8:20 PM ET, December 30, 2012
FedEx Field, Landover, MD
Buoyed by their longest win streak in 16 years, the Redskins have gotten into a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title.
It's a very familiar scenario for the Dallas Cowboys.
Rookie superstar Robert Griffin III already guided the Redskins past the Cowboys once this season, though the stakes are significantly higher Sunday night with the division crown on the line in the NFL regular-season finale at FedEx Field.
Washington (9-6) was struggling before this six-game win streak -- its longest since a seven-game run in 1996 -- put the Redskins into position for their first East title since 1999.
"Everything we've been working for comes back to this weekend, taking advantage of what we've done over the last six weeks," coach Mike Shanahan said. "It really doesn't mean anything unless we take advantage of our game versus Dallas."
Dallas (8-7) had a three-game win streak snapped last Sunday with a 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans that Jerry Jones called a "tough way to have Christmas." But Jones and the Cowboys got an early present later in the day when the Giants lost in Baltimore, eliminating the defending Super Bowl champions from contention in the East.
Now the Cowboys must win on the road in Week 17 to earn the division title. It's exactly the same situation they faced last year when they fell to New York, which went on to win it all. They also lost at Philadelphia in the 2008 regular-season finale to miss the playoffs.
"When you get in, anything can happen," quarterback Tony Romo said. "I know that. We've seen that far too many times. We just need to do the right things to get in."
Containing Griffin won't be easy as the No. 2 overall pick showed in a 38-31 victory at Dallas on Thanksgiving. Griffin threw for 304 yards and three scores with 12 straight completions in one dazzling stretch.
That performance earned raves from Jones, who knows that his team must do a better job in the rematch.
"I'll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium," Jones said. "I certainly think that's the type of player we're playing against and team we're playing against."
Griffin has 20 touchdown passes to five interceptions to go along with six rushing scores, posting a 104.1 passer rating which ranks second in the NFL. Romo's 104.4 mark since the start of November ranks second-best and his 66.3 completion percentage this season is good for sixth, one spot behind Griffin (66.4).
Now Griffin will make his first Sunday night appearance in the biggest game of his young career.
"We're fresh into this rivalry but we can definitely sense how the fans feel, how some of the guys that have been here feel about the Cowboys and that's the mind-set we have to take on," Griffin said.
Griffin returned to start last Sunday's 27-20 victory at Philadelphia after sitting out with a sprained right knee the previous week when fellow rookie Kirk Cousins led Washington to victory in Cleveland. Griffin completed 16 of 24 passes for 198 yards, two scores and one interception while only carrying the ball twice for four yards.
He says his knee is healthier now.
"I'll be able to do more against the Cowboys than I was against Philly, but we'll see how that goes," he said.
Griffin isn't the only rookie the Cowboys have to worry about since running back Alfred Morris is fourth in the NFL with 1,413 yards on the ground. Morris carried 24 times for 113 yards and a TD in the first meeting.
Dallas played that contest without starting running back DeMarco Murray, who was sidelined by a sprained right foot. Murray has returned for the last four games and should boost a rushing attack that totaled 35 yards in the last matchup, causing Romo to match a career high with 62 pass attempts.
Romo has thrown for 1,328 yards, 10 TDs and one pick in four games since facing Washington. He's been aided by the emergence of Dez Bryant, who has scored in seven straight games with 10 TD receptions and 808 yards in that span. Bryant is second in the league with 12 TD catches.
Fellow receiver Miles Austin is also back after he exited the first meeting with a right hip strain suffered on the opening drive.
"I think that we are with a healthier Miles, and Dez with where he is with his maturation," Jones said. "I think we've got a better offensive line than what we had this time last year. I think we're better at corner as we go up there."
Dallas had dropped eight straight Sunday night games before a 38-33 home win over Philadelphia on Dec. 2. Washington is 4-1 at home since an eight-game slide at FedEx Field.
The Redskins could clinch a playoff berth before they take the field if Chicago and Minnesota lose earlier Sunday, but would still have the division title at stake. If both of those results don't happen, the loser of this game is out.
"I know the fans will make sure that the stadium's electric, it's really exciting and we'll definitely have a home-field advantage," said Griffin, who has six TD passes and no INTs in his last four home games.
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• Deal with Dallas' OLBs DeMarcus Ware remains a player who must be game-planned around, but it was Anthony Spencer with two sacks when these teams met earlier this season. Under the radar, Spencer has been terrific versus the run and pass. Not only are the Cowboys' 3-4 outside linebackers' roles as pass-rushers crucial, but so is their ability to contain the outside run, especially considering how dangerous Robert Griffin III is as a ball carrier off tackle. The Cowboys did not record a sack in their Week 16 overtime loss to the Saints and were very conservative with their pass rush tactics. That conservatism did not pay off.
Recent Blog Posts
|Avg Points Allowed||25.0||24.3|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||DAL|
|Rush Yds Allowed||DAL|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Dallas leads 15-9|
|Nov 22, 2012||DAL 31, WSH 38|
|Nov 20, 2011||DAL 27, @WSH 24|
|Sep 26, 2011||DAL 18, WSH 16|
|Dec 19, 2010||DAL 33, WSH 30|
|Sep 12, 2010||DAL 7, @WSH 13|
|Dec 27, 2009||DAL 17, @WSH 0|
|Nov 22, 2009||DAL 7, WSH 6|
|Nov 16, 2008||DAL 14, @WSH 10|
|Sep 28, 2008||DAL 24, WSH 26|
|Dec 30, 2007||DAL 6, @WSH 27|
|Nov 18, 2007||DAL 28, WSH 23|
|Nov 5, 2006||DAL 19, @WSH 22|
|Sep 17, 2006||DAL 27, WSH 10|
|Dec 18, 2005||DAL 7, @WSH 35|
|Sep 19, 2005||DAL 13, WSH 14|
|Dec 26, 2004||DAL 13, WSH 10|
|Sep 27, 2004||DAL 21, @WSH 18|
|Dec 14, 2003||DAL 27, @WSH 0|
|Nov 2, 2003||DAL 21, WSH 14|
|Dec 29, 2002||DAL 14, @WSH 20|
|Nov 28, 2002||DAL 27, WSH 20|
|Dec 2, 2001||DAL 20, @WSH 14|
|Oct 15, 2001||DAL 9, WSH 7|
Tony Romo's success with play-action passing this season has coincided with running back Demarco Murray being on the field. When Murray is active, Romo has a plus-7 touchdown-to-interception differential and averages 11.2 yards per attempt on play-action passes.[+]
Tony Romo Play Action Passing - This Season
Robert Griffin III has a Total QBR of 97.7 against five or more pass rushers this season, the highest in the NFL. Griffin is completing 68.4 percent of his passes against added pressure, the second-highest rate in the league, and is one of three quarterbacks that have not thrown an interception this season when facing five or more pass rushers. Griffin was 6-for-7 for 131 yards and two touchdowns when facing added pressure against the Cowboys in Week 12.[+]
Robert Griffin III Facing 5+ Pass Rushers - This Season
Tony Romo has 14 touchdown passes on throws of at least 15 yards downfield this season, tied for the most in the NFL. Romo has thrown 10 touchdown passes on such throws since the start of Week 9, two more than the next closest quarterback.[+]
Tony Romo Passing 15+ Yards Downfield - This Season
ESPN Stats & Information