to surpass Bill Cowher, who has a 161-99-1 career record.
Among active head coaches, Shanahan's 159-110 record is second only to New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, who has a 172-99 record.
-- McNabb's Passing Fancy
Donovan McNabb has passed for 3,377 yards this season, the 12th highest total in franchise history.
Against Dallas, he could move past Joe Theismann (3,391 in 1984), Trent Green (3,441 in 1998), Gus Frerotte (3,453 in 1996), Mark Rypien (3,564 in 1991), Theismann (3,568 in 1981) and Jason Campbell (3,618 in 2009) for the sixth highest total.
McNabb is on pace to become the Redskins' first 4,000-yard passer since Brad Johnson in 1999.
He is also on pace to set his career high and franchise record for completions in a season.
-- Going Overtime
The Redskins have played three overtime contests this season and they have a record of 2-1.
If the Redskins play a fourth overtime game this season, it would be a franchise first.
In Week 2, the Redskins lost to the Houston Texans 30-27 in overtime at FedExField. Three weeks later, they defeated the Green Bay Packers 16-13 in overtime at FedExField.
In Week 11 at Tennessee, the Redskins defeated the Titans 19-16 in overtime at LP Field in Nashville.
-- Cooley Coming On
Chris Cooley could emerge as the greatest Redskins tight end in franchise history this year.
In his 7-year career, Cooley has 405 receptions for 4,475 yards and 30 touchdowns.
He needs nine catches to move past Ricky Sanders for sixth place in all-time receptions in franchise history.
Among tight ends, he is ranked second all-time in all three categories in franchise history behind Jerry Smith, whose 13-year career is twice that of Cooley. Smith finished his career with 421 career receptions.
Cooley already holds the Redskins record for most receptions by a tight end in a single season with 83 in 2008.
-- Gathering Moss
Against Dallas, Moss has had some of the best games of his 9-year NFL career.
In the Week 1 game between the two clubs his year, Moss recorded six catches for 77 yards. In two games in 2009, Moss caught 13 passes for 130 yards.
Overall, Moss has caught 65 passes for 983 yards--a 15.1 yards-per-catch clip--and four touchdowns in 11 career games against the Cowboys.
Of course, Moss's best game versus Dallas came in 2005 when he caught two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 70-yarder from Mark Brunell, to help the Redskins come back and beat the Cowboys 14-13 at Texas Stadium.
-- More Moss
Santana Moss's 22-yard catch in the second quarter against Tampa Bay was his 415th career reception as a Redskin, moving him into fifth place all-time in franchise history.
He moved ahead of Ricky Sanders, who had 414 career receptions in seven seasons (1986-93) with the Redskins.
Moss finished Sunday's game with a team-high seven catches for 82 yards and one touchdown.
With 420 career catches as a Redskin, Moss needs two catches to pass Jerry Smith into fourth place in Redskins franchise history.
-- McNabb's TD Mark
With a 1-yard touchdown pass to Logan Paulsen last Sunday vs. Tampa Bay, Donovan McNabb has thrown for a touchdown in the Redskins' last 12 games.
The last Redskins quarterback to throw a touchdown pass in 12 consecutive games was Joe Theismann in the 1984 season.
Through Week 13, McNabb has thrown 14 touchdown passes this season.
-- What's Next?
The Redskins head to Jacksonville for the holidays.
The team takes on the Jaguars at Everbank Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 26. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
It's the Redskins' first regular season matchup against Jacksonville since 2006, when they defeated the Jaguars 36-30 in overtime at FedExField.