Redskins, Cowboys finally have something at stake besides bragging rights

| Friday, Dec. 28, 2012, 7:42 p.m.

IRVING, Texas — Having spent seven seasons as a quarterback with Dallas in the 1990s, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is well-versed on the team's rivalry with the Washington Redskins.

As for Garrett's players, well, he put that in perspective earlier this week when mentioning his starting left tackle.

“Yeah, players are young,” Garrett said. “Tyron Smith was born in 1990.”

The Cowboys-Redskins rivalry was fierce for three decades — the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s — but since 2000 has fizzled because both teams have experienced their share of struggles.

Sunday night's nationally televised season finale between the Cowboys and Redskins, however, is the next step in reviving the rivalry. The winner claims the NFC East title and will host a first-round playoff game. A Cowboys loss would end their season.

It's been almost 30 years since these two teams have met this late in the season with so much on the line. Both teams entered the game on Dec. 11, 1983, at 12-2 and tied for the NFC East lead. Quarterback Joe Theismann and running back John Riggins led the Redskins to a 31-10 victory, jump-starting their run to the Super Bowl.

“We're pretty damn good,” Theismann boasted after beating Dallas.

That's finally true again. The Redskins have won six consecutive games, and the Cowboys have won four out of their last six to stay in the hunt.

Suddenly, this rivalry has relevance again.

“It's always been a rivalry, but now, there's a little more at stake,” Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said.

Veteran Washington linebacker London Fletcher agreed.

“There's no love lost between either team,” Fletcher said. “For the younger guys, I'm sure they can feel the intensity.”

Since the Cowboys' first season in 1960, Dallas and Washington have combined to win 27 division titles and eight Super Bowls. However, neither team has won a Super Bowl since the Cowboys won their fifth to end the 1995 season. Also, the Redskins haven't won the NFC East since 1999, and the Cowboys have won the division just twice since 2000 (in 2007 and 2009).

Since 2000, the two teams have combined to miss the playoffs in more seasons (seven) than either has made it (six).

Furthermore, this is only the Redskins' third winning season since 2000. And, how 'bout them Cowboys?

Well, they're 140-140 since they won their last Super Bowl.

Tight end Jason Witten, the longest-tenured Cowboys player, said Sunday night's do-or-die type game certainly will help revive a rivalry that has seemingly been dormant since the turn of the millennium.

“They feel a little bit of hate toward us, and I'm sure it's the same way with us,” Witten said.

Ah, a quote that involves the word “hate.” Maybe these teams are getting somewhere after all.

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