Cowboys a hit on road, and playoffs are in view
IRVING, Texas (AP) Jason Witten has a couple of ideas why the Dallas Cowboys are the only NFL team unbeaten on the road this year.
Big plays in big moments. A stout running game behind league rushing leader DeMarco Murray.
As for whether that 4-0 road record means much with four of the last six games away from home, including trips to all three NFC East rivals, Witten says no.
''I think this team's done a really good job of doesn't matter who, when, where,'' Witten said Monday at a team function coming off the bye. ''And that's not talk. I really believe this team's kind of bought into this is how we have to play. And when we do this we play well and when we don't we get beat.''
The finishing stretch to see if the Cowboys (7-3) can end a four-year playoff drought starts Sunday night at the New York Giants. They are tied with Philadelphia atop the division, with the Eagles coming to Texas four days later for Thanksgiving.
After a trip to Chicago for another Thursday game a week later, Dallas gets a few extra days to prepare for a visit to the Eagles.
By the time they come home from Philadelphia, the Cowboys figure to be well on their way to breaking a three-year rut of 8-8 finishes and returning to the postseason, or in danger of matching a franchise record by missing the playoffs five straight years.
''We've got to ... go into every game the same,'' defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. ''We've got to go in with the mindset that we've got to get this win and do whatever it takes. We can't let our records, home or away, confuse what we're really there for.''
Not only do the Cowboys have their best record after 10 games since the last time they made the playoffs in 2009, but the bye was Tony Romo's third full week since sustaining two small fractures in his back against Washington, an injury that historically needs about that much recovery time.
Crawford expects to come back from a knee injury that kept him out of the game against Jacksonville in London, and linebacker Rolando McClain had an extra week to get over a groin problem that has plagued him and a knee injury that cropped up against Arizona. He didn't play against the Jaguars.
Add the return of guard Ron Leary and tackle Doug Free to the offensive line against Jacksonville, and the injury outlook for Dallas is much better than it was when the Cowboys had the bye after 10 games last year. It also helps that they're coming off a 31-17 win after sitting on an embarrassing loss at New Orleans for two weeks a year ago.
''I feel like we've played well in a lot of ways,'' Witten said. ''I think there's still something after that Jacksonville game, we can do so much better. It's hard to get to 7-3. Everything you want's in front of you. That gives you a lot of excitement, but at the same time, you know the work that has to come and follow that.''
Murray, who has 1,233 yards and seven touchdowns, is ready to carry the Cowboys to the playoffs after a break that he says was ''big for everyone.''
''I'm ready to go,'' Murray said. ''Like I said before, whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it times 10.''
NOTES: LB Keith Smith and CB Robert Steeples were added to the practice squad, replacing G Jeff Baca and LB Will Smith.
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