NFC East: Dallas Cowboys

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Dallas Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain’s eventful week will end with him missing Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins.

McClain was ruled out of the game with an illness. On Monday, his home in Alabama burned to the ground and is subject to an investigation. He did not practice on Wednesday in part to deal with that as well as a sore knee. He had been listed as probable for the game.

He did not make the flight to Washington with the team.

DeMarco Murray was sent home from Wednesday’s practice because of an illness as well. He said he received a flu shot on Monday.

According to the coaches’ breakdown, McClain leads the Cowboys in tackles with 108. He also has one sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass deflections and a forced fumble.

This will be the third game McClain will miss this season. He was inactive on Sept. 21 against the St. Louis Rams and did not play in the Nov. 9 win against the Jacksonville Jaguars because of a knee injury.

With McClain out, rookie Anthony Hitchens will start at middle linebacker with Bruce Carter and Kyle Wilber as the outside linebackers.

DeMarco Murray returns to practice

December, 26, 2014
Dec 26
12:36
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray returned to practice after sitting out of Thursday’s workout because he was sick.

Murray will play his second game since breaking his left hand Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He will continue to wear the hard plastic shell on the top of his hand for added protection. The stitches from the Dec. 15 surgery have yet to be removed.

Murray
Murray needs 29 yards to break Emmitt Smith’s franchise record for yards in a season. Smith ran for 1,773 yards in 1995.

“I got it from the man last weekend, he’s rooting for him,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas. “I’m talking about Emmitt Smith. He’s rooting for DeMarco. (He) actually came to the game in hopes he might go down there and congratulate him should he have broken it then. I know he’s at peace with it. We are so proud of what that means for the entire offensive unit and certainly the offensive line. We’re all well aware of it and it would e important if we can go up there and get that done.”

The only players missing practice are Doug Free (ankle) and Dekoda Watson (hamstring). The Cowboys hope that both will be available for the playoffs.

Free is dealing with a bone spur in his left ankle as well as a stress fracture. He has missed five games with a broken right foot and left ankle issues.

“He needs to be healthy before he can come back and Doug works very hard, but his injury requires a little bit of time,” coach Jason Garrett said. “So we’ve given him that. Obviously didn’t play last week. Jermey Parnell did a nice job in his absence, but we like Doug Free and we’re trying to get him back as quickly as he can. He has made progress this week.”
IRVING, Texas - Anthony Spencer didn’t record a tackle against Indianapolis, but it was probably his best game of the year.

He was disruptive against the run, and he pressured Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck multiple times. Actually, it was his third-quarter hit on Luck that persuaded Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano to remove his from the game.

Spencer
“He was really active both as a run defender and affecting the quarterback,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He had some of the best individual rushes he’s had all year long. He was part of some [stunts] that we had and he really looked like he accelerated to the quarterback.

“He was just around the quarterback the whole games. He pushed the pocket and I think we saw some of his signature moves, where he’s elusive and hard to block.”

Spencer missed much of last season and training camp after having microfracture surgery. His increased activity against Indianapolis is a great sign for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys’ sack total has ranked near the bottom of the NFL all season. Defensive linemen Jeremy Mincey and Henry Melton are tied for the team lead with five sacks, but Spencer is the only player on the roster with a double-digit sack total in his career.

Spencer had 11 in 2012. He has only a half sack to his name this year, but like a lot of players on this team, Spencer seems to be playing his best football as the playoffs are about to begin.
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys allowed more plays of at least 20 yards than any team in the NFL last season. It’s the among the reasons they were one of the league’s worst defenses in 2013.

Well, the Cowboys are 11-4 this season and have already clinched the NFC East title, in part because they’ve reduced the number of big plays they’ve allowed.

In 2013, they allowed 71 passes of 20 yards or more, which happened to be 20 more than the league average of 51. This season, the Cowboys have yielded only 51 plays of 20 yards or more.

“Big plays are certainly a point of emphasis for us, and coming out of last year it was, maybe, the most important emphasis for our defensive team,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “Making big plays and preventing big plays are the things that win and lose games each week. That and turnovers.”

The Cowboys are 3-0 in December, which has coincided with them giving up fewer big plays than usual. They allowed only two against Indianapolis last week and three the week before against Philadelphia.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will take that every week.

The reduction in big plays is the biggest indication the Cowboys are playing Marinelli’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme much better than they did last season. The scheme is designed to keep the safeties deep so the defense doesn’t allow long gains.

It’s difficult for offenses to consistently have 10-play scoring drives because of their own mistakes or good plays from the defense. Examine virtually every scoring drive -- for and against the Cowboys this season -- and you’ll usually find a play of 20 yards or more within the drive.

The Cowboys made some subtle changes to their scheme under Marinelli during the offseason to make it even simpler, and they’re constantly moving players around to make sure they’re in the best possible position to take advantage of their skill set.

The Cowboys have also continued to churn their roster in a never-ending search for better players. Make the 53rd player better, and the team becomes just a little better.

Good tackling has also continued to be a point of emphasis, which is not easy to do with a limited number of padded practices each season. Still, the Cowboys work on tackling drills every day in practice.

“The best defenses tackle well in the run game and in the passing game,” Garrett said. “If it’s a 12-yard gain, then it's a 12-yard gain. You don’t want 12-yard gains becoming 60-yard touchdowns.”
IRVING, Texas -- The last two times Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo played the Washington Redskins, he hurt his back.

Romo
Last December at FedEx Field, he was able to deliver the Cowboys a 24-23 victory with a fourth-down touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter, but five days later he underwent a discectomy. In October, Romo suffered two transverse process fractures in a 20-17 overtime loss at AT&T Stadium.

For those wanting the Cowboys to rest some of their regulars, like Romo, his recent history against the Redskins is the reason why.

"I go in with the exact, same mental approach I do every game," Romo said. "If you're a football player and there's a game, there's only one way to play and it's hard the whole time. You go all out. I think you're doing a disservice to the game and your team if you don't play that way. To me, regardless of circumstance and situation, if I'm out on the football field, you're going to see the best version of myself. And I think you're going to see that with our football team."

Romo has an 8-7 record against the Redskins. He has thrown for 3,698 yards with 25 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. With Jim Haslett as the Redskins' defensive coordinator, the Cowboys have scored fewer than 20 points in four of Romo's eight games, including the first meeting this season.

Romo completed a season-low 60.7 percent of his passes (17 of 28). He was sacked a season-high five times, including one that knocked him out of the game momentarily and cost him the next game against the Arizona Cardinals because of the fractures.

He has been sacked 18 times in the eight games against Haslett.

"They do a good job," Romo said. "We've played them a long time they know some of our stuff. We're going to have some different things up this time, (against) all out pressures that I don't think they'll be ready for and have seen before and then some of the other stuff we've done (against) some of the trap coverages. We'll have some stuff ready for that and I'm excited to go out there and execute."
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray went through his first full practice since undergoing surgery to repair a broken left hand last week.

Murray
Murray was limited in two practices leading into the Indianapolis Colts but played and had 22 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown in the Cowboys' 42-7 win. Rookie guard Zack Martin did not practice last week because of an ankle injury but also played against the Colts. Like Murray, he took part in a full practice Wednesday.

"I definitely don't want to go through not practicing again," said Martin, who was named to the Pro Bowl on Tuesday. "You'd be surprised on how many little things you can lose just by not practicing a couple times. So I'm happy to be back on the practice field today."

Josh Brent returned to practice in a limited fashion after missing the last two games with a calf injury. He was able to do some sprints before the Colts' game but acknowledged he would need to practice to get a better feel for his injury before determining if he could play Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

Quarterback Tony Romo followed his customary schedule of sitting out of Wednesday's practice. Right tackle Doug Free (ankle) also did not practice, and linebacker Rolando McClain was in Alabama after his house burned down on Monday. If he had been in town, there was a good chance he would not have practiced to rest his sore knee. Linebacker Dekoda Watson also did not practice, while safety Jeff Heath (thumb) took part in a full session.
IRVING, Texas – A year ago at this time, Tony Romo was preparing for a back surgery that kept him out of the winner-take-all season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles and cast a doubt as to whether he would return to form.

“I think I feel better this time of year than I did last year at this time,” Romo said, “so that’s a positive. So Merry Christmas.”

Romo
The condition of Romo’s back has been a major storyline for the entire season. He did not work more than two straight days in training camp. He has not practiced more than two straight days during the regular season since the second game of the season, sitting out on Wednesdays.

It has led to perhaps the best season of his career: 32 touchdown passes, eight interceptions and an NFL-best passer rating (114.4) and completion percentage (70.3 percent).

It also led to the fourth Pro Bowl invitation of his career. Teammates Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin also were picked.

“I think we all recognized he had a really good year before [the Pro Bowl announcement],” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s played awfully well and handled all of the different obstacles of coming back from his injury really well. But Tony has been an outstanding player for a long time. I think we’ve gotten better around him. He’s certainly had as good of a year as he’s had in his career this year. He’s playing at a very high level.”

While recognizing the honor, Romo has larger visions.

“More than anything, you’re just so focused on trying to win a championship right now,” Romo said. “It’s obviously an honor anytime your peers and coaches and fans vote for you, and something like that it’s always a very humbling feeling. At the same time, I think we all know what our goals are and hopefully none of us are playing in that football team and we’re all playing in Arizona for the championship. I think that’s what our minds are focused on right now. It’s just getting ready for the second part of the season.”

That’s what drives Romo. He has been able to quell the December narrative by leading the Cowboys to three straight wins to clinch the NFC East for the first time since 2009 while throwing 10 touchdown passes without an interception.

If or when Romo throws an interception or the Cowboys lose, the criticism will return.

“I think we all understand that it comes down to winning a championship,” Romo said. “That’s part of it. For me, all of the other stuff is stuff to talk about. It comes down to that. I don’t shy away from that. I think that’s what makes the game great. It gives you to find your way to lead your team to a championship. That’s why you’ve got to cash in when you have the opportunities. We understand where we’re at and how important it is.”
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys will be more than happy to give up their sixth-round pick to the Baltimore Ravens in 2015 for what Rolando McClain has meant to their success in 2014.

Because McClain will play in more than 50 percent of the defensive snaps, the Cowboys will fork over their sixth rounder to the Ravens, while getting Baltimore’s seventh-round pick in return, as per the July trade between the clubs.

McClain
The Cowboys made a low-risk deal that could have cost them nothing in return. In desperate need to find a replacement for Sean Lee, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in May, the Cowboys simply hoped McClain could regain some of the form that made him the eighth pick of the 2010 draft for the Oakland Raiders. He had retired twice and his time with the Raiders did not go well.

Jason Garrett reached out to his former boss and McClain’s coach at Alabama, Nick Saban. Jerry Jones reached out to McClain while on vacation in Turkey.

It could not have worked out any better.

According to the coaches’ breakdown, McClain leads the Cowboys in tackles with 108. He also has one sack, nine tackles for loss, five quarterback pressures, two interceptions, five pass breakups and one forced fumble.

He has played in 633 of 950 snaps while not playing in two games because of groin and knee injuries.

He is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season. The Cowboys will have Lee returning from his torn anterior cruciate ligament, but they could keep McClain and move Lee to the weakside linebacker spot.
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys' offense is at its best, everybody is involved.

Tony Romo's four touchdown passes in the 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts went to four different receivers: Terrance Williams, Dez Bryant, Cole Beasley and Jason Witten.

[+] EnlargeTerrance Williams
AP Photo/Tim SharpCan Terrance Williams follow up his two-TD game when the Cowboys play at Washington in Week 17?
For all of the focus Bryant and Witten get, the Cowboys need Williams and Beasley to come through.

"That goes to show you how many playmakers we have," Beasley said. "We had so many guys score touchdowns, just glad I could do it."

Williams' first touchdown came on an underneath route that the Cowboys have had success with multiple times this season. Witten and Beasley run out-breaking routes and Williams breaks free across the middle.

Williams said Romo changed the play at the line after seeing the Colts' defense.

"It's our job to find a way for him to throw the ball," Williams said. "I think we do a good job of trying to complement him."

Williams caught two passes for 52 yards and two touchdowns against the Colts. His second touchdown was a 43-yarder from Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter. He has back to back games with multiple catches for the first time since Weeks 9-10. His 52 yards were the most since he had 69 on Oct. 27 against the Washington Redskins. It was his first multi-touchdown game in 10 games.

He has eight touchdown catches on the season, the most by a receiver not named Bryant for the Cowboys since Laurent Robinson had 11 in 2011.

"Anytime a player is productive or as productive Terrance was [Sunday] it's a good thing for them, whether or not he needs it," coach Jason Garrett said. "I don't know that he needs it. One of the things he does is when he gets opportunities he cashes in on it. I think [Sunday] was a great example of that. He got the third down early to score the touchdown. Then he gets the chance late to run by the guy on the nine route. So he's always ready. He always plays the right way. When he gets his chances he typically comes through."
IRVING, Texas -- Now that the Dallas Cowboys are in the playoffs, what kind of damage can they do in the postseason?

The oldest axiom in football is run the ball and stop the run. Clearly, the Cowboys can run the ball with DeMarco Murray leading the NFL with 1,745 yards. They stopped the run last week against the Indianapolis Colts, giving up 1 yard on 10 carries, but the Colts should not be considered anything close to a running team. They allowed only two 100-yard runners (Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy).

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Brandon WadeBeing able to run the ball with the NFL's leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, should give the Cowboys an advantage in the playoffs.
If you don't have home-field advantage, you have to show you can win on the road. The Cowboys are the NFL's only undefeated team away from home. If they win at FedEx Field Sunday, they would have the first 8-0 road record in team history. They won at Seattle. They won at Philadelphia. They have overcome deficits to win at St. Louis and the New York Giants as well.

You have to be hot. The Cowboys have won three straight games in December, outscoring the Chicago Bears, Eagles and Colts 121-62. They have scored at least five touchdowns in three straight games. The last time that happened in team history was 1983.

You have to protect the ball. Tony Romo has gone 77 straight throws without an interception. He has just one interception on the road all season. DeMarco Murray has not had a fumble on a rushing attempt since Week 6. You have to be able to take the ball away. The Cowboys have nine takeaways in their past three games.

"I think it's built well," executive vice president Stephen Jones said when asked if the team is built for a playoff run. "When you run the ball, and we all know in the postseason, sometimes you get some rough climates and some tough situations in terms of if you have to go on the road, I think with that offensive line and what Tony can do when he's feeling good, we got a shot every time.

"You see it game in and game out if we can control the clock early and keep the defense fresh, then we got a chance because their whole deal is to play hard, play relentless and then they make plays. If we can continue to do that, we have a shot every time we go out there."

But regular-season success does not always translate into postseason success.

Just twice in the past five seasons have the top seeds made it to the Super Bowl. In 2012, the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl as a No. 4 seed. The New York Giants had nine wins and won the Super Bowl in 2011. The Green Bay Packers were a wild-card team when they won it in 2010.

Jason Garrett was talking about the current rhythm of the offense Monday, but his answer really could be said about the entire team.

"We talk a lot about momentum," Garrett said. "Momentum is a great thing. Momentum is real. You feel good about yourself and sometimes that helps you play better. That's a real positive thing, but you have to earn it. Anybody who thinks that momentum just kind of goes, that it's self-perpetuating, that's not how it works. Every time you break the huddle you have to earn it in the National Football League. The guy across from you is really good, the coaches are really good, so you have to go out there and earn the right to play well. And it has to happen play after play, series after series, day after day, week after week, so that's really the point of emphasis that we try to make. Certainly you feel good about yourself, there is a level of confidence you have, and that can help you but you have to earn it as a player."
IRVING, Texas -- All season long the Dallas Cowboys have been lauded as having one of the best -- if not the best -- offensive lines in the NFL.

Frederick
It was validated on Tuesday when Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin were voted to the Pro Bowl.

With the selections of Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant, it also validates that the Cowboys have one of the best offenses in the NFL. Murray leads the NFL with 1,745 yards rushing. Romo leads the NFL in passer rating and completion percentage and Bryant leads the NFL with 14 receiving touchdowns.

Coach Jason Garrett has said the offensive line has been the foundation of the Cowboys’ success and has been the biggest part of the team’s retooling of the roster since Garrett took over as the head coach on a full-time basis.

Smith was Garrett’s first first-round pick. Frederick came in the first round in 2013. Martin was chosen in the first round this season.

“It’s a great honor and it’s a great feeling to be a part of something like this with all the big names and everybody associated with it,” Frederick said. “To be able to be in that class is special. You know what’s awesome? Just getting to see all the rest of the guys, too. It’s very cool. It’s very special.”

It’s the first time the Cowboys have had three offensive linemen chosen for the Pro Bowl since 2009 when Flozell Adams, Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis were picked.
» Pro Bowl analysis: AFC | NFC » Complete roster

SELECTIONS:

Tony Romo, QB, 4th Pro Bowl Selection: Romo has thrown for more yards in a season, but he has never been more efficient, as despite being 23rd in pass attempts, he is fifth in touchdown passes with 32. He leads the NFL in quarterback rating and completion percentage. His last Pro Bowl appearance came in 2009, which coincides with the Cowboys' most recent playoff appearance.

Who he beat out: Seattle’s Russell Wilson, New Orleans’ Drew Brees and San Diego’s Philip Rivers deserved notice, but they didn’t have a better season than Romo.

Dez Bryant, WR, 2nd Pro Bowl Selection: He became the first Cowboys’ wide receiver to post three straight 1,000-yard seasons since Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, and he leads the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions. He needs one more touchdown to equal the club mark for TD receptions in a season set by Terrell Owens in 2007. He is 10th in catches (84) and ninth in yards (1,221) but he has saved his best for big moments.

Who he beat out: Detroit’s Golden Tate and Denver’s Emmanuel Sanders had more catches and yards than Bryant, but would any team take either over Bryant?

DeMarco Murray, 2nd Pro Bowl Selection: He was added to the Pro Bowl last year as an injury replacement, but there was no denying his spot this year. He leads the NFL in rushing with 1,745 yards and needs 29 yards Sunday to break Emmitt Smith’s single-season team record. He opened the season with eight straight 100-yard games, an NFL record, and has 11 100-yard games on the season. He has career highs in carries (373), yards, receptions (54) and touchdowns (12). He also displayed his toughness last week, playing six days after undergoing surgery to repair a broken left hand.

Who he beat out: As the NFL’s leading rusher, he should have beaten out every running back in the league.

Tyron Smith, OT, 2nd Pro Bowl Selection: The Cowboys signed him to a $100 million contract extension in August, showing just how important he is to the club. To many he is considered the best tackle in the NFL, but he did have a few blips that were not as apparent last season, when he made the Pro Bowl for the first time. He might be the most athletic offensive lineman in the NFL today. The best part for the Cowboys is that he just turned 24 on Dec. 12. He could be in the early stages of a long Pro Bowl run.

Who he beat out: Like Murray, he shouldn’t have had to beat any tackle out. Just ask the scouts, general managers and personnel directors.

Travis Frederick, C, 1st Pro Bowl Selection: Some cringed when the Cowboys chose him with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2013 draft, but he has been a dominant starter since Day 1 and quickly became one of the leaders on offense. He plays with great leverage and strength and is more athletic than people realize. His smarts, however, are what set him apart from most centers. He does not make the same mistake twice. The last Cowboys’ center to make the Pro Bowl was Andre Gurode in 2010.

Who he beat out: Green Bay’s Corey Linsley did a great job as a late fill in and Seattle's Max Unger deserved consideration, but Frederick has been one of the best centers in the league all season.

Zack Martin, G, 1st Pro Bowl selection: He is the first rookie offensive lineman to be named to the Pro Bowl in franchise history. Jerry Jones might have wanted Johnny Manziel leading into the draft, but Martin solidified the offensive line. He started every game at tackle at Notre Dame, but made a smooth transition to guard as a rookie. He is the first Cowboys guard to make the Pro Bowl since Leonard Davis made the squad in 2009.

Who he beat out: If you want to argue about Philadelphia's Evan Mathis or Pittsburgh's David Decastro, then fine, but Martin might have the highest grades of any Cowboys linemen and two of them made the Pro Bowl.

SNUB

Jason Witten, TE, 9 Pro Bowls: His numbers are not as prolific as they have been in the past -- 60 catches, 654 yards, five touchdowns -- but his blocking has played a big part in the reason why Murray leads the NFL in rushing. Jason Garrett consistently calls him the best all-around tight end in the NFL.

Who he should have beaten out: Denver’s Julius Thomas has more touchdowns than Witten, but fewer catches and yards. If we’re talking total package, Witten makes it.

QB snapshot: Tony Romo

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Tony Romo and how he played in the Dallas Cowboys' 42-7 win in Week 16 against the Indianapolis Colts:

Romo
When you complete 18 of 20 passes, very little went wrong. It’s easier to just look at Romo’s incompletions. Colts outside linebacker Bjoern Werner deflected a rocket screen to wide receiver Dwayne Harris. In the second half, Sergio Brown dropped a sure interception when Cole Beasley acknowledged he mistakenly did not complete his hot route on an Indianapolis blitz.

Romo’s completion streak spanned 42:07 of game time.

In training camp Romo said he would be the best version of himself. After Sunday’s game it is hard to argue, and he offered up a technical reason for his success after the game.

“I feel very comfortable throwing the football,” Romo said. “That was one of the big reasons, and I talked about it in the preseason. I knew where I was going with the ability to throw the football and throw from different positions; off your back foot, from the left, from the right, on the move, tall, driving through. Those are the things you try to work through your whole career so that it is not dependent on things going perfect to do it. Those are things that come with age and experience and working your butt off to technically perfect your craft. When you’re feeling good in that rhythm throwing it, I always felt like I could read it and see it but you need that fundamental aspect of the game to take it to the next level. I think I’ve done a better job of that this year.”
IRVING, Texas – A week ago today, DeMarco Murray had surgery to stabilize a fourth metacarpal in his left hand with a plate and eight screws. The stitches still remain.

But Murray did not have any setbacks, according to coach Jason Garrett.

In fact, Garrett called Murray’s 22-carry, 58-yard, one-touchdown game in the 42-7 win against the Indianapolis Colts his best of the season.

Murray
“He’s had other games where the numbers are a little bit gaudier, more impressive, but just his mindset and his demeanor all week long and what that meant to our football team was really, really significant,” Garrett said. “I think it reflected in how we played as a football team. And he was amazing. He ran the ball in this game. He ran it tough. He ran it hard. He blocked in this game. They’re bringing safeties, he’s turning around and picking them up. I just thought he was fantastic, and I can’t tell you how meaningful that was to everybody else for him to have the mindset that he had.”

Garrett said the plan is for Murray to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He will continue to wear the hard plastic shell on the top of his glove for added protection.

He needs 29 yards to break Emmitt Smith’s record for rushing yards in a season (1,773 in 1995), but Garrett is not concerned with that.

“And it’s not important to DeMarco either,” Garrett said. “It’s all about winning. It’s all about what’s best for our football team. Now, those two things coincide. It’s good for our football team when DeMarco is running the ball well and we control the game by running the football. That’s been a formula for success for us all year long so we’ll certainly try and do that this week. But the idea that we’re going to get a player some kind of statistic, it’s not really part of our thinking.”
IRVING, Texas – Even with only a slight chance at being one of the top two seeds in the NFC, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will rest players for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins.

In order to get homefield advantage, the Cowboys need to beat Washington, have the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions tie in their meeting and need the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals to lose.

Even with a loss to the Redskins they can still get a first-round bye ... if thethe Seahawks and Cardinals lose.

Garrett
Garrett
With the Cowboys playing the early game, they will not know what happens in Arizona or Seattle.

“A lot of different scenarios can come up in this situation,” Garrett said. “Our plan is to practice as well as we can practice and go play our best football game with the guys who are available to us. We’re excited about that opportunity. That’s what we do here. We focus on each day. We focus on being our best and that’s what we’re going to do this week getting ready for the Redskins. We don’t really concern ourselves with all of the different scenarios.”

Garrett said DeMarco Murray (hand), Zack Martin (ankle) and Jason Witten (knee) came out of Sunday’s win against the Indianapolis Colts fine. Doug Free is dealing with a bone spur issue that kept him out of the game. Josh Brent has missed the last two games with a calf injury but was running sprints Sunday in pre-game warmups.

The Cowboys have won three straight games to secure their first NFC East title since 2009, but the bulk of this team has not experienced a lot of success. Garrett said he wants to keep his team sharp and focused with the playoffs ahead.

“There are some teams who are more mature, maybe they have been there before, they know how to handle that situation, rest and healing up might be more important to them,” Garrett said. “But our football team – we need to play. We need to go play and play well. It starts with practice. It starts with our preparation, and then when the game starts go play as well as you can play.”

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