Its only the fourth week of the season, but the undefeated Dallas Cowboys are already talking about gearing up for a playoff run. This shouldn’t be a surprise considering how they’ve been winning, though.
In its season-opening 28-10 win at Cleveland on Sept. 7, Dallas’ defense allowed just 205 yards and limited the Browns to 11 first downs. That same defense was bailed out by the Cowboys’ high-powered offense against Philadelphia in Week 2 in a 41-37 victory.
Dallas (3-0) displayed a nice combination of offense and defense last Sunday night at undefeated Green Bay, where it won 27-16. The Cowboys rushed for 217 yards and passed for 236, and the defense kept the Packers out of the end zone until the final two minutes when the outcome was already decided.
“We’re slowly starting to jell and that’s huge as we get farther along in the season,” defensive tackle Tank Johnson said. “That’s what the regular season is for, jelling for the postseason.”
The defending NFC East champion Cowboys have made the playoffs each of the last two seasons, but have not won a postseason game since 1996.
The Cowboys lead the NFL in offense yards (448.0 yards per game) and are third in the league in scoring (32.0 points per game). Romo has thrown for 892 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions, while Barber has rushed for 285 yards and four TDs. Barber ran for a career-high 142 yards and a touchdown against the Packers.
“We’ve got a good football team, I know that,” Romo said. “But it doesn’t matter whether you’re the favorite now or the least favorite. The reality of it is you’ve got to keep playing games and you’re not trying to be the favorite in Week 3, you’re trying to be it at the end of the year.”
Dallas managed to beat Green Bay, despite a quiet game from Terrell Owens. The Packers used double and triple coverage on Owens, holding him to just 17 yards on two catches. The plan to shut down Owens was not flawless, though, as Romo found his other receivers.
“It’s nice that you can take whatever they give you,” Dallas coach Wade Phillips said.
The Cowboys have had little trouble playing Washington (2-1) at home lately, winning two straight, and 11 of their last 12 meetings heading into their final meeting at Texas Stadium.
In Dallas’ 28-23 victory over the Redskins on Nov. 18, Romo was 22 of 32 for 293 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Owens caught all four of those touchdown passes, and finished with eight receptions for 173 yards.
The Cowboys lost to Washington 27-6 in the regular-season finale on Dec. 30, allowing the Redskins to secure a wild-card berth. Dallas, which had already secured the top seed in the NFC playoffs, rested most of its starters in the loss.
Washington is again looking like a playoff team after stumbling in its season opener.
After losing to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants 16-7 on Sept. 4, the Redskins have scored 53 points in winning their last two games.
“After the game against the Giants, we said that the next two games were must wins,” tight end Chris Cooley said. “I think that if we continue winning, we will look back and say that this was when we became a good team.”
The win came at a price, however.
Taylor was kicked in the calf in the second quarter of the game, and early Monday morning he went to Virginia Hospital Center, where a mass of blood near his ankle was diagnosed as compartmental syndrome. A couple hours later, doctors cut a 6-inch incision into Taylor’s calf to drain blood that, left untreated, might have led to nerve or tissue damage and even paralysis, limb loss or death.
While the pressing medical issue was solved, Taylor will be sidelined for Sunday’s game, ending his consecutive games streak at 133—the seventh longest among active players.
“He’s going to be fine,” Washington coach Jim Zorn said.
Offensively, the Redskins will be looking for another steady performance from Campbell, who had a league-high eight lost fumbles last season, but has yet to commit a turnover this year.
Campbell, who has thrown for 647 yards and four touchdowns, was 33 of 54 for 348 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the loss at Texas Stadium last season.
Running back Clinton Portis, who has 248 yards and three touchdowns, was limited to 36 yards on 12 attempts in last season’s loss to the Cowboys.