Up next: Cowboys getting physical in clutch

Most people gave up on the Cowboys and their hopes of saving their season and their dimming playoff hopes because of the perception that Dallas is a soft and mentally weak team. But the Cowboys showed mental toughness and intestinal fortitude in Sunday's 14-10 victory against the Redskins. It was, by far, the most physical and toughest performance by the Cowboys in the Wade Phillips era.

Time will tell if it will be enough to spur a late-season run to the playoffs.

But it was certainly a good start and something to build on.

"You go 5-5 and everybody is murdering you," linebacker Bradie James said.

"We knew we had to win this one to give ourselves a chance. We put ourselves in this hole, now we have to dig out. With the guys that we have, we can do it."

The Cowboys had no choice because their Super Bowl-or-bust campaign had become a laughingstock of late as the team had lost four of its last six games and two of three with quarterback Tony Romo sidelined with a fractured pinky.

The most talented team in the NFL was on the road to becoming the most disappointing and underachieving team in Cowboys history. It was also quite possibly the beginning of the end to the Phillips era.

But the Cowboys refused to die on Sunday night.

They used the best defensive performance of the season, holding the Redskins to just 228 yards total offense.

That was second in yards to the 223 they gave to the Browns in Week 1. But considering the situation, this was more impressive.

The Cowboys also got a rusty but winning performance from Romo. He threw two interceptions, but directed the game-winning touchdown drive using a key third-down pass to Miles Austin and then threw a touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.

Cornerback Terence Newman was superman on defense, coming back after being sidelined for five games to shut down Santana Moss. He had an interception and then a pass deflection on fourth down in the fourth quarter following the Cowboys' score.

Marion Barber showed the Cowboys' old fight when he closed the game with a punishing drive. He touched the ball 11 straight times to run out the clock. Barber had 114 yards rushing, including 60 in the fourth and 49 total yards on the final drive.

"It was a big win for us," Phillips said. "Our team came through and fought through the whole game. We knew we would take that fourth quarter and that last drive and that kind of epitomized what we think we are and what we can be. We have to continue to do that."

They are now in a second-place tie with the Redskins in the NFC East with a 6-4 record.

With two winnable home games over the next 11 days against the 49ers Sunday and the Seahawks on Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys have a chance to get on a roll with a three-game win streak. They then have a 10-day layoff before starting the final tough stretch at Pittsburgh, home against the Giants and Ravens and at the Eagles.

"It was a good omen for our team and now we have a chance to take this thing and go," owner Jerry Jones said.

"It's still one game at a time," Phillips said. "It gives us a chance to be right back in there."

TRENDING: The Cowboys gave up 200 yards on the ground to the Giants in their last outing. But on Sunday, they held the Redskins to 91 yards rushing. The Redskins came into the game as the fourth-best rushing offense in the league. Clinton Portis finished with 68 yards after topping 100 in the previous two outings.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Are we back to the old Cowboys? Who knows? But this is definitely a step in the right direction." -- WR Terrell Owens.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES
--- RB Marion Barber rushed for 114 yards, including 60 in the fourth quarter and 39 on the final drive against the Redskins. Barber also led the Cowboys with six catches for 39 yards.
--- QB Tony Romo completed 19 of 27 passes with a touchdown and an interception in his first game back after missing three games with a broken pinky.
--- CB Terence Newman returned from a five-game absence due to a sports hernia and finally looked like the Pro Bowler he was last year. He chased Santana Moss all over the field and had an interception while holding him to five catches for 29 yards.
--- WR Roy Williams started for the first time with the Cowboys and had three catches for 36 yards all for first downs.
--- NT Jay Ratliff had two sacks to lead the Cowboys' pass rush against the Redskins.



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