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The Dallas Cowboys against the Washington Football Team is your classic contrast of faith versus confidence and great individual talent versus great collective skill. It is, pushing it to the ancient Biblical tale, an underdog shepherd boy against a giant.
And, yes, there’s actually a stone involved that one of these teams is indeed going to fling.
The Cowboys are the giants. They’re the better team, the more talented team, the healthier team with the high priced quarterback.
And Washington is the little guy, managing injuries including the loss of Pro Bowl defensive end Chase Young, coming into the game with a backup quarterback and talking about faith in what might happen next.
Honestly, this thing is writing itself.
Washington, you should understand, was 2-6 and teetering on irrelevancy on the final day of October when the club went into its bye week.
But in its next game two weeks later, Washington unexpectedly beat the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers — after coach Ron Rivera shared the story of David versus Goliath and slung an actual stone against the team white board in the locker room to make the point that an upset was possible.
Washington beat Tampa Bay. And has now won four consecutive games.
“What was really kind of cool was our reaction to [throwing the stone], the players’ reaction to it,” Rivera said. “And I think we have something that we can rally around and believe in. As I go back to it, like I said, you know, for every question, there’s an answer. Every problem, there’s a solution, every Goliath, there’s a David, and every giant, there’s a stone.
“And that’s kind of the significance of it.”
Now Rivera or someone else flings the stone at a white board as if to hit the giant in the other locker room right between the eyes — like David did to Goliath.
“Well, ever since we started doing it, we’ve been winning,” quarterback Taylor Heinicke said this week. “I like it, it brings all the guys together and he let, [defensive coordinator] Jack Del Rio, do it this past time. So, it’s a cool deal and the players really enjoy it.”
You have to be searching for every trick in the book to come up with throwing a stone so that today’s athletes can believe they can overcome flaws in their roster and injuries to their ranks to go on a winning streak.
Or you just have to have some crazy kind of faith.
“I have a blind faith, I guess,” Rivera said. “I got a lot of confidence in our guys. I got a lot of confidence in our coaches and I just think that it’s unfortunate, but we were most certainly better than what our record said.
“I know you are what your record says, but I didn’t believe that. I do think that when guys believe in something and they really feel they have a chance and all they need is that opportunity. And that’s what we are hoping to create.
“I mean, to get to where we are right now, with the opportunity, with the door wide open … Now we just got to step through it.”
Except there’s another giant standing in their way.
The Cowboys, we should all agree, have a roster that dwarfs Washington’s in sheer talent. That’s probably one reason they’re leading the NFC East with an 8-4 record.
It’s also the reason they come to this game trusting there will be only one possible outcome.
“We’re going to win this game,” coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “I’m confident in that.”
Stop right there because it’s quite unusual for any NFL coach to predict a victory and it’s especially unlike McCarthy, who often feeds reporters banality rather than boldness.
But this week upon returning from an absence against the New Orleans Saints because of COVID-19, McCarthy apparently sized up Washington and felt pretty good about the matchup.
“I mean, what am I supposed to say?” McCarthy said. “Yeah, I fully expect to win every game I’ve ever competed in. That’s what sports is all about. That’s what the NFL [is about]. Trust me, I understand how hard it is. They’re working hard. We’re working hard.
“But, yeah, we’re clearly planning on going to Washington and winning the game. There’s no doubt about that.”
So, yes, Rivera’s faith against McCarthy’s confidence.
The beauty of all this is both teams understand the stakes.
If the Cowboys live up to McCarthy’s expectation, they’ll fully control the division with only four games remaining. If Washington chops down another giant, the NFC East is officially a race with these teams meeting again Dec. 26 in Dallas.
“It’s definitely a critical game,” Dallas running back Ezekiel Elliott said. “They’re playing very good football. I think, what, four wins in a row? They’re a little banged up, but it seems they haven’t really missed much of a beat and they’ve been having good game plans.
“I think all of these last games, with them being division games, four of our last five being division games, are critical to us winning the division.”
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero