Robert Griffin III, left, and the Redskins beat Tony Romo and the Cowboys… (Matt Strasen / Associated…)
Cowboys veteran Tony Romo and Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III each will face a tremendous amount of pressure to produce Sunday in a regular-season finale whose winner will capture the NFC East Division title.
If Dallas loses, it doesn't make the playoffs. Washington can lose and still advance to the postseason with losses by Chicago and Minnesota, which seems unlikely and practically makes the Cowboys-Redskins game a winner-take-all proposition.
Romo is often maligned for failing to win big games. He has had an above-average season, completing 66.3% of his passes for 4,685 yards and 26 touchdowns, although he has had 16 passes intercepted through 15 games, the second-highest total of his career. Interestingly, he had 19 passes intercepted in 2007 when Dallas went 13-3.
Here's the problem with Romo: The Cowboys are 11-14 in games he starts in December, and that includes a 3-1 mark this season. Romo turned around a poor start this year to help put Dallas in position to advance to the playoffs. After having 13 passes intercepted through seven games while completing only nine scoring strikes, he has connected for 17 touchdowns while having only three interceptions in the next eight contests.
“The evolution as a quarterback, you just get better over the years,” Romo said. “I'm a completely different player than I was four, three, two years ago. I look back and laugh at that guy who played in some of those games then. But I like what our team is doing now. I think it will be a great game this week, and I'm excited about going up there and playing the Washington Redskins.”
RG3 has had a spectacular first season in the NFL, which is hard to do when playing quarterback for a mediocre team. His passer rating of 104.1 is tied for second (with now-49ers backup Alex Smith) behind the Packers' Aaron Rodgers (106.2) and ahead of the Broncos' Peyton Manning (103.7), the Falcons' Matt Ryan (100.2), the Patriots' Tom Brady (98.3) and fellow rookie Russell Wilson of the Seahawks (98.0).
Griffin has passed for 3,100 yards and 20 touchdowns with only five interceptions and has rushed for 752 yards and six scores. His teammates have lauded him as a leader -- again, hard to do for a rookie in an NFL locker room -- and he sounded the part Thursday.
“I told the guys, 'Don’t play this up so big that you can’t seize it,’ ” the 22-year-old Griffin said at a news conference two days ago. “You have to approach it the same exact way you have for the last six weeks. Know it’s for all the marbles, but don’t go out and play scared. You have to play like you have nothing to lose and we’ve done that the last six weeks.”
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