Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0: Redemption Via a Division Title

You might have thought you were watching a much older version of the Cowboys in the team's 24-0 win over the Eagles.

With two minutes left in the first quarter and the Cowboys leading 7-0, Tony Romo tried to rifle a pass to Patrick Crayton. Asante Samuel stepped in front of the pass and knocked it up in the air. Joselio Hanson grabbed the ball to record a pick, ending the Cowboys’ drive.

For the past ten years, the Cowboys have folded in these situations. It was only natural to expect the Eagles to drive down and tie the game, killing the Cowboys’ early momentum.

Instead, Philadelphia was forced to punt after driving into Dallas territory. For the game, the Dallas defense held the Eagles to 228 yards and only allowed one drive into the red zone. For the first time in team history, the Cowboys shut out two opponents in a row. And for the second time in three seasons—but only the third time in the past 12 seasons—the Cowboys have won the NFC East.

The win sets up a rematch with the Eagles next weekend. With the Eagles’ loss to the Cowboys, the Packers’ win over the Cardinals, and the Vikings’ win over the Giants, Dallas takes the #3 seed and the Eagles take the #6 seed. Arizona will host Green Bay next weekend in another immediate rematch.

Sunday’s game was never really close. Dallas scored on its opening drive of the game by moving 80 yards in nine plays, thanks in large part to a 32-yard run by Marion Barber on the second play of the game. The drive was capped off by Jason Witten’s 10-yard touchdown reception (video).  The team nearly increased its lead on the next drive, but Hanson’s pick ended that drive.

In the second quarter, the Cowboys started a drive with 12:36 remaining from their own 10. A 30-yard pass to Patrick Crayton and a 40-yard pass to Miles Austin helped to set up the Cowboys’ second touchdown of the day, a 14-yard pass from Romo to Crayton (video).

The Eagles looked like they would get on the scoreboard with under five minutes left in the half, but Donovan McNabb fumbled a snap, and the ball was recovered by Jay Ratliff. That was the last time that the Eagles came close to scoring.

Dallas added three with 1:09 left when Shaun Suisham hit a 44-yard field goal. The Cowboys thus had reason to have confidence in Suisham, until he missed on a 30-yarder early in the fourth quarter. By that point, the Cowboys were already up 24-0 thanks to a 49-yard touchdown run by Felix Jones late in the third quarter (video).

Tony Romo became the first QB in team history to take every snap during a season (though, to be sure, he should have been taken out at the end of the game, especially after hurting his back). He went 24 of 34 for 311 yards with 2 TDs and the one pick.  Barber and Jones both had 91 rushing yards, and Crayton finished just one yard shy of 100 yards.

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The Cowboys face the Eagles in the playoff for the first time since 1995. Dallas beat Philadelphia in 1992 and 1995 en route to Super Bowl titles. The Eagles beat the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game.

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I’m going to have to do more homework, but at least four teams have faced each other in the wildcard round of the playoffs after playing during the final weeks of the regular season.

2000: New Orleans vs. St. Louis

The Saints lost the defending Super Bowl champion Rams in the final week of the 2000 season before beating St. Louis one week later in the same location.

2001: Oakland vs. N.Y. Jets

Oakland lost the Jets 22-20 in week 17 at Oakland. However, the Raiders turned around one week later and beat the Jets in a 38-24 win at home.

2001: Philadelphia vs. Tampa Bay

The Eagles closed out the 2001 season at Tampa Bay, winning 17-13. Philadelphia hosted Tampa Bay the following week and won again, 31-9.

2004: Indianapolis vs. Denver

The Colts had nothing play for in the final week of the 2004 season and lost the Broncos, 33-14 with Jim Sorgi starting at QB. One week later, Peyton Manning  returned and let the Colts to a 49-24 rout over Denver.

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  • Mike Little

    The Cowboys have made three major statements this regular season.Beat a good team on the road in New Orleans.Exorcise 44-6 once and for all.Win a game with a division championship on the line.Well done Dallas,but will these guys make another statement to really wipe the slate clean.Humble Pie was served in 2007,and it didn’t taste good against the Giants.The key differences I believe are,great locker room chemistry.They never quit on each other when a lot of us did.Better,deeper,emerging talent on both sides of the ball.Solid leadership starting with Romo.It’s really his team now,and his performance has been outstanding.They are gelling,and peaking at the right time,and playing like a veteran team with confidence.If the offensive and defensive lines keep this up, then who knows.Palm trees in Florida look really nice this time of year don’t they?Yes I know,win playoff games first,but it’s a nice thought anyway.

  • Jason Neighbors

    We did it, we did it! NFC East champs, and we destroyed those Eagles!! What a great feeling.