Cowboys 24

(8-7, 3-5 away)

Redskins 23

(3-12, 2-6 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, December 22, 2013

FedEx Field, Landover, MD 

1 2 3 4 T
DAL 7 7 0 1024
WSH 3 3 14 323

Top Performers

Passing: T. Romo (DAL) - 226 YDS, 2 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: D. Murray (DAL) - 22 CAR, 96 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: P. Garcon (WSH) - 11 REC, 144 YDS, 1 TD

Cowboys-Redskins Preview


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.


Passing Leaders

M. Cassel58.3127657
T. Romo68.688457
K. Cousins69.841662911
C. McCoy63.612810

Rushing Leaders

D. McFadden23910894.63
J. Randle763154.14
A. Morris2027513.71
M. Jones1444903.43

Receiving Leaders

T. Williams5284016.23
J. Witten777139.33
J. Reed8795210.911
P. Garcon7277710.86

Team Averages & NFL Ranks

Total YardsDAL
Yards PassingDAL
Yards RushingDAL
Yards AllowedDAL
Pass Yds AllowedDAL
Rush Yds AllowedDAL

Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)

Dallas leads 17-9
Oct 13, 2013DAL 31, WSH 16
Dec 30, 2012DAL 18, @WSH 28
Nov 22, 2012DAL 31, WSH 38
Nov 20, 2011DAL 27, @WSH 24
Sep 26, 2011DAL 18, WSH 16
Dec 19, 2010DAL 33, WSH 30
Sep 12, 2010DAL 7, @WSH 13
Dec 27, 2009DAL 17, @WSH 0
Nov 22, 2009DAL 7, WSH 6
Nov 16, 2008DAL 14, @WSH 10
Sep 28, 2008DAL 24, WSH 26
Dec 30, 2007DAL 6, @WSH 27
Nov 18, 2007DAL 28, WSH 23
Nov 5, 2006DAL 19, @WSH 22
Sep 17, 2006DAL 27, WSH 10
Dec 18, 2005DAL 7, @WSH 35
Sep 19, 2005DAL 13, WSH 14
Dec 26, 2004DAL 13, WSH 10
Sep 27, 2004DAL 21, @WSH 18
Dec 14, 2003DAL 27, @WSH 0
Nov 2, 2003DAL 21, WSH 14
Dec 29, 2002DAL 14, @WSH 20
Nov 28, 2002DAL 27, WSH 20
Dec 2, 2001DAL 20, @WSH 14
Oct 15, 2001DAL 9, WSH 7

Research Notes

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'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.
DeMarco Murray's first-quarter touchdown was set up by a 62-yard punt return by Micheal Spurlock. Redskins' special teams cost Washington 52.0 expected points entering Sunday, worst in the league and more than 14 points worse than the next-closest team (Eagles, -37.4).
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.
At halftime, Kirk Cousins is 8-9 for 107 yards targeting Pierre Garcon and 5-11 for 25 yards and an interception targeting everyone else.
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.
With 11 catches today, Pierre Garcon broke the Redskins record for receptions in a season.

ESPN Stats & Information