With the Dallas Cowboys leading their hated NFC East rivals Washington Redskins, 20-7, on a Dan Bailey field goal in the second quarter, Cowboy head coach Jason Garrett called a play that summed up his attitude about a supposedly “meaningless game”. His team had come to the nation’s capital to play football. Garrett called for an onside kick that was a perfectly executed catching Washington completely by surprise. Dallas safety Barry Church easily recovered the ball. With a pro-Cowboy crowd chanting “Let’s go Cowboys!” the team did just that. Six plays after the recovery, running back DeMarco
Murray capped off 49-yard drive with a slicing 9-yard run through a bewildered Redskins defense. This division rival had cost Garrett’s team home field advantage and a first round bye earlier in the season with an improbable 20-17 overtime win in Jerry World. They were not going to slow down the momentum that was driving this
team into the playoffs.
The “21st Century Triplets” – Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and Murray – made their predecessors proud in this game. Bryant’s two brilliant touchdown receptions in the first quarter set the tone for the game. After the Redskins had jumped to a surprising 7-3 lead on the strength of DeSean Jackson’s 69-yard catch and run for a score, Bryant took it upon himself to return the favor. On the ensuing drive, the wide receiver took a quick out pass from Romo, stiff-armed the defender and raced 65 yards to the end zone for the lead. It was a jaw-dropping play that demonstrated just how physical, and fast, the dangerous receiver has become.
After a quick three and out, it was time for the DeMarco Murray show. It started with a ten-yard pass reception from Tony Romo. Two rush plays by the back netted nine yards. On third and one, with Washington stacking the line, Romo again handed off to NFL’s leading rusher who found a gap behind two of his All-Pro linemen, center Travis Frederickson and guard Zack Martin, for 32 yards. In the process, he broke Emmitt
Smith’s 19-year old record for most rushing yards in a season. Dez Bryant would cap this record shattering drive when he made a spectacular 23-yard touchdown grab on the next play. It was Bryant’s 16th TD reception of the year breaking the franchise mark of 15 set by Terrell Owens in 2007. It also solidified the player’s hold as the NFL’s leading touchdown receiver.
The Cowboys scored on their first five drives to build a 27-10 lead. It would have been six straight drives if running back Lance Dunbar’s nifty 76-yard touchdown run had not been called back on a holding penalty by tight end Jason Witten.
In the second half, it was time for the Dallas defense to take its turn in the spotlight. After a two-yard run by Robert Griffin III made the score 27-17, linebacker Bruce Carter made his presence known as he intercepted the ball twice deep inside Cowboy territory to nullifying key scoring drives.
DeMarco Murray was finally pulled from the contest deep in Washington territory after his four-yard run gave the back 100 yards for the day. It was the 12th time the All-Pro had reached the century mark breaking Emmitt Smith’s mark also set back in 1995.
The Cowboys settled for a field goal. It was time to rest the starters.
Dallas defensive tackle Terrell McClain stripped Griffin of the ball on the Washington 5-yard line on their next possession. The pigskin landed perfectly in teammate Anthony Spencer’s hands for his first ever NFL touchdown. With just over two minutes left in the contest, RGIII tried to lead his team on a face-saving scoring drive and looked like he might succeed. Unfortunately, receiver Jordan Reed fumbled the ball after getting a first down. Dallas safety J.J. Wilcox recovered. On the next play, Cowboy QB Josh Weeden handed the ball off to Joseph Randall who broke through a blitzing Redskin secondary for a 65 yard touchdown run and the final score, 44-17.
On this record franchise setting day, there was little to celebrate inside the Cowboy locker room other than a job well-done. The team, said Jason Garrett, had set its sights on a higher goal.
Cowboy Notes –Many sports pundits were saying Dallas had nothing to play for against the Redskins. Jason Garrett knew differently. Back in 2007, his first season as offensive coordinator, the Cowboys went into their last game of the year against Washington sporting a 13-2 record, home field advantage throughout the playoffs and a first round bye. The team had nothing to play for and many players sat out the game.
Washington’s second-string quarterback Todd Collins led the Redskins to a 27-6 victory. Dallas rushed for a franchise low 1 yard in the game. Two weeks later – after Romo and Witten had jetted off to Cabo San Lucas during the bye week – the Cowboys were defeated by eventual Super Bowl champions the New York Giants. This loss extended the Cowboys drought of playoff wins to eleven years and tied the NFL record of 6 straight playoff games lost. This all happened despite the fact Dallas had
13 players named to the Pro Bowl, an NFL record.
The Cowboys have become the sixth team to go undefeated on the road since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule. The previous five teams all went to their respective conference championship games. Four of those teams played in the
Super Bowl. Don’t think for one minute that Jason Garrett wasn’t aware of that stat going into the Washington game.
For the first time in 21 years, the Dallas Cowboys finished up their most troublesome month, December, with a 4-0 record. The offense average 41 points per contest and outscored opponents 165-79. The offense finished the regular season scoring 467 points, the second highest in franchise history. Tony Romo has thrown only nine interceptions this year to go with his 34 touchdown tosses.
– David Huff
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