NFC East: rapid reaction 15
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys put a week of strife at Valley Ranch behind them and did what they had to do in a 20-8 victory over the New York Giants. A year after the Giants stunned them with a 21-17 victory in the divisional playoff round, the Cowboys gained a measure of revenge Sunday night.
They used a swarming defense to keep Giants quarterback Eli Manning and the offense off balance for most of the game. The Cowboys sacked Manning eight times while completely overwhelming the Giants' offensive line. Outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware made left tackle David Diehl look silly in the first half, and then veteran Greg Ellis toyed with someone named Kevin Boothe in the second half.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has faced a lot of criticism for his performances in December, but he turned in a heroic effort Sunday. He winced in pain after his back was twisted while being sacked in the first half. But he never missed a play.
Even after he was sacked for a safety midway through the fourth quarter, he kept getting up. Fortunately for Romo, rookie running back Tashard Choice had another strong effort. Choice and Marion Barber helped seal the win in the fourth quarter.
The Giants did a nice job of limiting tight end Jason Witten, T.O. and Roy Williams, but they seemed surprised by Choice's speed in the open field. The Cowboys (9-5) are now lumped into a three-way tie for the final wild-card playoff spot with Atlanta and Tampa Bay.
Choice sealed the game with a 38-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. With the loss, the Giants (11-3) look vulnerable. They have back-to-back losses to NFC East foes and they still haven't clinched home-field advantage for the playoffs.
If the Cowboys get another crack against the Giants in the playoffs, they'd be brimming with confidence.
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Well, that's a wrap. The Redskins lost any legitimate chance of making the playoffs with an embarrassing loss to the Bengals. It seems so long ago that they were 6-2 and talking about the playoffs. At 7-7, it's time to start thinking about next season.
Sunday's loss embodied the second half of the season. A horrible start followed by a back-breaking turnover in the second half. The Redskins actually trailed 17-0 before climbing back into the game late in the first half.
The turning point came when fullback Mike Sellers fumbled on third-and-goal from the Bengals' 1-yard line midway through the third quarter. A touchdown would've tied the game at 17, but instead Cincinnati recovered the fumble, and took over at its 20-yard line.
Jason Campbell was 17 of 28 for 167 yards and a touchdown, but as usual, the Redskins couldn't sustain drives because of false starts and illegal motion penalties. Coach Jim Zorn, who was the toast of the town two months ago, will have to answer for why his offense fell apart in the second half of the season. A fumble by tight end Chris Cooley early in Sunday's game put the Bengals in great position. And later, the Bengals burned the Redskins for 79 yards on a screen pass to Cedric Benson. It was an obvious screen-pass down, so it made no sense why the Redskins were overwhelmed.
In the next few weeks, you'll hear people within the organization talk about key injuries, but they don't have the market cornered in that area. This team lost its identity when Clinton Portis started breaking down midway through the season. Many wondered how this team was performing so well with questionable talent early in the season.
Now it looks like the personnel issues caught up with the Redskins. They made it through an entire season without any meaningful contributions from their three second-round picks and then decided to bench starting cornerback Carlos Rogers in the third to last game of the season in favor of DeAngelo Hall.
It's been a disastrous November and December. Zorn shouldn't be run out of town, but he deserves to be questioned on several different fronts -- not the least of which is his public rift with Portis. And his most important project -- Jason Campbell -- is still a question mark at this point. That has to be a huge point of frustration for owner Dan Snyder, who was hoping Zorn would help turn Campbell into a Pro Bowl player.
Much more to come on this throughout the week.