Dallas Cowboys: Can They Change Their Recent History in Big Games?

Jason Henry@thenprojectCorrespondent IDecember 26, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys is sacked by defensive end Will Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints and defensive tackle Junior Galette #93 of the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. The New Orleans Saints beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-31 in overtime. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This past Sunday, the Cowboys were dropped off by the Saints, 34-31. New Orleans beat the Cowboys in overtime after Dallas made a furious 14-point comeback in the fourth quarter to tie the game.

This was the Cowboys' third game in as many weeks that was decided on the last play. Dallas beat the Bengals in Week 14 on a last-second field goal by Dan Bailey. The next week, they were able to best the Steelers in overtime with an interception returned to the one by cornerback Brandon Carr, and most recently, the last-second field goal by Saints kicker Garrett Hartley to end their game in Week 16.

Dallas has been living on the edge for a while now, and it finally caught up with them.

But luck seems to follow the Cowboys. They needed the Giants to lose to the Ravens on Sunday to keep their playoff hopes alive, and the Giants did just that.

So that sets up a showdown between the Cowboys and Redskins in Week 17 for the NFC East championship. The winning team earns a playoff berth and the losing one goes home.

Yet, the Cowboys' recent history in games of this nature suggests that the outcome for next week's game is already written: The Cowboys may lose.

This is the third time in five years that Dallas has been faced with this scenario. In 2008, Dallas faced the Eagles in the season's final game for a playoff spot. Their doors were blown off by Philly, 44-6.

Dallas ended up going home.

The second opportunity came last season as the Cowboys ended the 2011 campaign against the Giants. Again, they were run off the field. New York beat the Cowboys 31-14 and ended up winning the Super Bowl.

That's an 0-2 record with a combined score of 75-20. The Cowboys are not just losing these games, they are being destroyed in them.

For Cowboys fans, next week may turn out to be a nightmare. Dallas has a banged-up defense and can't seem to get their offense on track in the first half.

Against the Saints, Dallas lost linebacker DeMarcus Ware to a strained shoulder and had at least three players to leave with injuries and not return.

Dallas' secondary was a wreck against New Orleans, giving up 446 passing yards. The Cowboys were also unable to get a sack on Drew Brees, recording just two official quarterback hits.

That type of play against the red-hot Washington Redskins next week just will not be good enough to win.

The last time these two teams got together, Washington not only beat Dallas, but also jumped out to a 25-point lead. The Cowboys were able to make a comeback in the second half, as usual, but fell short in the game's waning minutes.

Robert Griffin III

RGIII, or Bobby Three Sticks as I like to call him, tore the Dallas defense up. He passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns. The difference between this week and the last matchup is that RGIII is a little banged-up with a bum knee.

He still led his team to victory against the Eagles; can he do the same for them next week?

What I noticed in the first matchup is that the Redskins receivers caught everything thrown their way. Take Pierre Garcon's 59-yard touchdown. RGIII actually threw the ball behind Garcon, and in order for him to make the catch, Garcon had to turn his body around mid-air just to get his hands on it.

Now, the rest of the play is all Garcon, outrunning the Cowboys defense and turning a wild catch into a pretty long touchdown.

Should we expect the same type of play from Griffin and his receivers on Sunday?

The Redskins have also been really successful in the zone read, and like so many other teams, the Cowboys struggled against it.

For their matchup in primetime on Sunday night, I do not believe RGIII will be as triumphant. He completed 70 percent of his passes, something he's done four other times this season, but hasn't come as close to that number since his Thanksgiving Day massacre against Dallas.

But the larger question is in regards to how the Cowboys will handle the pressure of winning, not Griffin III.

Will their second-, or third-rate at this point, defense play up or down on Sunday night? Are fans going to see another late-season, final-game collapse, or will the Cowboys finally rise up to meet the magnitude of the moment?

Maybe the third time is the charm for the Cowboys, or maybe the RGIII train is just to much for them to handle.


Cowboys News and Notes

Saints vs. Cowboys: Dallas' Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 16

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