Rivalry Games Are Always Big

IRVING, Tex. - "Throw out the records when these teams get together."

That is one of the most tired, overused clichés in sports, uttered almost every time two teams in the same division, or even two teams from different divisions with a long-standing history of playing each other, get together.

It doesn't always carry any weight, though. When the Arizona Cardinals meet the St. Louis Rams, there is no hatred that outweighs the records of each team. Do those Carolina-Tampa Bay showdowns really inspire abnormal levels of intensity between players or fans?

Rivalries are a little different, of course, in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles — this week's opponent — have played each other for so long that each pairing of teams has a bank of memories, both good and bad, to inspire any needed emotion. According to Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin, the fact that the 4-8 Cowboys are teetering on the edge of mathematical elimination from playoff contention does nothing to reduce the intensity.

"The stakes are already raised," Austin said. "I'm sure they have last year in their minds."

Ah yes — last year, the season in which the Cowboys won the NFC East championship and swept three games from the Eagles, including back-to-back poundings administered in the final week of the regular season and in the NFC Wild Card game.

When asked about how last year's games between the Cowboys and Eagles play into the motivation for this year's games — Dallas and Philadelphia will meet twice over the next four games — Austin said he can't speak for everyone playing Sunday, but from his perspective, last year is in the rear view mirror.

"I don't let emotions like that play into this game," Austin said. "We're a 4-8 team playing an 8-4 team. I'd rather we were the 8-4 team, of course, but we're not.

"But the intensity is going too be there, because these guys are going to be trying to take your head off. We have to hit them before they hit us. Their meaning to this game might be different than ours, what their coaches say might be different, but at the end of the day, it's going to be the same thing."

Austin didn't go so far as to profess a desire to see the Cowboys play the role of spoilers. Instead, he backed away from discussing the teams' records any further, insisting that his team's goal is the same as it was at the start of the season.

"As long as we're winning, that's the focal point for our team," he said. "We have won three of our last four, and that has been our goal — preparing the right way and playing the right way, and if you do those things, the results will be there.

"(Tight end Jason) Witten has to make the play when the ball gets thrown his way. ‘K.O.' (wide receiver Kevin Ogletree) has to make a play when the ball goes his way. We've got to string some wins together, and if we take advantage of the plays when they're there, we will."

In Sunday's victory over Colts, Austin had just four receptions for 47 yards, and while he acknowledged that he would prefer to put up better individual numbers, his own statistics are not his top priority.

"I have nothing to complain about, because we won the game," Austin said. "Would I want 15 catches and 10 touchdowns? Yeah. Who wouldn't? But we won the game."

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