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Breaking Down Cowboys' Last 2 Win-Or-Go-Home Games

Posted Dec 26, 2013


IRVING, Texas - The last time the Cowboys closed out a regular season against the Eagles, Tony Romo was not the starting quarterback.

And it wasn’t even his primary backup that season either.

No, Stephen McGee started that game and ironically enough, it was the last time the Cowboys won the 16th game of the season as he engineered a late drive to beat Philly in 2010, although the Eagles were resting most of their starters having already clinched the division.

That was the last time the Eagles won the NFC East as they’re looking to claim their first division title in three years.

The stage is getting set here Sunday night for the Cowboys and Eagles to play a win-or-go-home tilt at AT&T Stadium. And just like the last Eagles-Cowboys matchup, there’s a good chance Romo won’t be the quarterback once again.

His recent back injury is being reported by some as a herniated disk that will require surgery at some point. The Cowboys are saying it’s a day-to-day issue and are not ready to rule him out for Sunday’s game. If he doesn’t go, Kyle Orton will get the start, his first since 2011 when he was a member of the Chiefs.

Orton was signed before the 2012 season for games just like this.

Romo hasn’t missed a start since that 2010 season when he sat out the last 10 games with a broken clavicle injury. Adding even more irony to the situation, Romo’s backup that season was Jon Kitna, who has since been called out of retirement to fill in for Orton as the backup.

So the quarterback situation will certainly be different than what the Cowboys have seen the last two years in these elimination games. Even if Romo plays, his health won’t be at 100 percent.

But many of the other players on this team have been here. In fact, 20 players on the current roster have played in both of the last two season finales. And 11 more played in last year’s game as rookies or first-year players with the team.

Still, that’s only 31 guys who have been around, meaning 22 more who are somewhat new to this experience.

Then again, maybe that’s a good thing considering the results of the last two win-or-go-home scenarios facing this team.

But let’s go back with a quick recap of the last two season finales where the Cowboys came up short to win the division.

 

2011 – Giants 31, Cowboys 14

In a battle of 8-7 teams in the Meadowlands, the Giants had already defeated the Cowboys earlier in the season in a game they trailed by 12 in the final five minutes but rallied to win, 37-34. Just a few weeks later, they needed a sweep to advance to the playoffs. The Giants jumped out to a 21-0 lead, thanks to a 74-yard pass from Eli Manning to Victor Cruz for the first score. Ahmad Bradshaw had two rushing touchdowns to give the Giants a three-score lead at halftime.

But the Cowboys rallied back in the second half, led by an unsung hero all season long. Wide receiver Laurent Robinson caught two consecutive touchdown passes in the third and fourth quarter to pull the Cowboys to within 21-14 with 10:20 remaining in the game.

Key play: The Cowboys forced a third-and-6 at the Giants’ 28 and were looking for a stop with a chance to tie the game. Instead, Manning chunked up a deep ball for Cruz, who outfought Orlando Scandrick for the pass and a 44-yard gain. That led to a field goal and then the Giants would tack on another touchdown for good measure. That win propelled the Giants to the playoffs, where they marched on to the Super Bowl victory over the Patriots.

2012 – Redskins 28, Cowboys 18

The Cowboys lost the first meeting with the Redskins back on Thanksgiving and were facing a Washington team that had won six straight. But the Cowboys struck first with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Jason Witten but the Redskins tied it up before halftime with an Alfred Morris 17-yard run.

Robert Griffin III was hobbled with a knee injury but managed to scamper in for a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter. Leading 14-10, the Redskins pushed the lead to 11 on Morris’ 32-yard scoring run early in the fourth.

The Cowboys got back in it thanks to backup receivers Kevin Ogletree and Dwyane Harris. A touchdown and two-point conversion trimmed the lead to 21-18 and the Cowboys had the ball back again with 3:33 to play.

Key play: Tony Romo had just completed a 14-yard pass to Witten but on the next play, he floated a screen pass out to DeMarco Murray but the ball was snuffed out by linebacker Rob Jackson, who picked off the pass at the Cowboys’ 27. It led to a touchdown run by Alfred Morris, which was aided by a Jason Hatcher personal foul penalty that negated a third-down stop. The Redskins scored and won the game by 10, catapulting them to the playoffs, where they lost the next week to Seattle.

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