Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cowboys still control own destiny

Win out and Dallas avoids another year without playoffs

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WASHINGTON -- Shut down a healthy quarterback in December so he can have remedial off-season work? Sounds like a solution for Tony Romo.

The Dallas Cowboys are teetering toward another late-season collapse, thanks in part to Romo's decision to turn a run into a pass. Romo converted an eat-the-clock moment into a tide-turning interception in the waning minutes of last week's one-point loss to the Green Bay Packers.

Now the Cowboys would be eliminated from playoff contention today if they lose to the Washington Redskins and the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles beat the Chicago Bears.

On the other hand, the Cowboys (7-7) still control their post-season chances. A victory today sets up a winner-take-all regular-season finale against the Eagles next week.

It's a familiar cliffhanger refrain. The Cowboys dropped four of their last five in 2011 and their last two in 2012, finishing 8-8 both times and a just a smidgen out of the playoffs.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett said he won't "directly" address the recent history. He doesn't need to.

"We certainly understand the situation that we're in," Garrett said, "and you have to take advantage of the opportunity."

Here are four things to notice as the Cowboys visit the archrival Redskins (3-11):

ROMO'S STRUGGLES: The Cowboys QB is riding a four-game December losing streak and is 13-21 all-time as a starter in December and January. A another loss will only harden his dubious legacy as a player who falters at crunch time.

WORSE FOR WARE: Dallas' defence has already set a team record for most yards allowed . The Cowboys might be without their top four linebackers Sunday because of injury, putting even more pressure on franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware.

ANOTHER BACKUP QB: The Cowboys have lost to a pair of backup QBs during their two-game losing streak, and now they face another one. With Robert Griffin III benched, Kirk Cousins will make his second consecutive start for the Redskins.

DISAPPOINTED DEZ: December collapses can really wear a player down, and it showed last week when Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant headed for the locker room before the game was over. Bryant admitted it was a "bad mistake" on his part, but there's no question the Packers loss presented a supreme test of the so-called "24-hour rule" players say they use to get over the previous game.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 22, 2013 B7

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