Dec­i­mated ros­ter re­mains in the hunt

Giants, Pack­ers pro­vide role models for a Dal­las team that’s get­ting hot.

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - By Schuyler Dixon

IRV­ING — Dal­las Cow­boys owner Jerry Jones can’t help but think about the New York Giants go­ing from 7-7 to a Su­per Bowl ti­tle last sea­son.

It prob­a­bly wouldn’t hurt to re­mind him that the Green Bay Pack­ers had a de­fense that over­came in­juries and won a cham­pi­onship a year ear­lier — at his sta­dium, no less.

“You can le­git­i­mately look at how the Giants played last year, what they did at the end of the year and how they took it all the way,” Jones said af­ter Dal­las beat the Steel­ers in front of thou­sands of Ter­ri­ble Towel-wav­ing fans at Cow­boys Sta­dium on Sun­day. “And that’s not un­re­al­is­tic to think that that can hap­pen to you.”

Maybe Jones was a lit­tle giddy af­ter the Cow­boys beat Pitts­burgh 27-24 in over­time for their third straight win.

Dal­las is tied for first in the NFC East af­ter win­ning five of six, and for the first time in weeks doesn’t need help to

reach the play­offs.

The Cow­boys (8-6) are in if they beat New Or­leans on Sun­day at home and win at Washington in two weeks.

The game against the Red­skins could end up look­ing a lot like last sea­son’s fi­nale, when the Giants beat the Cow­boys in New Jersey with a play­off berth on the line.

The Green Bay con­nec­tion is even more strik­ing. The Cow­boys have lost about as many de­fend­ers as the Pack­ers did when they beat the Steel­ers in the Su­per Bowl af­ter the 2010 sea­son.

Four Dal­las starters are on in­jured re­serve, and a fifth — de­fen­sive tackle Jay Ratliff — won’t play again in the reg­u­lar sea­son af­ter sports her­nia surgery.

Nickel cor­ner­back Or­lando Scan­drick (left hand and wrist) is out for the sea­son as well, and rookie starter Mor­ris Clai­borne missed the Pitts­burgh game with a con­cus­sion. Clai­borne said Mon­day he thought he would play against the Saints (6-8).

Ratliff’s backup, Josh Brent, won’t re­turn this sea­son fol­low­ing his ar­rest on an in­tox­i­ca­tion manslaugh­ter charge in the one-car ac­ci­dent that killed team­mate and close friend Jerry Brown.

Yet some­how, the Cow­boys keep win­ning, with plenty of help from the de­fense. Bran­don Carr set up a touch­down with an in­ter­cep­tion in a 20-19 win at Cincin­nati the day af­ter the crash that killed Brown.

Dal­las at­tended a pri­vate me­mo­rial ser­vice for Brown last Tues­day, then Carr won the Pitts­burgh game by in­ter­cept­ing Ben Roeth­lis­berger on the sec­ond play of over­time and re­turn­ing it to the 1yard-line.

Dan Bai­ley kicked a win­ning 21-yard field goal a week af­ter his 40-yarder as time ex­pired beat the Ben­gals.

“You never know how you’re go­ing to han­dle sit­u­a­tions when you’re dealt with ad­ver­sity like we had last week,” said tight end Ja­son Wit­ten, who caught a touch­down pass from Tony Romo for the first time this sea­son Sun­day against the Steel­ers.

“Ev­ery­one han­dled it pro­fes­sion­ally. Yeah, we were emo­tional. We stayed to­gether and stayed fo­cused.”

It would have been easy for the Dal­las de­fense to give up af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, when line­backer Bruce Carter sus­tained a sea­son-end­ing el­bow in­jury in the most de­mor­al­iz­ing game of the sea­son.

The Cow­boys wilted in the re­turn of Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner Robert Grif­fin III to Texas. The former Bay­lor star daz­zled in a 28-point sec­ond quar­ter that led the Red­skins to a 38-31 win.

But the Cow­boys are 3-0 since that de­feat.

“We’re bat­tling and peak­ing,” Romo said.

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