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December 27, 2012

Cowboys already know playoffs-or-bust drill in division

IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys should know this drill by now.

The only thing left is figuring out how to win a playoffs-or-bust game at an NFC East rival in the final game of the season.

The Cowboys flopped badly in Philadelphia in 2008, and were better but still not very good last season at the New York Giants.

Dallas gets another chance Sunday night at Washington against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins (9-6), who could still make the postseason even if they lose.

“You live for games like this,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said at a quiet and mostly shuttered team headquarters on Christmas Eve.

The Cowboys (8-7) began the second-to-last Sunday of the regular season with control of their playoff fate, and ended it the same way despite losing to New Orleans 34-31 in overtime. That’s because the Giants lost at Baltimore, essentially rendering the Dallas loss meaningless.

During a stretch of five wins in six games that revived Dallas’ postseason hopes, the only loss was to the Redskins on Thanksgiving. Griffin engineered the first 28-point quarter for Washington in 13 years, going 8 of 8 for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter.

“I’ll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I certainly think that’s the type of player we’re playing against and team we’re playing against.”

The Cowboys won’t say it, but injuries could be wearing on a beleaguered defense. Five starters and nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick are out. Replacement free agents have been filling holes days after signing. DeMarcus Ware is trying to play through groin, elbow and shoulder problems, and he was mostly watching late while the Saints finished a sack-free game for Brees despite 53 attempts.

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