NFC: Round 3 is only one that's important
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• NFC wild-card playoff: Philadelphia Eagles (11-5) vs. Dallas Cowboys (11-5), 8 p.m.
• Where: Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas.
• TV: WPXI.
• Line: Cowboys by 31/2 (45).
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Now the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to do it again.
A week after shutting out the Philadelphia Eagles to clinch the NFC East Division title and shaking some of their reputation for late-season lapses, the Cowboys (11-5) stay home for a rematch tonight against their division rival.
It will be the first playoff game in Jerry Jones' new $1.2 billion showplace stadium and a chance to end the 13-year postseason winless drought that is the longest in team history.
"This is when it all needs to come into place and unfold for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "All that other stuff is great ... but I really believe that we know what's at stake and this is when we need to play big."
Two out of three won't be good enough for Dallas, which after beating Philadelphia (11-5) for the second time this season Sunday got caps and T-shirts commemorating its division title.
"We've gotten a couple of those shirts and hats before," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "If you don't win this game, I don't think too many people are going to remember who won the NFC East."
The 24-0 loss kept Philadelphia, which had won six in a row, from clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Eagles instead are the No. 6 seed with no chance of a home playoff game.
Of course, Philadelphia made it to the NFC championship game as the No. 6 seed a year ago. And the Eagles have won their first game in seven consecutive postseason appearances since Andy Reid became coach and McNabb their quarterback in 1999. They have 10 playoff victories in that span, Dallas none. But the Cowboys are rolling, not stumbling, into the playoffs this time.
For the first time since the 1996 season, the previous time they won a playoff game and a year after their most recent Super Bowl, the Cowboys have a winning record in games played after Dec. 1. The three-game winning streak came after consecutive losses to start December. But Dallas won, 24-17, at high-scoring and undefeated New Orleans before the first consecutive shutouts in the team's 50-season history.
"Obviously you gain confidence from the success we've had," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "But that's over. This is a new season for us and we're looking at it that way. Obviously everything is at stake right now."
The Eagles certainly want a do-over after being held scoreless with a season-low 228 total yards Sunday. Philadelphia had scored a franchise-record 429 points and averaged 31 points during a six-game winning streak coming into last week.
"We definitely got embarrassed and we have to come back this week and make different arrangements," said Eagles Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson.
First Published January 9, 2010 12:24 am