Even after two disastrous losses have left them a game back of
the NFC East lead, the Dallas Cowboys control their playoff fate
with two games to play.
They’ll try to remain in that position with a road win Sunday
over the Washington Redskins in their final game before a potential
Week 17 showdown with Philadelphia for the division title.
The Cowboys (7-7) have made things difficult on themselves with
consecutive losses to backup quarterbacks at Chicago and at home in
particularly crushing style against Green Bay. But they now get a
shot at the struggling Redskins (3-11), who have dropped six
straight and are electing to end the year with their backup
quarterback on the field.
“We still control what we feel like we can get done,”
quarterback Tony Romo said. “It just doesn’t feel like it right now
because we let it slip away.”
Had Dallas held a 26-3 halftime lead Sunday against the Packers,
it would be in position to clinch the NFC East this week. That
didn’t happen, so a loss or tie against the Redskins would keep the
Cowboys out of the postseason for a fourth straight year if the
Eagles beat Chicago on Sunday night. Otherwise, Dallas would play
in Philadelphia next Sunday for the division crown.
“The trend’s not going to continue because we’re going to do
what we need to do,” said wide receiver Dez Bryant, who set season
highs with 11 catches and 153 yards against the Packers. “This
whole group in this locker room, we believe and we’re going to keep
The 37-36 disappointment against Green Bay was the latest
example of the Cowboys’ late-season, end-of-game futility guided by
Romo. He threw two interceptions in the final 3 minutes, the first
of which set up the Packers’ go-ahead touchdown with Dallas in
position to potentially run out the clock with a five-point
Romo and the Cowboys have now lost their last four December
games after closing 2012 with back-to-back losses.
While the focus for the late-season struggles inevitably gets
piled on Romo, the Dallas defense hasn’t done him any favors. The
Cowboys are 2-3 since Nov. 10, and they’ve allowed a league-worst
35.2 points in that time. They let Josh McCown and the Bears score
on every possession until a late kneel-down in a 45-28 loss in Week
“If you have the right kind of guys on your team, you handle the
inevitable adversities of the season better than if you don’t,”
Garrett said. “If you put emotion into something, passion into
something and it doesn’t work out, sometimes that’s hard to
swallow. But again, you have to regroup.”
For the season, they’re allowing a league-worst 427.3 yards per
game, 297.4 of which come through the air.
They’ll get a third straight shot at a backup quarterback in
Washington, which chose last week to sit starter Robert Griffin III
for the final three games of the season.
Kirk Cousins, however, didn’t have much trouble moving the ball
against Atlanta, another bottom-five defense, in a 27-26 loss that
was a failed two-point conversion attempt away from ending the
Redskins’ losing streak. Cousins went 29 for 45 with 381 yards,
three TDs and three of the team’s seven turnovers in his first
start of the year.
“Those are four plays right there, if they go differently, it
was probably a much better result,” said Cousins of the turnovers
and failed conversion. “It’s a tough one to swallow right now, and
we’ll learn from it and get better.”
In 29 career starts, Griffin hasn’t come within 50 yards of
Cousins’ yardage total, which opened the door for questions on
whether there was room for competition entering next season.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan reiterated Griffin is the starter, but
didn’t shut that door entirely.
“The thing that you want on your football team is that you want
competition, legitimate competition,” Shanahan said. “The better
players you have, the more people compete. When you look behind
your shoulder and you know that guy’s pretty good, it makes you
work a little bit harder.”
Cousins’ audition continues against a Cowboys team that beat
Griffin 31-16 on Oct. 13 in Dallas despite being outgained
Dallas’ defense, already in bad shape, placed linebacker Justin
Durant on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday due to a hamstring
injury suffered against the Packers.
The Cowboys played most of the game without their top four
linebackers, and they’ll be without star Sean Lee for a second
straight game Sunday due to a strained neck.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne won’t play with a hamstring injury,
linebacker Ernie Sims is doubtful with groin and hip injuries but
corner Brandon Carr will go after missing two days of practice with