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Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Joe Gibbs knows all about the Washington-Dallas rivalry. He faced the Cowboys 16 times with Washington and won half of those matchups. His biggest win came on Jan. 22, 1983, when Washington secured a 31-17 victory in the NFC Championship game. Gibbs won his first of three Super Bowls eight days later.
Gibbs spoke about the longstanding rivalry during a special edition of "The Ron Rivera Show," which will air Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on NBC4 and NBC Sports Washington. With Washington set to play Dallas on Thursday, head coach Ron Rivera will have the chance to do something Gibbs never did: beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.
"If there's anything I miss about the NFL, it's this game," Gibbs told Rivera and Senior Vice President of Media & Content Julie Donaldson. "Redskins-Cowboys, there was nobody on the fence. You're either one or the other, and to be quiet truthful, they didn't like each other."
"I'm starting to learn that now," Rivera responded with a smile.
Rivera introduced himself to the rivalry with a resounding win over Dallas in Week 7. Washington imposed its will offensively (208 rushing yards) and defensively (six sacks), starting fast and then cruising to a 25-3 triumph at FedExField. It was the least amount of points the Cowboys scored in a regular season matchup during the 60-year rivalry.
A win Thursday would mark Washington's first season sweep of the Cowboys since 2012 and just its third since the turn of the century. Gibbs was in his second stint as head coach when Washington swept its division rivals in 2005. He also beat them four straight times between 1986-1988, but in his lone Thanksgiving matchup with the Cowboys, Washington suffered a 27-17 defeat on Nov. 22, 1990.
In fact, Washington has only beaten Dallas once on Thanksgiving in nine tries. The most recent matchup occurred in 2018 when the Cowboys secured a 31-23 victory.
Quarterback Alex Smith suffered his gruesome leg injury four days prior, so he did not suit up for that game and did not know if he would ever suit up again. But when Washington takes the field at AT&T Stadium on Thursday, Smith will not only be in uniform, but also looking to keep his team's improbable playoff hopes alive.
The way Washington has competed the past three games, Rivera likes where his team is heading.
"I like the fact that in the last few games, we've been competitive in the second half and we've given ourselves a chance to win," Rivera said. "I hate the fact that we lost, but at least there's something that we're building on, and we were able to build on it again last week. We were down by two, and then all of the sudden we changed it, we went after it and we went out and won the football game.
"Now is a chance for us to build on it again as we go into this Thursday matchup for Thanksgiving."
-- Thanksgiving scouting report: If Washington was not in Dallas for Thanksgiving, Rivera would be enjoying "pretty much anything" his wife makes and Smith would load up on some ham -- "turkey's great, but I'm more of a ham guy" -- and a variety of sides. Rivera starts with one plate but usually does not have more than two so he can save some room for pumpkin pie. Smith will have a big plate and then circle back for "the best of the best" once he's tried everything.
Defensive end Chase Young utilizes a different approach. He gets two plates with an assortment of foods ranging from canned yams to stuffing and sweet potato pie. He is not much of a turkey fan, either -- "I would always just eat chicken" -- but is not very picky.
"It's a lot of stuff I could go to," Young said, "but I'm gonna crush it all."
-- "It's a heck of a deal': Rivera understands the novelty of Thanksgiving Day games. He played in one as a Chicago Bears linebacker in 1991 and has coached in several, though he was only a head coach for one of those games. That came in 2015, when the Carolina Panthers beat the Dallas Cowboys for their 11th straight win to start the season.
"I've watched them as a kid, I've watched them now. It's more of a tradition. It's kind of cool to get the opportunity to do it. ...I think it's a heck of a deal."
-- Young players excited to play in primetime: More than 35 million people watched the Buffalo Bills beat the Dallas Cowboys last Thanksgiving, making it the most-watched NFL regular season game in three years and the most-watched television program since Super Bowl LIII. Washington's game against Dallas may not receive as many eyeballs, but it will still receive significant viewership across the country.
"You know LeBron's going to be watching, everybody's going to be watching," Young said. "You know, it's that time to get that money for sure."
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