LANDOVER, Md. - It wasn't just the victory, but the way the Cowboys defeated Washington yesterday that owner Jerry Jones believes will make Dallas an even more formidable opponent for the Eagles next week.
With 3:39 remaining and their playoff hopes possibly on the line, quarterback Tony Romo marched the Cowboys on a nine-play, 87-yard scoring drive that lifted Dallas to a 24-23 comeback win over the Redskins at FedEx Field.
Dallas next hosts the Eagles on Sunday, with the winner earning the NFC East title and a playoff bid. The loser will finish out of the postseason. A loss against the Redskins, combined with an Eagles win over the Bears last night, would've eliminated Dallas from playoff contention.
"A game like today builds everything you want to build for an individual and a football team," Jones said.
Not only did Dallas pull out of a late, six-point hole against hapless Washington, which lost its seventh straight, but the Cowboys - especially Romo - erased the ugly memories of last week's 37-36 home loss to the Packers. Dallas blew a 26-3 halftime lead against Green Bay, and Romo was the nation's whipping boy after tossing two interceptions in the final 2:46 - the last of which had his coach questioning Romo's decision-making.
All of why Jones believes beating Washington in this manner will build the Cowboys' mettle when Chip Kelly and the Eagles come calling.
"Now, I don't recommend that coming back as the way we won this one today as a way to get there," Jones said. "You'd like it to be a little easier and calmer. When you go to where we were last Sunday and turn around and win a game like we did, that's good stuff and I think that does build something."
Surely, it will build some confidence in Romo. His fourth-quarter and late-season struggles have been well-documented, as he took an 11-17 career record in December into yesterday's game.
Not as noted, perhaps, is the fact that the Dallas quarterback entered with a franchise-best 19 fourth-quarter comebacks in his career.
Well, make it 20.
Romo danced out of trouble on the game's pivotal drive, buying time to find Terrance Williams on a crucial 51-yard strike to the Washington 21 that made a 23-17 deficit seem surmountable. Then, on the game-turning play, Romo showed patience in the pocket by connecting with DeMarco Murray for an improbable 10-yard TD pass on fourth-and-goal with 1:08 remaining.
"Tony did a Houdini, that's exactly what he did," said Dez Bryant, who caught four passes for 73 yards and a TD. "We never lost our composure, kept our eyes forward, didn't nobody think we was done. I'm just walking down the sideline looking at everybody and everybody wanted it; it was in their eyes. It makes you feel like there were no worries. Let's get these couple stops and we're going to do what we need to score and that's what we did."
Said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, "Our guys fought, individually, collectively, within a group, across the groups, units picking each other up . . . That's what this thing is all about. It's about will, belief and determination. I think we showed a lot of that today."
Now, the Cowboys will bring the confidence-inducing comeback into Sunday's winner-take-all contest. They'll also be boosted, surely, by the highlights from their 17-3 win over the Eagles on Oct. 20 at the Linc. Quarterback Nick Foles had his worst game of the season in that one, going 11-for-29 (37.9 percent) for 80 yards before leaving at the end of the third quarter with a concussion.
Not including last night's game against the Bears, Foles has averaged 19-for-30 (63.3 percent) for 296 yards in his other seven starts this season.
Jones expects to see more of that Foles than the one he saw in Philadelphia in Week 7.
"We won't see the same Nick Foles at all; it's ridiculous to think we would," Jones said. "Had Nick probably had a good game against us, that score probably would've been different. I expect him to come in and be the player he's been since we last played."
Romo, too, believes the Eagles will be tough.
"They are good, their defense is underrated [and] they have some real good pressure players that are not big names yet but as the years go on you guys will know," he said. "They have an offense that's been playing really good football. I suspect they'll have a good plan for us next week. We will have to get one for them as well."
It's a plan, you'd suspect, that won't be hurting on confidence.