Romo feels pain before another win-or-bust finale

Tony Romo flashed a thumbs-up as he walked off the field after a

season-saving win in Washington, then put his right index finger in

the air.

The Dallas quarterback wasn’t trying to say the Cowboys were No.

1 – he knows better. He was saluting thousands of celebrating

Cowboys fans, and telling them ”one more.”

Romo didn’t look like someone who planned to let his latest

battle with back pain keep him off the field for the Cowboys’ third

straight finale with the NFC East title on the line, this time

against Philadelphia on Sunday night.

An MRI was scheduled for Monday after a back flare-up that

looked like a leg injury when Romo limped around the possession

before a drive that ended with a fourth-down pass to DeMarco Murray

and gave Dallas a 24-23 win over the Redskins.

”It looked like he got leg-whipped or kicked somehow,” coach

Jason Garrett said. ”He certainly was hobbling around a little bit

and you just suck it up, pull your sock up, spit on it and keep

going.”

Romo, who had offseason back surgery but said the pain was

coming from the opposite side of that procedure, has lost the past

two finales against the Giants and Redskins, and dropped a third

against the Eagles in 2008. Those were all on the road and came

after losses the week before.

Romo’s eighth elimination game – he has a 1-6 record in the

previous seven – will be at home after an uplifting win that

followed a crushing loss to Green Bay.

”The more times you put yourself in these situations, you have

to keep getting better,” Romo said. ”You have to have a stronger

belief in yourself than the doubt of other people.”

The doubters will have plenty of fodder this week.

The Cowboys had to scramble from nine points down in the fourth

quarter to beat a team going nowhere after six straight losses. The

Eagles had nothing significant to play for but blew out Chicago

anyway, 54-11, to keep the Bears from wrapping up a playoff berth

as NFC North champions.

It will be hard to remember that Dallas is the only team to keep

Philadelphia out of the end zone this season in a 17-3 win in which

the Cowboys held Nick Foles to 11 of 29 passing for 80 yards before

knocking him out of the game with a concussion.

Since then, Dallas has given up more than 600 yards in a game

twice; an NFL-record 40 first downs in a blowout loss to New

Orleans; and eight straight scoring drives in an embarrassing

defeat at Chicago.

But the league’s worst defense came through late against the

Redskins, forcing a punt to set up the winning drive and getting a

stop to clinch the win after Romo’s scoring toss to Murray with

1:08 remaining on fourth-and-goal from the 10.

”I’m proud of that bunch, too,” owner Jerry Jones said. ”They

deserve some good things to happen to them.”

Linebacker Sean Lee, the team leader with four interceptions

despite missing four games, could return against the Eagles after

missing the past two games with a sprained neck.

Cornerback Morris Claiborne might be available as well. The top

10 pick from 2012 has missed six of the past seven games with

hamstring issues, and his recovery was set back when he had to

leave the team after the death of his father and the birth of his

child.

”We just had a sense of urgency about ourselves,” defensive

tackle Jason Hatcher said. ”We just played with a lot of new guys

back there and we knew what was at stake. We had to win this one,

and we scratched and clawed.”

And set up yet another winner-take-all finale against an NFC

East rival.

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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