`Legit' Cowboys are on a roll, Redskins on a slide
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) - The last time they saw the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys were a bumbling outfit that couldn't score a touchdown or even find a reliable way to snap the ball to Tony Romo. No one had yet seen much of DeMarco Murray, and Laurent Robinson was catching his first three passes of the season.
Now Dallas has won three of four - all by double digits - and is coming off a 44-7 rout of the Buffalo Bills. The Cowboys (5-4) are but one game behind the New York Giants in the NFC East heading into Sunday's game at Washington (3-6). Murray's emergence, and Robinson's as well, has made them look like a different team.
"We kind of have a few different guys in different positions," Romo said.
"We're playing some good football, and I think we're starting to figure out what some of these guys can do." Third-round pick Murray is averaging 150 yards over four games since Felix Jones was sidelined with a severely sprained ankle. Fifth-year player Robinson has four touchdown catches in the last three games, doubling his career total.
Murray, in particular, adds a new dimension to those studying for a way to beat the Cowboys. His 674 yards rushing lead all NFL rookies.
"The way he's running the ball, it makes Romo's job a lot easier," Washington linebacker Brian Orakpo said. "There's not a lot of pressure on him. He doesn't have to make a lot of plays in the air. These guys are legit right now."
They sure didn't look very legit in Week 3, when center Phil Costa misfired four times attempting shotgun snaps toward Romo. The Cowboys' only points came on six field goals from Dan Bailey, barely enough to pull out an 18-16 win.
The bouncing balls led to allegations by Costa of snap-count mimicking against Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen, who came from Dallas to Washington as a free agent this year. Bowen accused Costa of lying and Costa's allegations were never proven, but the NFL nevertheless sent a memo to all teams reminding them that defenders can't shout out fake snap counts.
"It's over with," Bowen said this week. "I don't really know what that was about, honesty. I talked to Phil Costa after that game and I respect him calling me and reaching out to me. We squashed it, and there's no hard feelings."
Costa hasn't been charged with a fumble since.
"It really hasn't been an issue. It was just for that game," Romo said. "That was early in the year and our first home game. Just little things like that, we were still working out some kinks. ... We got it righted and he's doing a good job now."
There's not much going right for the Redskins, who have lost five straight. While Murray is taking the league by storm, Washington has no running game to speak of. While Robinson is hauling in TDs, the Redskins keep trotting out different combinations of receivers hoping someone will catch fire and stay healthy.
While Romo flirts with a 100 passer rating, Washington has gone from Rex Grossman to John Beck and back to Grossman.
Throw the records out the window when these teams meet? Yeah, right. The Redskins can only wish it were possible.
"It's irrelevant at this point," Washington tight end Logan Paulsen said. "It's Dallas, whatever. They're kind of on the rise right now, but we just need to get a win."
The losing streak is the longest in coach Mike Shanahan's 18 seasons as a head coach. One more would mark the longest skid since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, and history suggests Snyder will again have to put up with the embarrassing sight of large swaths of Cowboys fans invading his stadium on Sunday.
Grossman will make his second start since regaining the job from Beck. A modest goal: score a touchdown in the first half, something the Redskins haven't done since Oct. 2.
"We need some type of boost, regardless of who was up," Orakpo said. "Dallas is the one that's up this week."
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