The Dallas Cowboys finally put a halt to 13 years of play-off frustration with a crushing 34-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night. The in-form Cowboys, who will now visit the Minnesota Vikings for an NFC divisional play-off game next Sunday, had not won a post-season contest since December 28, 1996 when they defeated the Vikings 40-15.
Their quarterback Tony Romo passed for two touchdowns and Felix Jones ran 73 yards for a score as Dallas won their fourth consecutive game. The Cowboys had beaten the Eagles 24-0 behind an aggressive defence last Sunday to conclude the regular season and were able to carry the momentum from that rout into this match. "This team has hung together all year, got stronger at the end of the year and is playing our best football," said the Dallas head coach Wade Phillips.
"I think we're playing as good as anybody right now." "We all know at the end of the day this isn't a subjective evaluation business," said Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner. "This is who wins the game. And that's ultimately how you're judged. "I think we've had teams in the past that could have and should have had a play-off win and had a chance to go on, but they didn't do it, so that's what you deal with."
And Jones was also quick to praise his coach, who had previously never won a game in the play-offs. "Here's a guy that has spent a career in the NFL really having an outstanding career in 99 per cent of the areas of the NFL that count," Jones said. "Here's someone who's added some real substance to his head coaching career." The game was decided in the second quarter when the Cowboys scored 27 points as Romo orchestrated five consecutive drives that ended with a score.
John Phillips and Miles Austin caught short-range touchdown passes, Tashard Choice ran one in and Shaun Suisham kicked two field goals. "It's just rewarding," said Romo, who completed 23 of 35 passes for 244 yards. "It makes me proud of the guys in there - fighting, grinding, staying committed to the approach. "I'm happy for the guys, happy for Wade, happy for Jerry." The defeat was the first time in seven games the Eagles had lost their opening play-off game under their head coach Andy Reid.
"They were better all the way around," Reid said as he acknowledged his side's shortcomings. "When you get your tail kicked, it's not a great feeling. No one expected it." Quintin Mikell, the Eagles safety, admitted: "They beat us twice, so they are that much better than us. "You can't sit here after a loss like that and say they're not that much better than us. "We have a lot to work on for next year."
The 73-yard touchdown run by Jones was Dallas' only score after the break. He finished the game with 178 yards on the ground. More importantly, Romo won his first play-off game, but said he had not felt any more pressure than usual going into the game because of the Cowboys' long play-off drought. "Maybe because I've only been playing for four years now," he said. "The other thing is if you're good enough, you'll win. If I wasn't good enough to win a play-off game as a quarterback then I wouldn't have.
"I think maybe if you were John Elway in your last year or two or something, but there's so much ahead for this football team." * With agencies