1:00 PM ET, December 22, 2013
FedEx Field, Landover, MD
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 working."
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 lead.
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 14.
"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 433-213.
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 an illness.
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|Avg Points Allowed||27.2||30.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Dallas leads 17-9|
|Oct 13, 2013||DAL 31, WSH 16|
|Dec 30, 2012||DAL 18, @WSH 28|
|Nov 22, 2012||DAL 31, WSH 38|
|Nov 20, 2011||DAL 27, @WSH 24|
|Sep 26, 2011||DAL 18, WSH 16|
|Dec 19, 2010||DAL 33, WSH 30|
|Sep 12, 2010||DAL 7, @WSH 13|
|Dec 27, 2009||DAL 17, @WSH 0|
|Nov 22, 2009||DAL 7, WSH 6|
|Nov 16, 2008||DAL 14, @WSH 10|
|Sep 28, 2008||DAL 24, WSH 26|
|Dec 30, 2007||DAL 6, @WSH 27|
|Nov 18, 2007||DAL 28, WSH 23|
|Nov 5, 2006||DAL 19, @WSH 22|
|Sep 17, 2006||DAL 27, WSH 10|
|Dec 18, 2005||DAL 7, @WSH 35|
|Sep 19, 2005||DAL 13, WSH 14|
|Dec 26, 2004||DAL 13, WSH 10|
|Sep 27, 2004||DAL 21, @WSH 18|
|Dec 14, 2003||DAL 27, @WSH 0|
|Nov 2, 2003||DAL 21, WSH 14|
|Dec 29, 2002||DAL 14, @WSH 20|
|Nov 28, 2002||DAL 27, WSH 20|
|Dec 2, 2001||DAL 20, @WSH 14|
|Oct 15, 2001||DAL 9, WSH 7|
Tony Romo's touchdown pass on 4th-and-goal increased the Cowboys' win probability by 42.5 percentage points, his biggest play in terms of increased win probability this season. Since 2001, teams were 8-of-44 (18.2%) converting 4th-and-goal plays needing at least 10 yards to score a touchdown. Romo's Total QBR was 99.3 in the 4th quarter Sunday. He finished at 79.4 for the game after starting the 4th quarter at 23.9.[+]
Tony Romo vs Redskins
Tony Romo's 23 game-winnning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime tie Roger Staubach for most in Cowboys history (Staubach's 23 include 2 in playoffs)
The Cowboys ran on 14-of-33 plays in the second half (42 percent), despite trailing for more than half (17:33) of the last two quarters. Dallas ran on 7-of-30 plays (23 percent) in the second half despite holding a lead in last week's loss to the Packers.
Tony Romo threw both of his touchdowns (including the game-winner to DeMarco Murray) outside the pocket on Sunday. In two games against the Redskins this season, Romo has averaged 128.5 yards per game with no touchdowns and two interceptions inside the pocket. Against all other teams, Romo is averaging 248.8 yards per game with 26 touchdowns and seven interceptions inside the pocket.[+]
Tony Romo Inside/Outside the Pocket, Sunday vs Redskins
Pierre Garcon caught 11-of-17 targets for 144 yards and a touchdown Sunday, while Kirk Cousins was 10-of-19 for 53 yards and an interception targeting everyone else. Garcon's last catch was his 107th reception this season, breaking Art Monk's franchise record for catches by a Washington receiver.[+]
Kirk Cousins by Target, Sunday vs Cowboys
ESPN Stats & Information