Now Cowboys have to avoid another December slump Print
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Friday, 28 November 2008 11:27
NFL Headline News

 IRVING, Texas (AP) -With the return of Tony Romo, the Dallas Cowboys have recovered from a midseason rut that threatened to destroy their entire season.
They have a three-game winning streak, with two impressive victories in a five-day span, and are back near the top of the NFC wild-card standings.
``It's a good momentum builder, and we have to use it just as that,'' Greg Ellis said. ``If you show any signs of satisfaction, then we're going to run into some problems.''
Ellis and rest of the Cowboys know the big question going forward: Can they keep it up in December and avoid that seemingly routine late-season swoon?
``Well, December's always been tough,'' Jason Witten said. ``This team understands the challenges and really our backs still being against the wall. ... We've still got a lot to prove.''
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Since winning its last playoff game during the 1996 season, Dallas is 17-28 in December games; 18-31 when regular-season games played in January are added. The only winning December in that span came in 2001, but Dallas was 2-8 before that, so it didn't really matter.
The next game is Dec. 7 at AFC North leader Pittsburgh. Then the Cowboys come home for their final two games ever at Texas Stadium, against the NFC East-leading New York Giants and Baltimore, before the regular season finale at Philadelphia.
``The struggle's not over. Every time we line up - the series, the quarter, the half, the game - is going to be a challenge for us,'' owner Jerry Jones said. ``A big part of December is Pittsburgh there. ... If we can go up and beat that Pittsburgh team, that will say a lot for this team as we look at making the playoffs.''
At least the Cowboys still have a chance to get to the postseason, which didn't seem so certain only a few weeks ago when they were in a 2-4 stretch and without Romo. But Romo got back in time for a much-needed victory at Washington before victories over San Francisco and Seattle.
Before the recent resurgence, the only winning streak for the Cowboys was their 3-0 start when they seemed intent on living up to their preseason billing as a Super Bowl favorite.
Now, that still-healing broken pinkie and protective splint on Romo's throwing hand aren't keeping him from having 300-yard passing games, Terrell Owens is finally have productive games again and the defense is playing strong.
``The good thing is it gives us some momentum for December,'' Terence Newman said. ``We have to make sure what we did at the end of November definitely picks up in December, and we can win these games and get this past December record off our backs.''
At the same point last season, the Cowboys were 11-1, the best start in franchise history and already with a playoff berth clinched. But they went 2-2 in December, then lost their playoff game at home.
This time, a break-even December may not be enough to make the playoffs.
Missing the postseason would be a crushing blow for the Cowboys, considering Jones spent more than $70 million to re-sign Owens and four other Pro Bowl free agents, those among 13 Pro Bowl players back from last year's 13-win team.
``I don't think there's anybody in the locker room that would not be disappointed and saddened if we didn't make the playoffs,'' Newman said. ``But for (Jones) to try and put this team like this together and not make the playoffs it would definitely be a tragedy.''
The Cowboys got a three-day break and won't return to practice until Monday after beating Seattle. They will carry some momentum into the closing stretch of the season.
Romo was 22-of-34 for 331 yards with three TDs against the Seahawks, four days after throwing for 341 yards and three scores against San Francisco.
Owens followed his 213-yard receiving performance with five catches for 98 yards and a score, missing another 100-yard game when he dropped a wide-open slant on Romo's last pass. Witten, who hasn't missed a game despite a broken rib sustained a month ago, had nine catches for 115 yards (both season highs) with a touchdown.
Then there were the seven sacks by the defense, the most by the Cowboys since 1997, so the whole team is on a roll.
``Absolutely,'' Witten said. ``And confidence and execution, all the things that go into it. It's big for this team.''
 

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