LANDOVER, Md. - The Dallas Cowboys returned to the playoffs last night, dominating their 100th meeting with the Washington Redskins and setting up an NFC East title showdown with the Eagles.
Tony Romo threw for 286 yards, Jason Witten had a career-long 69-yard catch to set up a score, and the defense pitched the rivalry's first shutout in 6 years in a 17-0 win over the Redskins.
The victory eliminated the New York Giants from playoff contention and gave the Cowboys a jinx-bursting late-season winning streak. After starting 0-2 this month, Dallas recovered to win back-to-back December games for first time since 2003.
The Cowboys (10-5) will host the Eagles (11-4) in next week's regular-season finale, with the winner taking the division crown and the loser settling for a wild-card berth. The NFL has moved the kickoff time from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.
Dallas holds a 59-39-2 lead in the 50-year-old Redskins-Cowboys rivalry and got its first shutout since a 27-0 win on Dec. 14, 2003. The Cowboys didn't allow Washington to score a touchdown this year - the other meeting was a 7-6 win on Nov. 22 - and they played their part in the Redskins' first winless season in NFC East play since 1994.
The Redskins (4-11), distracted by more off-the-field news, put on another embarrassing performance against a rival.
After a 45-12 pasting by the Giants on Monday night, Washington endured a week in which assistant coach Jerry Gray gave confusing answers when asked if had interviewed for the head-coaching job. Then came some noisy Christmas Day tardiness from defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was sent home by lame duck coach Jim Zorn for being late to a meeting.
Haynesworth used the occasion to again complain about the coaching staff, but he nevertheless remained in the starting lineup last night.