The Cowboys aren’t chasing Philly anymore in the NFC East. Their fate is finally in their hands

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Jayron Kearse and the Dallas Cowboys chased Philadelphia for two months in the NFC East, needing help to take the division title from the Eagles.

Things changed suddenly on the second-to-last weekend of the regular season, with Arizona’s upset of the Eagles putting the Cowboys (11-5) in control.

If Dallas wins at last-place Washington on Sunday, the Cowboys keep Philadelphia (11-5) from becoming the first repeat winner in the NFC East since the Eagles won four in a row from 2001-04.

Philadelphia, which is at the New York Giants, needs help because the Cowboys hold the first tiebreaker after head-to-head with a better record in NFC games. Both teams have qualified for the postseason.

Much more importantly, a victory gives Dallas the No. 2 seed in the conference behind San Francisco and a shot at consecutive playoff games at home. The Cowboys have a 16-game winning streak at AT&T Stadium, where they finished 8-0 this regular season.

“The conversations might change a bit just because we know now we’re at a point now where we control this thing,” said Kearse, a safety who has made the playoffs all three years with Dallas. “We’ve been needing some help as the season went on. We got that help now, and now it’s time for us to handle our business.”

The Cowboys fell two games behind Philadelphia, the defending NFC champion, with a 28-23 loss on Nov. 5. Dallas won the rematch five weeks later to pull even with the Eagles, but Philadelphia still had the tiebreaker after that loss.

There’s been plenty of losing from both teams since then.

Dallas had consecutive road losses before beating Detroit at home 20-19 last weekend with help from a disputed penalty that took a 2-point conversion away from the Lions with 23 seconds remaining.

The Eagles have lost four of five since a 10-1 start, capped by a 35-31 loss to Arizona at home that made the Cardinals 2-0 this season — half of their victories — against the two playoff qualifiers from the NFC East. They beat Dallas 28-16 in Week 3.

Mike McCarthy, who has reached the playoffs in 12 of his 16 full seasons as coach in Green Bay and Dallas, preaches 11 wins as the starting point for how the playoffs shake out.

He broke out in a smile as he fielded a question about the sudden change in fortunes.

“I’m laughing because I think you’re trying to get me to say, ‘I told you so. You just wait till 11 wins and it works out,’” McCarthy said. “I don’t want to be that guy. That’s what 11 wins does for you.

“I think it’s a great reminder to focus on what’s right in front of you,” he said. “I like to think we’ve been doing that week in and week out. But we definitely have to do it this week.”

The Cowboys finished last season at Washington as well, losing 26-6 while insisting they were playing to win even though they didn’t really have much of a chance to overtake Philadelphia for the division title.

If nothing else, that woeful showing a year ago gives the coaches plenty of fodder.

“Absolutely, especially with the weather that we may be getting,” McCarthy said, referring to a forecast that has since changed to rain Saturday instead of Sunday. “We’ll talk about all of those things.”

The Cowboys have essentially been chasing the Eagles since last season, when Dallas was two games behind after an October loss and never could get even despite a Week 16 win over Philadelphia.

Suddenly, the hunter is the hunted.

“You recognize when moments come,” defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said. “I think any competitor can do that. When you have that attitude, knowing when those opportunities come, you go. And you take your shot. And you make your mark. And you go for it. We certainly have a group that will do that.”



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