For the first time in more than 13 years the Dallas Cowboys have won a playoff game, and it came in one of the most convincing performances of the season.
Behind a pounding running game that totaled nearly 200 yards, and the sharp passing of Tony Romo, the Cowboys erased more than a decade of postseason frustration with a surprisingly easy win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
"It’s rewarding, you out on a journey and whatever you want to call it at the beginning of the year or whatever you want to call it at the beginning of the year, not just training camp but all the way back to January and it’s nice to be able to go out and achieve certain goals that you’ve set as a team and for yourself," Romo said afterwards.
"We gave ourselves loftier goals so we’re going to keep ourselves in perspective but it’s definitely a step."
The Cowboys got off to a fast start, moving the football with ease, but early penalties prevented much of anything from happening in the first quarter.
The second quarter, however, was entirely different story. Romo found John Phillips on a quick out pattern for a one-yard touchdown to put Dallas up 7-0 with 14:09 remaining in the first half.
And it only be a hint of things to come.
After Mike Vick threw a 76-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin 50 seconds later, the Cowboys quickly responded, scoring 20 consecutive points en route to a 27-7 halftime advantage.
The 27 second quarter were the most points in a single quarter in Cowboys playoff history.
Tashard Choice scored from one yard, Shaun Suisham added two field goals - including one from 48 yards out and Miles Austin caught a six yard touchdown on a screen pass to help put the Eagles away.
Dallas added a 73-yard touchdown run courtesy of Felix Jones to seal the deal with 5:33 left in the third quarter.
"It takes tremendous pressure off of you to get a lead like that," Romo said. "When we got the big lead my job was to minimize any mistakes, possibilities. That was nice to know when the running game still works like that because you can’t do everything that you’re wanting to."
The win was not only important for Romo, who had never won a playoff game in two previous tries, but it was especially important for head coach Wade Phillips, who also had never won a playoff game in previous stops with Denver and Atlanta, nor in three years in Dallas.
"There’s not a lot of coaches that have coached as many games as he’s coached with the winning percentage that he has," LB Keith Brooking said. "Obviously, he didn’t get the monkey off his back until tonight, as far as winning the playoff game, and I think that’s just part of being a Cowboy – the knee jerk reaction that this town has and some of the unrealistic expectations.
"But that’s just something that you have to deal with being a part of this organization. But that’s what makes it so special too because when you do have success, obviously, you enjoy it with a lot of people and it means a lot to everyone.”
The Cowboys defense was once again the story as well for the third consecutive week, limiting the Eagles to just 56 rushing yards and holding them well below their season average in scoring.
Explosive receiver DeSean Jackson was also held in check, catching just three passes for 14 yards, and Donovan McNabb was harassed all game long in the win.
Philadelphia would add a four-yard touchdown pass to Jackson with 13:30 remaining, but it was too little too late.
With the win, Dallas advances to play at Minnesota next weekend.
“(Brett) Favre’s a great quarterback and he can definitely beat you with his arm, but they also have other weapons with Adrian Peterson," Pro Bowl tackle Jay Ratliff said. "Their offensive line is definitely a big, physical line, so we need to be ready to step up and face up to that challenge."
But for now, it's all about erasing the painful memory of past failures.
And at least for the next couple of days, it simply doesn't get any better than this.
NOTES: Tonight's win was Dallas' first playoff win since defeating the
Minnesota Vikings 40-15 in a Wild Card Playoff Game in Dallas (12/28/96). ... Felix Jones rushed 16 times for 148 yards, the third-highest rushing total in Cowboys playoff history behind performances by Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith.