IRVING, Texas – Tony Romo hasn’t made it through his past two games against Washington without a back injury, and the most realistic playoff scenarios don’t require the Cowboys to beat the Redskins on Sunday.
So what does that mean for the 34-year-old quarterback who has actually had three back problems in less than two years? Not much.
“I go in with the exact same mental approach I do every game,” Romo said. “If you’re a football player and there’s a game, there’s only one way to play and it’s hard the whole time. You go all out. I think you’re doing a disservice to the game and your team if you don’t play that way.”
Besides, the only inexplicable loss this season for NFC East champion Dallas (11-4) came against a Washington team already going nowhere in October. Granted, the Cowboys were without Romo for about a quarter in the second half after taking a direct hit to his surgically repaired back on a sack by linebacker Keenan Robinson.
But they still couldn’t get key stops against third-string quarterback Colt McCoy, who started in place of ineffective backup Kirk Cousins while Robert Griffin III was still sidelined with a dislocated ankle. The 20-17 loss in overtime snapped Dallas’ six-game winning streak.
“Everyone knows what happened last time,” defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said.
“That’s not a feeling that we like around here. So we don’t want it to happen again.”
The earlier win means the Redskins (4-11) can break even in the division in an otherwise dismal first season under coach Jay Gruden. Plus, Washington is coming off a 27-24 upset of Philadelphia that put the Cowboys in position to knock the Eagles out of the playoffs, which they did the next day by beating Indianapolis.
“It would give us a chance to finish 3-3 in our division and sweep the Cowboys, which our fans love,” Griffin said.
“It’s Dallas week. We understand that. They’re playing at a very high level right now.”
In his last visit to Washington, Romo finished a winning rally last December after sustaining a herniated disk earlier in the game. He had surgery five days later and missed a season-ending loss to Philadelphia that extended the Cowboys’ playoff drought to four years.
After his latest back injury against the Redskins – best described as two small fractures – Romo missed a loss to Arizona and clearly had a difficult time with the quick Thanksgiving turnaround a few weeks later in a loss to the Eagles. They’ve put together three strong performances since then, another reason to try to keep it going.
“It really comes down to just being the best version of yourself regardless of circumstance,” Romo said. “These are great games to go show that. In the playoffs, not in the playoffs, it doesn’t matter.”
And for the Redskins, it’s a matter of showing something heading into the off-season in a string of disappointing years interrupted only by a playoff team that beat the Cowboys in a winner-take-all finale two years ago.
“Winning the last two games against two quality opponents would be the next best thing other than going to the playoffs,” Gruden said. Nobody likes being in the situation we’re in, but to finish strong and show the type of guys we have on this team, the way they’re still competing despite not going to the playoffs, I think is a great tribute to them.“