Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are in the same situation they would have been if they had been able to complete their comeback against New Orleans.
With the New York Giants losing later Sunday, the Cowboys’ 34-31 overtime loss didn’t hurt their playoff chances.
”It is disappointing, but most anything that we were coming up with, we had to win the Washington game next weekend,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said minutes after his team lost.
”But that’s not to say, as you saw, that we didn’t do everything we could possibly to win this ball game. But we just have to see how it sorts out.”
Well, for the third time in five seasons, the Cowboys can get to the playoffs by winning their regular season finale on the road against the NFC East rival — this time at Washington. They lost such games at the Giants last New Year’s night, and at Philadelphia in 2008.
”Even if we would have won today, we would have needed that game next week obviously. There’s easier places to go play than New York, Philly and Washington for the division every year,” Romo said, even before the Giants lost 33-14 at Baltimore.
”I welcome that challenge. I think we’ve improved in some areas since those two years.”
Romo threw two of his four touchdowns in the final 3:35 of regulation, including a 19-yarder to Miles Austin with 15 seconds left.
But Dallas (8-7) stalled after gaining only 16 yards its lone overtime possession.
The Saints (7-8), whose playoff fate was finally sealed despite the victory, got a game-ending 20-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley on the play after Marques Colston caught a pass, was stripped and the ball rolled more than 20 yards, recovered by New Orleans at the 2.
The Cowboys, who had won three in a row, had control of their own playoff destiny before losing to the Saints. They had it back about three hours later after the Giants lost.
Washington (9-6) beat Philadelphia 27-20. The Redskins have won six in a row, including 38-31 at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
The NFC East title last season, and the NFC’s final playoff spot, was determined when the Giants beat the Dallas 31-14. New York finished the regular season 9-7, then went on to win its second Super Bowl title in five seasons.
With a playoff spot on the line in their 2008 finale, the Cowboys lost 44-6 at Philadelphia.
Playing near the home of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints all but secured the win when Colston’s fumble was recovered when Jimmy Graham won a scrum with Dallas defenders.
”It hurts. You scratch and claw the whole game,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. ”It’s comes down a play like that. It’s kind of frustrating.”
The Saints, who started 0-4 after getting stunned by Payton’s yearlong ban in the team’s bounty scandal, saw their playoff hopes end with Minnesota’s victory against Houston.
After New Orleans forced a punt in overtime, Brees moved the Saints to the Cowboys 33. He completed a pass to Colston, who took a couple of steps before Morris Claiborne stripped the ball, sending it rolling toward the end zone. The completion was held up on review, and Hartley made the winning kick on the next play.
”I got it out, but they recovered it. I wish it wouldn’t have come out,” Claiborne said. ”I was just trying to make a play. Going to the ground, I didn’t even know the ball was out. I was just praying it was incomplete.”
The Cowboys pulled within a touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Romo to Dwayne Harris and got the ball back with 1:29 remaining. Romo led the Cowboys 64 yards in seven plays, with Austin catching the tying TD on his knees.
Romo also had a pair of 58-yard scoring passes to Dez Bryant, who had a career-high 224 yards receiving on nine catches
Dallas tight end Jason Witten had two catches in overtime, breaking Tony Gonzalez’s NFL season record of 102 catches for a tight end set in 2004. Witten has 103.
But all that and Romo’s fourth career 400-yard passing game (26 of 43 for 416 yards) weren’t enough.
”It’s just a very empty feeling,” Romo said.
A few hours later, Romo and his teammates certainly were feeling better.
NOTES: Bryant tied a franchise record with a touchdown catch in his seventh consecutive game, and he matched his career high of 145 yards receiving before halftime. … Romo has three of his 400-yard passing games this season — all Cowboys losses. … The Cowboys played their third overtime game their past five home games. Before that, they had never played an OT game at Cowboys Stadium, which opened in 2009.