Brunell takes over as the starter for the Redskins as they visit the Cowboys, who will make Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith the 13th, 14th and 15th inductees to the club’s Ring of Honor.
Washington coach Joe Gibbs traded for Brunell last year and gave him the starting job. Brunell went on to put up some of the worst numbers in the league in nine starts before Patrick Ramsey took over and played well for the remainder of the season.
Ramsey entered this season as the starter, but that situation lasted just three series. A minor neck injury sidelined him in the second quarter of last week’s opener against Chicago, but he was ready to re-enter the game at halftime—only to be told that Brunell would stay in.
Brunell went 8-for-14 for 70 yards and led drives of 43, 47 and 63 yards that ended in field goals as the Redskins posted a 9-7 victory over the Bears.
On Monday, Gibbs said the change was permanent.
“I know a lot of people would disagree with this, and I understand that,” Gibbs said. “For me, personally, I felt like it was a decision that I had to make. I think we’ve got a situation where two quarterbacks can win ball games for us. … I know this is something that Patrick doesn’t agree with—he’s a very competitive guy—but it’s something we’re going to have to work through.”
Brunell was hampered by a hamstring injury and a flawed offense last season, but this year, the game plan is more to his liking.
“It’s night and day,” Brunell said. “We’ve got different personnel. Our system’s changed. We’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got a good start, 1-0. Things have come a long way since 12 months ago.
“I am psyched. I’m looking forward to it. It’s a great opportunity to get back in there. It’s obviously a big challenge, playing the Cowboys at their place Monday night.”
Dallas should get a boost in its home opener with the ceremony for Smith, Aikman and Irvin, who together helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls.
“The Redskins are going to hate it. They better hate it because I don’t care much for them,” Smith said.
Dallas beat San Diego 28-24 last Sunday, winning its opener for the first time since 1999 when Smith, Aikman and Irvin were the focal points of the offense.
The Cowboys overcame three deficits, with the last rally putting them ahead for good with 3:06 left.
“For us to continue to fight and get this victory, it says a lot about this team,” said cornerback Aaron Glenn, who intercepted the game’s final pass to seal the victory.
“When we were down as a defense, the offense picked it up. When the offense was down, we went out and made plays to get those guys the ball back,” he said. “It was a big-time win for this team. Hopefully this win can be a stepping stone for us.”
Drew Bledsoe went 18-for-24 for 226 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions in his Dallas debut, and Keyshawn Johnson made two touchdown catches, including the winning score, to lead the Cowboys.
“This game was very, very important for us, not only to win it but to win it the way that we did,” said Bledsoe, who became the 10th player in NFL history to throw for 40,000 yards. “It is the best feeling in the world to have a close game come down to just a couple of plays and you are able to do it.”
This meeting will be the 14th between Washington and Dallas on Monday night, tying Denver and Oakland for the most ever. The Cowboys lead 7-6 in those contests.
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