Cowboys beat Redskins 17-0 to clinch playoff spot


LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys returned to the playoffs Sunday night, dominating their 100th meeting with the Washington Redskins and setting up an NFC East title showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tony Romo threw for 286 yards, Jason Witten had a career-long 69-yard reception to set up a score, and the defense pitched the rivalry’s first shutout in six years in a 17-0 win over the Redskins.

The victory eliminated the New York Giants from playoff contention and gave the Cowboys a jinx-bursting late-season winning streak. After starting 0-2 this month, Dallas recovered to win back-to-back December games for first time since 2003.

The Cowboys (10-5) will host the Eagles (11-4) in next week’s regular-season finale, with the winner taking the division crown and the loser settling for a wild card berth. The NFL has moved the kickoff time from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m.

Dallas holds a commanding 59-39-2 lead in the 50-year-old Redskins-Cowboys rivalry and got its first shutout since a 27-0 win on Dec. 14, 2003. The Cowboys didn’t allow Washington to score a touchdown this year — the other meeting was a 7-6 win on Nov. 22 — and they played their part in the Redskins’ first winless season in NFC East play since 1994.

The Redskins (4-11), distracted by more off-the-field news, put on another embarrassing performance against a rival in prime time.

After a 45-12 pasting by the Giants on Monday night, Washington endured a week in which assistant coach Jerry Gray gave confusing answers when asked if had interviewed for the head coaching job. Then came some noisy Christmas Day tardiness from defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who was sent home by lame duck coach Jim Zorn for being late to a meeting.

Haynesworth used the occasion to again complain about the coaching staff, but he nevertheless remained in the starting lineup Sunday night.

Speaking of distractions, the Redskins are 0-2 and have been outscored 62-12 since front office chief Vinny Cerrato resigned and Bruce Allen was named general manager on Dec. 17.

Allen’s father, Hall of Fame coach George Allen, was involved in many memorable Redskins-Cowboys classics. As for game No. 100, the word "classic" definitely won’t come to mind.

Except for Witten’s big play, the Cowboys nickel-and-dimed their way down the field throughout the game. They didn’t blow out the Redskins the way the Giants did mainly because of three drives that ended inside Washington’s 40-yard line with no points to show for them: They ran out the clock when receiver Miles Austin didn’t get out of bounds as the clock expired to end the half, and Marion Barber was stopped twice on fourth-and-1 on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter.

Barber was also stopped on third-and-1 at the 5-yard line in the fourth quarter, but this time coach Wade Phillips sent on former Redskins kicker Shaun Suisham. To a hearty round of boos, Suisham made a 23-yarder — the same distance of the one he missed for Washington against New Orleans on Dec. 6, costing him his job two days later.

Romo finished 25 for 38 and had a touchdown and an interception, his first in five games. Witten caught six passes for 117 yards. The defense held Washington to 218 total yards.

Terence Newman’s interception led to the Cowboys’ first-quarter touchdown, grabbing a pass from Jason Campbell that was tipped by tight end Fred Davis. Newman returned the ball 9 yards to the Washington 36, setting up Romo’s 4-yard scoring toss to Roy Williams.

Witten set up the next score when he got a step ahead of free safety LaRon Landry on a crossing route, a 69-yard play that moved to the ball to the 3. Barber scored on the next play, giving the Cowboys a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.