FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys returned home Sunday night from the Meadowlands learning that their fellow division rivals, the Eagles, had clinched the NFC East with a comeback victory over the L.A. Rams.
Given Dallas' four-game deficit going into the weekend, the Eagles' division title might have been an inevitability. Wild-card hope is still alive, however, and the Cowboys' approach remains the same after Sunday's critical 30-10 win over the Giants.
"Our backs are against the wall," wide receiver Cole Beasley said. "We've got to take it one at a time and just keep going 1-0. That's all we're worried about."
The victory happened to be the franchise's 500th in history, and the 200th win under team owner/general manager Jerry Jones.
Its short-term significance pertains to the wild-card chase. According to NFL.com, the Cowboys (7-6) are currently the fourth team outside the NFC wild-card bubble behind Seattle (8-5), Detroit (7-6) and Green Bay (7-6).
If the season ended today, Carolina (8-5) and Atlanta (8-5) would be the two wild-card teams.
Dallas didn't get much help in Week 14. All of the above-mentioned teams won except Seattle, who travels to AT&T Stadium in Week 16 for a Christmas Eve matchup. That will be running back Ezekiel Elliott's first game back from a six-game suspension.
Head coach Jason Garrett has preached a next-man-up approach without Elliott and others. Running backs Rod Smith and Alfred Morris have averaged 131.5 rushing yards in the last two wins, and Smith delivered two touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) in the final minutes to close out New York on Sunday.
Big picture, the Cowboys know their postseason hopes are essentially this: win out and get some help from other teams.
Garrett's other mantra is simple: control what you can control.
"We continue to play," linebacker Sean Lee said. "We know we have a great opportunity ahead of us and we've got to take it one game at a time. I know that's cliché, but that's the only way you do it if you want to get on a winning streak."