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Cowboys humming into the playoffs

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IRVING, Texas — Coach Jason Garrett has the Dallas Cowboys humming into the playoffs.

The Cowboys are playing their best football of the season on offense and defense, and they are playing with a killer instinct. It was all on display in a 44-17 victory over the Washington Redskins in the regular-season finale.

Dallas jumped out to a 27-7 lead and ran away early in a game that was essentially meaningless. The Cowboys previously clinched the NFC East title and were all but assured the third seed in the conference playoffs.

Garrett easily could have rested in his starters to keep them healthy for next Sunday’s wild-card playoffs against Detroit Lions. However, there is no letup with Garrett, and no letup with the Cowboys, who are on full throttle headed to the playoffs.

“I was so pleased to see our guys come out with everything that you want in a football game to have it from the time they walked out there,” owner Jerry Jones said. “That’s a credit to the head coach, and in a big way that’s a credit to the staff, but (also) the players. We all know if you want to see if somebody can reach down when it isn’t necessarily a must relative to what our goals are, you saw it out there today.

“This team has got a lot of pride. To me, this is the character of the team. It starts with Jason Garrett, building it, but then he’s got it and he’s passing it along to the players.”

The biggest example of Garrett’s mentality came early in the second quarter when the coach called an onside kick following a field goal.

Six plays later, running back DeMarco Murray walked into the end zone from 9 yards out to make the score 27-7.

“We came in to win this ballgame, and we were going to do what we need to do to win the game,” Garrett said. “We understand the implication of playing guys and the risk of injury. We get all that. Our job was to control what we can control. There’s no meaningless standard or meaningless plays. It’s an opportunity for our team. I believe we got better.”

The Cowboys simply stayed hot.

The offense set a team single-season record with its 10th game of at least 30 or more points. The 2014 squad is the first team in franchise history to score 35 points or more in four consecutive games. And the 469 points on the season are the second most in team history, just behind the 479 in 1983.

The defense had four takeaways against the Redskins, giving Dallas 13 in December.

“The division title is great. Where I’m at, I think you have bigger aspirations,” said quarterback Tony Romo, who two previous division titles but has just one career playoff victory. “We’ve done the division title thing. Anytime you can get 12 wins, it’s hard in the National Football League. We’re proud of that. At the same time, we understand we’re just getting started and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us.”

–Per ESPN and NFL.com reports, the New York Jets are interested Cowboys assistant director player personnel Will McClay as a possible general manager candidate.

Of course, wanting McClay and getting him out of Dallas are two different things.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he has not been contacted by the Jets about McClay and has no intention of letting him go.

“I own Will McClay,” Jones said in a manner that seemed to be joking. “I own him. He can’t go anywhere. No, seriously, that’s what success does, always does, it creates a lot of opportunities in a lot of different ways for a lot of people. (We are) obviously, have been for years, sold on him and appreciate the job he has done and he’s doing.”

McClay enjoyed a lot of success scouting talent in pro personnel for years. He was placed charge of the Cowboys’ draft for the first time last year and received credit for the team choosing guard Zack Martin in the first round. Martin made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.

NOTES: Linebacker Anthony Hitchens sustained a high ankle sprain against the Redskins and is doubtful for the wild-card playoff game vs. the Lions. … Defensive tackle Josh Brent aggravated a calf strain in pregame warmups and was held out of the game.

REPORT CARD VS. REDSKINS

–PASSING OFFENSE: A — QB Tony Romo continued his brilliant month of December with 299 passing yards and two touchdowns. WR Dez Bryant had four catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. WR Cole Beasley added six catches for 57 yards, and WR Terrance Williams had three catches for 68 yards. Romo was sacked just once.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: A — The Cowboys rushed 26 times for 174 yards, including 20 carries for 100 yards by RB DeMarco Murray. RB Joseph Randle had four carries for 69 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown run.

–PASS DEFENSE: B — The Cowboys recorded three sacks and had two interceptions of QB Robert Griffin III. They gave up a 69-yard touchdown to WR DeSean Jackson, but that was it. Jackson had one other catch in the game.

–RUSH DEFENSE: B — The Redskins rushed for 104 yards on 24 carries, but don’t let the numbers fool you. Star RB Alfred Morris had just 12 carries for 43 yards when the game was close and mattered.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: B — Dan Bailey kicked two field goals. Chris Jones averaged 43 yards on four punts. Dwayne Harris had a 32-yard kickoff return. The Cowboys recovered an onside kick.

–COACHING: A — Jason Garrett had the Cowboys playing to win, and Dallas finished the season with a flourish in a 44-17 blowout of the Redskins. There was no let-up in the Cowboys.


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