Daily Press (Sunday)

Cowboys ride long home streak; Pack’s Love makes debut

- By Schuyler Dixon

ARLINGTON, Texas — Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t have asked for things to go any better than they did the last two weeks of the regular season.

Their rise to the No. 2 seed in the NFC means they won’t have to leave home in the postseason unless they get where they’ve wanted to be for 28 years without making it — the conference championsh­ip game.

The possibilit­y of at least two playoff games at AT&T Stadium comes with the Cowboys (12-5) riding a 16-game winning streak under their retractabl­e roof.

All fine and good, Prescott says, but first things first.

The NFC East champs will see the playoff debut of Green Bay quarterbac­k Jordan Love, future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers’ successor, when the Packers (9-8) visit in a wild-card game today.

“On our end, it starts off with us taking care of this one,” Prescott said. “We can talk about the opportunit­y, this and that, but the opportunit­y is right now with this game. I’d be getting ahead of myself if I didn’t say it’s today and the rest of these meetings and our approach.”

Dallas is in the playoffs for the third consecutiv­e season, which the franchise hasn’t done since a run of six straight from 199196 that included three of its five Super Bowl titles.

San Francisco knocked out the Cowboys each of the past two postseason­s, first in a wild-card game in Texas, then the divisional round in California.

“Experience is everything,” said Dallas receiver CeeDee Lamb, who set club records with an NFL-best 135 catches for 1,749 yards. “I feel like we have a lot of guys that have also been on the team for quite some time and we all went through the same scars and we’re not trying to feel that again.”

This time, Dallas wouldn’t see the top-seeded Niners until the NFC title game. The Cowboys chased defending division champion Philadelph­ia for two months before overtaking the Eagles in the final two weeks.

Instead of a postseason likely filled with road games like a year ago, when Dallas dominated Tampa Bay before the loss in the Bay Area, the Cowboys are in line for multiple home playoff games for the first time since they were the NFC’s top seed in Prescott’s rookie year in 2016.

Prescott lost his playoff debut to

Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy’s Packers. McCarthy is now in his fourth season in charge of the Cowboys.

“It’s all about an excellent opportunit­y that we prepared ourselves and we put ourselves in this position,” said McCarthy, who led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title 13 years ago and spent 12-plus seasons there. “We earned it, deserved it and more importantl­y, we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Love threw 18 touchdown passes with just one intercepti­on in the final eight games of the regular season, when the Packers went 6-2 to surge into the final playoff spot in the NFC.

“We’ve had to win every game going forward to be able to put ourselves in this position,” Love said. “Obviously, now the stakes are a little bit higher in the playoffs, but I think we’ve been here, we have the right mindset going forward.”

Sizzling QBs

Prescott threw an NFL-leading 36 touchdown passes during the regular season, while Love was second with 32.

It’s the second wild-card meeting of league leaders from the regular season. The other matched a pair of Hall of Famers, when Dan Fouts and San Diego topped Terry Bradshaw and Pittsburgh 31-28 in 1982.

Love will try to continue the mastery Rodgers had over the Cowboys. The Packers have won nine of the past 10 meetings, including divisional playoff games during the 2014 and 2016 seasons.

 ?? PATRICK SMITH/GETTY ?? Dallas Cowboys quarterbac­k
Dak Prescott leads the NFL with 36 touchdown passes. His counterpar­t today, Green Bay’s Jordan Love, ranks second with 32 TD passes.
PATRICK SMITH/GETTY Dallas Cowboys quarterbac­k Dak Prescott leads the NFL with 36 touchdown passes. His counterpar­t today, Green Bay’s Jordan Love, ranks second with 32 TD passes.

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