Buoyed by their longest win streak in 16 years, the Redskins
have gotten into a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title.
It’s a very familiar scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.
Rookie superstar Robert Griffin III already guided the Redskins
past the Cowboys once this season, though the stakes are
significantly higher Sunday night with the division crown on the
line in the NFL regular-season finale at FedEx Field.
Washington (9-6) was struggling before this six-game win streak
– its longest since a seven-game run in 1996 – put the Redskins
into position for their first East title since 1999.
“Everything we’ve been working for comes back to this weekend,
taking advantage of what we’ve done over the last six weeks,” coach
Mike Shanahan said. “It really doesn’t mean anything unless we take
advantage of our game versus Dallas.”
Dallas (8-7) had a three-game win streak snapped last Sunday
with a 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans that Jerry Jones called a
“tough way to have Christmas.” But Jones and the Cowboys got an
early present later in the day when the Giants lost in Baltimore,
eliminating the defending Super Bowl champions from contention in
Now the Cowboys must win on the road in Week 17 to earn the
division title. It’s exactly the same situation they faced last
year when they fell to New York, which went on to win it all. They
also lost at Philadelphia in the 2008 regular-season finale to miss
“When you get in, anything can happen,” quarterback Tony Romo
said. “I know that. We’ve seen that far too many times. We just
need to do the right things to get in.”
Containing Griffin won’t be easy as the No. 2 overall pick
showed in a 38-31 victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Griffin threw
for 304 yards and three scores with 12 straight completions in one
That performance earned raves from Jones, who knows that his
team must do a better job in the rematch.
“I’ll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the
second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium,” Jones said. “I
certainly think that’s the type of player we’re playing against and
team we’re playing against.”
Griffin has 20 touchdown passes to five interceptions to go
along with six rushing scores, posting a 104.1 passer rating which
ranks second in the NFL. Romo’s 104.4 mark since the start of
November ranks second-best and his 66.3 completion percentage this
season is good for sixth, one spot behind Griffin (66.4).
Now Griffin will make his first Sunday night appearance in the
biggest game of his young career.
“We’re fresh into this rivalry but we can definitely sense how
the fans feel, how some of the guys that have been here feel about
the Cowboys and that’s the mind-set we have to take on,” Griffin
Griffin returned to start last Sunday’s 27-20 victory at
Philadelphia after sitting out with a sprained right knee the
previous week when fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led Washington to
victory in Cleveland. Griffin completed 16 of 24 passes for 198
yards, two scores and one interception while only carrying the ball
twice for four yards.
He says his knee is healthier now.
“I’ll be able to do more against the Cowboys than I was against
Philly, but we’ll see how that goes,” he said.
Griffin isn’t the only rookie the Cowboys have to worry about
since running back Alfred Morris is fourth in the NFL with 1,413
yards on the ground. Morris carried 24 times for 113 yards and a TD
in the first meeting.
Dallas played that contest without starting running back DeMarco
Murray, who was sidelined by a sprained right foot. Murray has
returned for the last four games and should boost a rushing attack
that totaled 35 yards in the last matchup, causing Romo to match a
career high with 62 pass attempts.
Romo has thrown for 1,328 yards, 10 TDs and one pick in four
games since facing Washington. He’s been aided by the emergence of
Dez Bryant, who has scored in seven straight games with 10 TD
receptions and 808 yards in that span. Bryant is second in the
league with 12 TD catches.
Fellow receiver Miles Austin is also back after he exited the
first meeting with a right hip strain suffered on the opening
“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.”
Dallas had dropped eight straight Sunday night games before a
38-33 home win over Philadelphia on Dec. 2. Washington is 4-1 at
home since an eight-game slide at FedEx Field.
The Redskins could clinch a playoff berth before they take the
field if Chicago and Minnesota lose earlier Sunday, but would still
have the division title at stake. If both of those results don’t
happen, the loser of this game is out.
“I know the fans will make sure that the stadium’s electric,
it’s really exciting and we’ll definitely have a home-field
advantage,” said Griffin, who has six TD passes and no INTs in his
last four home games.