ARLINGTON, Texas — Standing at the podium Sunday evening, Dak Prescott wasn’t going to mince words.
“It’s a playoff game,” Prescott said. “Simple as that.”
After thrashing the Rams, 44-21, at home and snapping a three-game losing streak in the process, the Cowboys have made their lives much easier.
Go to Philadelphia, get a win, and they’ll be back in the postseason.
“It’s not just another game,” tight end Jason Witten said. “When you play in moments like that, I don’t think you can just rise to that moment. You’ve got be ready for it. But division games late in the year, they’re familiar.”
Of course, if Eagles-Cowboys Part II is anything like the Week 7 matchup — a 37-10 rout by Dallas — then the Cowboys’ recent woes will be washed away.
Those struggles, capped by a lifeless 31-24 loss in Chicago last Thursday, prompted a change of kickers and had sparked coaching rumors. Names like Urban Meyer, Matt Rhule and Bob Stoops swirled throughout the Dallas air with the Cowboys’ season spiraling.
But perhaps it was the words of their current coach, Jason Garrett, that helped to right the ship.
“[He] gave an unbelievable speech, talking about, ‘Hey, we need to pick each other up,’ ” said veteran linebacker Sean Lee, who hauled in his first interception since late 2017 in Sunday’s win. “When one side’s not doing well, the other side’s got to pick the other up. … I think we all rallied around that.”
It’s not as if the Cowboys have been miserable since that game against the Eagles. Despite going just 3-4, they’ve logged at least 400 yards of offense in six-of-seven games and held their opponents to 315 or fewer in four.
But the results are what ultimately matter, and they’ve allowed an inconsistent, under-performing Eagles team to hang around in the NFC East.
Both teams control their own destiny — just as a Cowboys win next Sunday sends Dallas to the postseason, a pair of Eagles victories gives Philadelphia a second division crown in three seasons.”
“Playing a divisional rival is one thing,” Lee said. “But when both teams need it to get into the postseason, it’s a big game, no question.”
It didn’t take long Sunday to sense that the dam was about to break for the Cowboys.
On its second possession of the evening, Dallas marched 90 yards in 15 plays, chewing more than six minutes off the clock. Witten then punctuated the drive with a slick one-handed grab at the near pylon before an emphatic spike — the only one he recalls from his 16-year NFL career.
“I felt like our team needed a little spark,” Witten said. “I’ve never been one to do that. … It’s been a long three weeks. You play three games in 11 days and you come up short in all of them, you just want to get it going.”
From there, things certainly got rolling.
Dallas pounded the Rams on the ground, running for 263 yards on 45 carries with Ezekiel Elliott punching home a pair of touchdowns. Prescott didn’t have to do much but was efficient, completing 15 of 23 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns.
Perhaps most importantly, the Cowboys’ defense, which had looked not like itself in the last few weeks, held the Rams to just seven points over the game’s first three quarters.
And for the first time all season, Dallas beat a team with a winning record.
But the Cowboys know their most important games lie ahead, and they start next Sunday in Philadelphia
“It’s great to know that a single win gets us [into the playoffs] but that’s not our goal,” Elliott said. “We want to keep this thing rolling, we want to ride this momentum. … [and] when we go out there and execute, we’re hard to stop.”