Cowboys know playoffs-or-bust drill in NFC East
The Dallas Cowboys should know this drill by now.
The only thing left is figuring out how to win a
playoffs-or-bust game at an NFC East rival in the final game of the
The Cowboys flopped badly in Philadelphia in 2008, and were
better but still not very good last season at the New York
Dallas gets another chance Sunday night at Washington against
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins (9-6), who could still make the
postseason even if they lose.
”You live for games like this,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett
said at a quiet and mostly shuttered team headquarters on Christmas
The Cowboys (8-7) began the second-to-last Sunday of the regular
season with control of their playoff fate, and ended it the same
way despite losing to New Orleans 34-31 in overtime. That’s because
the Giants lost at Baltimore, essentially rendering the Dallas loss
During a stretch of five wins in six games that revived Dallas’
postseason hopes, the only loss was to the Redskins on
Thanksgiving. Griffin engineered the first 28-point quarter for
Washington in 13 years, going 8 of 8 for 178 yards and three
touchdowns in the second quarter. The first big NFL play in Texas
for the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor was a perfect deep throw
to Aldrick Robinson for a 68-yard score.
”I’ll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the
second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium,” Cowboys owner Jerry
Jones said. ”I certainly think that’s the type of player we’re
playing against and team we’re playing against.”
If the loss to the Saints is any indicator, the Cowboys are in
trouble. They couldn’t stop Drew Brees and the Saints until New
Orleans mostly quit throwing with a 31-17 lead in the fourth
quarter. Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, and the
Cowboys gave up 562 total yards – a season high by more than 100.
New Orleans converted 11 third downs and kept the ball for nearly
When the Dallas offense stalled on the first possession of
overtime, the Cowboys immediately gave up a 26-yard completion to
Jimmy Graham before a fluky catch-and-fumble play ended with New
Orleans on the Dallas 2. Garrett Hartley’s 20-yard field goal made
it three straight Cowboys games ending on the final play.
The Cowboys won’t say it, but injuries could be wearing on a
beleaguered defense. Five starters and nickel cornerback Orlando
Scandrick are out. Replacement free agents have been filling holes
days after signing. DeMarcus Ware is trying to play through groin,
elbow and shoulder problems, and he was mostly watching late while
the Saints finished a sack-free game for Brees despite 53
”A lot of different combinations of players playing for us
against a really, really good offensive football team,” Garrett
said. ”I just thought that they fought, fought, fought.”
The Cowboys could always just try to outscore the Redskins. Tony
Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns against the Saints,
including a pair of 58-yarders to Dez Bryant, who had a career-high
Miles Austin caught a 19-yard tying score with 15 seconds left
in regulation – the second of two TDs in the final 3:35 – and Jason
Witten broke Tony Gonzalez’s NFL season record of 102 catches by a
tight end, grabbing six for 60 yards to put him at 103.
Dallas ran just 11 times for 40 yards, all by DeMarco Murray,
but part of that was because the Saints kept the ball so long.
”When you get in, anything can happen,” said Romo, who has 17
touchdowns and just three interceptions the past eight weeks. ”I
know that. We’ve seen that far too many times. We just need to do
the right things to get in.”
Jones acknowledges the injuries on defense, but still thinks the
Cowboys are better than they were when they fell behind New York
21-0 in a 31-14 loss last New Year’s night that propelled the
Giants to a Super Bowl win.
”I think that we are with a healthier Miles, and Dez with where
he is with his maturation,” Jones said. ”I think we’ve got a
better offensive line than what we had this time last year. I think
we’re better at corner as we go up there.”
Once again, the Cowboys get a chance to prove it.
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