The Dallas Cowboys have been here before. Well, not exactly here as in FedEx Field against the Washington Redskins in the NFC East championship game on Sunday night, but the Cowboys are well-versed in winner-take-division season finales.
“You know what that feeling feels like,” tight end Jason Witten said.
Not a feeling Cowboys players want to repeat. The nine Dallas starters returning from that disappointment hope to reverse their fortunes this time around.
“Every experience is different,” Witten said Wednesday on a conference call with Washington media. “Hopefully, those experiences will allow us to be in a situation where you can find a way to win one game. But ultimately, the challenge is different and it’s a different team, different situation.”
The conversation within the Cowboys‘ room has not been centered on their experience at MetLife Stadium last season, namely because the team has had so much turnover. Veteran leadership has focused the team on the task at hand.
“I can’t emphasize enough: Our approach right now is nothing more than, ‘Hey, it’s a one-game season. Let’s find a way to win.’ That’s the way you prepare,” Witten said. “That’s the way you play. It’s not to say, ‘Oh, we were in this situation last year and we didn’t succeed.’ Hopefully, those experiences make you better in these situations.”
A handful of Cowboys players remain from the 2009 season when they played in another NFC East championship game and shut out the Philadelphia Eagles 24-0. Tony Romo threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns in that win.
Redskins defensive end Stephen Bowen was with Dallas then. Even being part of that and now Washington’s six-game winning streak to get into playoff contention, he knows it’s impossible to be totally prepared for a game like this.
“It won’t be easy,” Bowen said. “The pressure, we’re used to it because our backs have been against the wall. This is really everything on the line or the season’s done till next year.”
Though this Redskins team hasn’t been in a situation exactly like this and just a few guys remain from the most recent playoff team in 2007, they’re letting recent experience be their guide.
Cofield prefers what the Redskins have faced the past six weeks.
“It’s hard to turn that switch on,” he said. “I think we just had to flip it after the by week. We didn’t have a choice. … Being used to that feeling, that win-or-go-home feeling, I think is a good thing.”
A good thing that could carry over to Sunday night, on national television and most likely faced with the same scenario: Win or go home.