Playoff Hopes Thriving

Parcells pointed to the Cardinals game as a crucial starting point to a second half playoff push.

It wasn't a "must win" for the Cowboys against the Cardinals. But it was a "better win" if they truly had legitimate playoff hopes.

Coach Bill Parcells told his team as much and it answered with a 34-13 blowout victory Sunday.

The victory helped the Cowboys end the first half of the season with a winning record, including a 3-1 mark in the month of October.

They have a bye next week before beginning the second-half stretch Nov. 14 at Philadelphia.

Parcells had pointed to the Cardinals game as a crucial starting point to their second half playoff push. He said it was a game they needed to put in the bank, considering the team has three games in a span of 11 days following the bye.

Home games against the Detroit Lions (Nov. 20) and the Denver Broncos (Nov. 24) follow the Eagles game.

With such a tough schedule, the Cowboys could not afford to give away any more games, especially considering they had already given away two games in the last minute this season.

"Bill said this is it right here," said wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, who caught his fifth touchdown pass of the season -- a five-yarder from quarterback Drew Bledsoe in the second quarter. "I said to everybody else. If we don't win this football game you can forget it. If we are 4-4 you might as well go home. Now we are 5-3. This means a whole lot."

It means that the Cowboys are second in the NFC East behind the Giants (5-2). The Eagles and Redskins one-half game behind the Cowboys at 4-3.

It also means the Cowboys have two weeks to heal before the Eagles game. Running back Julius Jones, who missed the past three games with an ankle injury, should be ready to go.

He will have company in the backfield after a breakout performance by rookie Marion Barber III, who rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns against Arizona.

Asked what Barber's performance meant with Jones coming back, Parcells said he is going to play both backs going forward.

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