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Romo: Cowboys 'playing for our playoff lives'

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Romo: Cowboys 'playing for our playoff lives'

IRVING, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys barely beat two teams going nowhere and couldn't hang with Robert Griffin III in a loss during their three-game home stand.

Now the schedule features winning teams fighting for the playoffs, and the Cowboys need those games and probably some help in getting to the postseason.

Dallas visits Cincinnati on Sunday before returning home to play Pittsburgh. The Bengals and Steelers are tied for second in the AFC North at 7-5, and are probably in the wild-card hunt because they trail Baltimore by two games.

The Cowboys (6-6) spent the past few weeks figuring they needed to win the NFC East to get in, though they could be in the wild-card mix, too.

``Each game, obviously, we're playing for our playoff lives,'' said Tony Romo, who had three touchdown passes to break Troy Aikman's franchise record in Sunday's 38-33 victory against Philadelphia. ``We put ourselves here. We've got to figure out a way to play better ball. Some ways, we did that tonight and other ways, we've got to continue to get better.''

Start with Romo on the positive side of that equation. He completed all 10 of his second-half passes, which included two tying touchdowns and the go-ahead toss to Dez Bryant midway through the fourth quarter. An earlier touchdown to Bryant was the 166th of Romo's career and broke the record held by Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner.

Romo was 22 of 27 for 303 yards and has gone without an interception in four of the past five games. He has 10 touchdowns and just two interceptions after throwing 13 picks in the first seven games.

``I thought he did a really good job of playing within himself, playing within the system when things weren't there and he was able to make some plays,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

The Dallas defense didn't make many plays before rookie Morris Claiborne followed Romo's go-ahead score by picking up a fumble and returning it 50 yards for his first NFL touchdown.

Before that play, the Cowboys had no sacks or turnovers and had allowed the Eagles and rookie quarterback Nick Foles to score on four straight possessions, including a 58-yard drive to a field goal in the final 35 seconds of the first half and another march to a tiebreaking kick in the fourth quarter.

``We just have to stick it out,'' Claiborne said. ``We've been doing a good job fighting this whole year with our backs against the wall. Last night, the defense, it felt like our backs were against the wall.''

Brown had 169 yards rushing and almost matched the Eagles rookie record of 178 he set a week earlier against Carolina in his first start. He had several long runs and scored untouched twice, including up the middle from the 5.

``He's had a couple of good weeks running it, and we just didn't defend it well enough: the inside runs, the outside runs,'' Garrett said. ``Obviously we have to defend the run better.''

The Cowboys might have their own running game back for the playoff push after struggling without DeMarco Murray. He returned from a six-game absence due to a sprained right foot and rushed for 83 yards and a touchdown. His per-carry average still wasn't great - 3.6 yards, just a tick better than the team's season average - but part of that was an 11-yard loss late in the game.

The Dallas offensive line is getting healthy, too. Ryan Cook started at center after missing two games with a knee problem, which allowed Mackenzy Bernadeau to return to guard. Tyron Smith was back at right tackle after missing almost two full games with a sprained ankle.

``I think it's an encouraging sign compared to weeks past,'' Cook said. ``We had a couple of negative plays. Those definitely contributed to that a little bit, but we look forward for encouraging signs as far as getting that average up.''

Jerry Jones is always looking for encouraging signs, and the owner was slightly more upbeat 10 days after a demoralizing loss to the Redskins that had him questioning whether the Cowboys could make the playoffs.

``I am very hopeful, but I am realistic,'' Jones said. ``I know that we play teams that if we make some of the miscues that we made out there tonight ...''

He didn't have to finish the thought.

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter athttps://twitter.com/lschuylerd

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Wizards destroy Raptors behind Bradley Beal's breakout effort, move series to 2-1

Wizards destroy Raptors behind Bradley Beal's breakout effort, move series to 2-1

The Washington Wizards beat the Toronto Raptors 122-103 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Wizards show some fight: The Washington Wizards who punch back, who play with an edge and impose their will on opponents physically and mentally, the team that initiates contact and trash-talks their foes into misery, that team finally showed up in the 2018 NBA Playoffs on Friday night and did so at the perfect time. With an 0-2 deficit and following a blowout loss three days before, the Wizards pulled themselves up off the mat and struck the Raptors with a message-sending blow that may have saved their season.

They blasted Toronto in a convincing win that looked a whole lot like the proverbial switch had been flipped. Their best players played to their capabilities on both ends of the floor and there was nothing the Raptors, as good as they are, could do about it. The net result is a 2-1 series and some newfound belief that an upset is possible.

It was just one game and anyone who has watched this team all season knows there are two very different versions of the Wizards. They aren't in the clear until they are actually in the clear.

But it would be hard to not to find encouragement in exactly how the Wizards won this game. They forced the Raptors into 19 turnovers and held their bench to 32 points, many of which came late when the game was decided. Washington shot 55.3 percent against one of the NBA's best defenses.

Bradley Beal (28 points) finally looked like himself. John Wall (28 points) was dominant and pumping up the crowd. Marcin Gortat (16 points), who almost lost his starting job, stepped up with several timely buckets. Mike Scott (12 points, 4-for-4 FG) played well for the third straight game.

Everything clicked and now we have ourselves a series.

Beal woke up: The fabled monster of the spring known as Playoff Beal showed up on Friday and announced his presence early. After the worst performance of his playoff career in Game 2, Beal broke out in a big way with a colossal first half of 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

Beal scored just nine points in Game 2, but surpassed that in about 10 minutes in Game 3. By halftime, he had more threes (four) than he did in his first two games this series combined.

Very quickly in the first quarter Beal looked different. His first bucket came on a turnaround fadeaway off the glass. From there his confidence grew as three-point shots fell one after another, whether he was guarded or not.

Beal finished with 28 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals. in between Games 2 and 3, head coach Scott Brooks held a meeting with Beal and John Wall, hoping to find Beal more opportunities. There may or may not have been an apology issued on Brooks' part.

Whatever the nature of the discussion, it seemed to work. Wall and Brooks told Beal to be more aggressive and that's exactly what happened. Beal looked much more like the guy who averaged 28.8 points against the Raptors during the regular season and was largely dominant vs. this very same team and without Wall to help out.

Wall needs some attention, too. He looked like the best player on the court for much of the game and accrued a ridiculous line of 28 points, 14 assists, six rebounds, four steals and a block, of the chasedown variety of course.

Oubre lit a spark: Beal did most of the heavy lifting early, but Kelly Oubre, Jr. also deserves credit for the first half surge by the Wizards. He was all sorts of active on both ends of the floor. In one sequence he blocked a shot, dunked it on the other end, took a charge and then dunked once more. 

Each time, Oubre let out one of his signature screams to the crowd. He was making plays and infusing energy into the team. That's the stuff Brooks wants to see from Oubre. Many people, including Oubre, obsess over his three-point shooting but defense and hustle plays are really the name of the game for him.

Oubre ended up with 12 points, four rebounds and shot 5-for-9 from the field.

Playoff basketball: The tone may have been set early by Markieff Morris. After two games where the Wizards didn't show much fight, Morris literally almost got in one. 

After hitting the deck on a collision with OG Anunoby, Morris got up and shoved both him and Serge Ibaka. Double technicals were assessed and one could argue Morris lost his cool on the play. The counter to that would be the Wizards needed to show some fire and Morris was sending a message. Given he wasn't kicked out of the game, it wasn't too costly.

Here is the whole sequence:

That's the playoff version of Morris we remember and it may have rubbed off on his teammates. In the third quarter, more animosity broke out after Jonas Valanciunas was called for an offensive foul on Marcin Gortat. Beal went after the ball and that started a big argument between the teams, highlighted by Wall and Ibaka needing to be separated by Wizards bodyguard Dave Best. 

The arena was playing Tupac's 'Ambitionz az a Ridah' as it all went down, invoking memories of the 'Death Row D.C.' days of last season. Wall is, of course, Tupac according to the Morris-conceived metaphor.

The end result was technicals for Beal, Wall and Ibaka. That, and the realization that this series is now a lot more fun.

Up next: Game 4 is on Sunday at Capital One Arena. Tipoff will be at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington with pregame coverage starting at 5 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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It took three minutes for the Wizards and Raptors to get into a Game 3 altercation

It took three minutes for the Wizards and Raptors to get into a Game 3 altercation

WASHINGTON —  It didn't take long for playoff basketball to escalate in the nation’s capital.

Less than three minutes to be exact.

On only the fifth possession of Game 3 between the Wizards and Raptors at Capital One Arena, Wizards forward Markieff Morris and Raptors forward OG Anunoby got tangled up and let their emotions out.

From the initial look it appeared that Morris just got tripped up in setting a screen, but if you look more closely, Anunoby appeared to pull down Morris from the back.

Even though a foul was called, Morris made sure that Anunoby knew his displeasure and even threw an extra shove at Serge Ibaka.

Both Morris and Anunoby received a technical foul after the altercation.

Once again the Wizards getting physical in a playoff series. 

MORE ON THE WIZARDS-RAPTORS SERIES:

THE DRAKE-WIZARDS TRASH TALK WON'T STOP

HISTORIC ODDS FOR TEAMS THAT GO DOWN 0-2

BROOKS MAY CHANGE STARTING LINEUP FOR GAME 3