Dallas 17, Washington 0: With Thanks to Carolina, Hello Playoffs
The Carolina Panthers gave the Cowboys a nice present by destroying the New York Giants in the Giants’ final game at the Meadowlands. The Cowboys turned around and shut out the Redskins 17-0. With the win, Dallas has clinched its fourth playoff berth during the current decade.
The Cowboys could finish as high as the #2 seed with a win over the Eagles and two Minnesota losses. At the worst, the Cowboys could be a #6 seed. Most of us will happily worry about that later.
Dallas took control of the game on Sunday night early in the first quarter. On the Redskins’ opening drive, Terence Newman picked off a pass that had deflected off of Washington tight end Fred Davis. Seven plays later, Tony Romo dodged the rush and found Roy Williams in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
(It marked the only time that Dallas fans didn’t boo Roy all evening, but that’s also a matter for later discussion.)
The Dallas offense struggled for the rest of the first quarter, but the defense suffocated a struggling Washington offense. The Redskins didn’t manage to move into Dallas territory until the second quarter, and even then, Dallas held Washington at the Dallas 49.
After a Washington punt, Dallas was pinned deep in its own end. After moving the ball to the Dallas 28, though, Romo hit Jason Witten, who raced 69 yards to the Washington 3. The play was the longest of Witten’s career and helped him to have a 117-yard evening.
Marion Barber scored on the next play, giving Dallas a 14-0 lead.
From that point, the Dallas offense found ways to shoot itself in the foot, while the defense continued to dominate the Redskins.
Dallas drove to the Washington 42 with just over four minutes left in the first half, but then the Cowboys tried to run a reverse out of the Razorback. It was horrible, as Miles Austin lost 14 yards. On the next play, a Romo pass bounced off Williams’ hands, and Reed Doughty caught the pick off the deflection.
On the next play, the defense sacked Jason Campbell, leading to a three-and-out. The Dallas offense nearly moved into field goal range, but Romo’s final pass of the half went to Miles Austin, who didn’t get out of bounds.
On the opening drive of the second half, Dallas moved to the Washington 35 but failed to convert either a 3rd-and-1 or a 4th-and-1. Washington stuffed Marion Barber twice.
Ten minutes later, Dallas drove to the Washington 30 and faced another 4th-and-1. Another Marion Barber run. Another stuff.
Okay, then, the Cowboys moved the ball to the Washington 5 with about eight minutes remaining. Third and one. Marion Barber ran up the middle, and Washington stuffed him.
Fortunately, the Cowboys were close enough to trust Shaun Suisham to kick a 23 yarder, which gave Dallas a 17-0 lead. Washington managed to move into Dallas territory late, but the Cowboys held.
My predictions have left something to be desired all season, but I can proudly say I predicted the shutout. The team’s last shutout was also against the Redskins at Washington, as Dallas beat Washington 27-0 in 2003.
Romo finished 25 of 38 for 286 yards with 1 TD and 1 Int. Witten caught 6 for 117, while Austin caught 9 for 92.
The real heroes were on the defensive side of the ball, as Dallas held Washington to 218 yards in total offense, including 43 rushing yards. That marks the best defensive performance of the season.
A Dallas win over the Eagles gives the Cowboys the NFC East title. A loss means that Dallas will have the #6 seed, because Dallas then could not finish ahead of the Packers.