Dallas 24, Philadelphia 0: Redemption Via a Division Title
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.
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.
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.