Arlington, Texas Jerry Jones exclaimed, “demons are GONE!” Keith Brooking pretended to pull a monkey off the back of coach Wade Phillips.
And Tony Romo waxed poetic about the process, about getting better every game and hoping for a reward at the end.
In a way, each of their reactions was pretty appropriate considering all the ramifications of the Dallas Cowboys’ 34-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Saturday night.
The Cowboys won their first playoff game since Dec. 28, 1996, ending a 4,760-day drought, easily the longest in the club’s proud history. The skid included six losses; a seventh would’ve set an NFL futility record.
Phillips was 0-4 in the playoffs as a head coach, covering stints with Denver and Buffalo, too. Romo was 0-2, with bizarre circumstances surrounding each. Fittingly enough, Phillips’ defense was a huge reason for this victory, and Romo broke the game open with five straight scoring drives in the second quarter.
“It’s just ... rewarding,” Romo said. “It makes me proud of the guys in there — fighting, grinding, staying committed to the approach. I’m happy for the guys, happy for Wade, happy for Jerry.”
The Cowboys have dominated their last four games, scoring early and never trailing in any of them. The defense has been the backbone, with the offense coming through with plenty of points and few turnovers. It’s the way Dallas used to play this time of year back in the days of Roger Staubach and Tom Landry, and Troy Aikman and Jimmy Johnson.
Now, it’s finally happening again under Romo and Phillips. Next up for them is a trip to Minnesota on Sunday, with Romo taking on childhood hero Brett Favre.
“This team has hung together all year, got stronger at the end of the year and is playing our best football,” Phillips said. “I think we’re playing as good as anybody right now.”
The Eagles are one-and-done in the playoffs for the first time under coach Andy Reid. Philadelphia had been 7-0 in playoff openers with Reid and 6-0 with Donovan McNabb at quarterback.
But they finished 0-3 against Dallas this season. The Eagles lost 24-0 last weekend and couldn’t change much. They got Michael Vick back from an injury and used him in place of McNabb for a few plays. He threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin on his first snap, tying it at 7 early in the second quarter, but also messed up a handoff deep in his own territory, setting the Cowboys up for the touchdown that made it 24-7.
Dallas stretched the lead to 27-7 at halftime. A 73-yard touchdown run by Felix Jones made it 34-7 going into the fourth quarter.
“They were better all the way around,” Reid said. “When you get your tail kicked, it’s not a great feeling. No one expected it.”
The Cowboys limited the Eagles to 18 snaps in the decisive first half. Philadelphia gained only 140 yards in that span.