The Dallas Cowboys and wide receiver Roy E. Williams need only to defeat the Philadelphia Eagles today to advance to the playoffs. The Eagles, on the other hand, need a victory and some help to get a spot in the postseason.AP PHOTO
PHILADELPHIA — The only scoreboard that’ll matter to the Dallas Cowboys this weekend is the one they control.
A season that began with so much Super Bowl hype for America’s Team comes down to a do-or-die game against the Philadelphia Eagles today. If the Cowboys (9-6) win, they’re in the playoffs.
All that talk about inner turmoil and the daily drama that surrounded a midseason collapse would be erased if the Cowboys advance. Of course, it won’t go away completely until they win another Super Bowl or even their first playoff game in 12 years, but that’s another story.
“It’s a must game for us,” Terrell Owens said. “We can’t really worry about how we got here. We’re here and we’ve just got to win. There’s no excuses to be made. Our season rides on this game.”
The Eagles (8-6-1) also could be playing for an NFC wild-card spot. By kickoff, Philly will know it’s chances. The Eagles need losses by Tampa Bay and either Chicago or Minnesota in the early games to stay alive. Otherwise, they’re out.
If so, the players and their fiercely passionate fans would love to send the hated Cowboys home, too.
“No matter if we are out of the playoffs or not, I still have a strong dislike for Dallas,” running back Brian Westbrook said. “I still am going to go out there and fight like we have an opportunity to get into the playoffs.”
The Cowboys nearly blew a chance to control their destiny by losing to Baltimore 33-24 in the final game at Texas Stadium last Saturday night. But then everything fell in Dallas’ favor the following day, including Washington’s 10-3 win over Philadelphia when Reggie Brown was stopped at the 1 to end the game. Had the Eagles beaten the Redskins, they wouldn’t need any outside help this week.
“There’s nothing we can do at this point,” quarterback Donovan McNabb said. “The only thing we can do is go out and play well against the Cowboys and see what happens after that. That’s the way it’s been all year; if it’s an inch here or a pass here or whatever it may be, just a little short. We don’t want it to end that way this year so, hopefully, it won’t.”
The Eagles have always played well late in the season under coach Andy Reid. They’re 51-21-3 in November and December since 2000, including 10-3 in the final month over the last three seasons. Philadelphia has won five straight December games against Dallas.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have struggled in late-season games with Tony Romo as their starting QB. Romo is 5-7 in December and 22-4 in other months.
“We just haven’t won as much,” Romo said. “There are always little things you can pick out. Good teams you play against maybe? There’s no reason. Whatever reason, we haven’t won. This year I think it’s pretty easy to indicate that we played against pretty good opponents. Years past, I’m not sure.”
Dallas has survived a brutal December that began with a tough loss at Pittsburgh. A crucial win over the Giants was followed by the distressing loss to the Ravens.
“If we go on to win this game, and are able to beat the Giants and Philly in December, that’s a pretty big step,” Romo said. “All we can do is control how we prepare this week and what kind of team steps out on that field this Sunday. I have a funny feeling we’re going to play good football this weekend.”