Pressure is on Dallas to finish off sweep
ARLINGTON, Texas — Now, the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to do it again.
A week after shutting out Philadelphia to clinch the NFC East title and shaking some of their reputation for late-season lapses, the Cowboys (11-5) stay home for tonight's rematch against their division rival.
It will be the first playoff game in Jerry Jones' new $1.2 billion showplace stadium and a chance to end the 13-year postseason winless drought that is the longest in team history.
"This is when it all needs to come into place and unfold for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "All that other stuff is great ... But I really believe that we know what's at stake, and this when we need to play big."
Two out of three won't be good enough for Dallas, which after beating Philadelphia (11-5) for the second time this season last Sunday got caps and T-shirts commemorating its division title.
"We've gotten a couple of those shirts and hats before," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "If you don't win this game, I don't think too many people are going to remember who won the NFC East."
The 24-0 loss last weekend kept Philadelphia, which had won six in a row, from clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Eagles instead are the No. 6 seed with no chance of a home playoff game.
Of course, Philadelphia made it to the NFC championship game as the No. 6 seed last year. And the Eagles have won their first game in seven consecutive postseason appearances since Andy Reid became coach and McNabb their quarterback in 1999. They have 10 playoff victories in that span, Dallas none.
But the Cowboys are rolling, not stumbling, into the playoffs this time.
For the first time since the 1996 season, the last time they won a playoff game and a year after their last Super Bowl, the Cowboys have a winning record in games played after Dec. 1.
The three-game winning streak came after consecutive losses to start December. But Dallas won, 24-17, at high-scoring and undefeated New Orleans before the first consecutive shutouts in the team's 50-season history.
"Obviously, you gain confidence from the success we've had," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "But that's over. This is a new season for us, and we're looking at it that way. Obviously, everything is at stake right now."
The Eagles certainly want a do-over after being held scoreless with a season-low 228 total yards Sunday. Philadelphia had scored a franchise-record 429 points on the season and averaged 31 points during a six-game winning streak coming into last weekend.
"We definitely got embarrassed, and we have to come back this week and make different arrangements," said Eagles Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who made his feelings known in different Internet posts.
Jackson (63 catches, 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns) has only five catches for 76 yards with no scores in two games against Dallas, and Philadelphia has only one TD in 21 offensive drives. Rookie Jeremy Maclin, another big-play threat, has been held to six receptions for 91 yards.
McNabb overthrew Jackson on an early deep pass that could have tied Sunday's game and later fumbled away a low snap inside the 20. Jackson and Maclin both dropped passes.
"There were some missed opportunities, a lot of miscues," said McNabb, whose nine playoff victories are surpassed only by five Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Brett Favre. "Now we have another opportunity. We just have to clean things up and just go out and play football."