Decimated roster remains in the hunt
Giants, Packers provide role models for a Dallas team that’s getting hot.
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.