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Cowboys know playoffs-or-bust drill in NFC East

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Cowboys know playoffs-or-bust drill in NFC East

IRVING, Texas (AP) The Dallas Cowboys should know this drill by now.

The only thing left is figuring out how to win a playoffs-or-bust game at an NFC East rival in the final game of the season.

The Cowboys flopped badly in Philadelphia in 2008, and were better but still not very good last season at the New York Giants.

Dallas gets another chance Sunday night at Washington against Robert Griffin III and the Redskins (9-6), who could still make the postseason even if they lose.

``You live for games like this,'' Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said at a quiet and mostly shuttered team headquarters on Christmas Eve.

The Cowboys (8-7) began the second-to-last Sunday of the regular season with control of their playoff fate, and ended it the same way despite losing to New Orleans 34-31 in overtime. That's because the Giants lost at Baltimore, essentially rendering the Dallas loss meaningless.

During a stretch of five wins in six games that revived Dallas' postseason hopes, the only loss was to the Redskins on Thanksgiving. Griffin engineered the first 28-point quarter for Washington in 13 years, going 8 of 8 for 178 yards and three touchdowns in the second quarter. The first big NFL play in Texas for the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor was a perfect deep throw to Aldrick Robinson for a 68-yard score.

``I'll say it again: I was awed with what he did to us in the second quarter out here in Cowboys Stadium,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. ``I certainly think that's the type of player we're playing against and team we're playing against.''

If the loss to the Saints is any indicator, the Cowboys are in trouble. They couldn't stop Drew Brees and the Saints until New Orleans mostly quit throwing with a 31-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns, and the Cowboys gave up 562 total yards - a season high by more than 100. New Orleans converted 11 third downs and kept the ball for nearly 42 minutes.

When the Dallas offense stalled on the first possession of overtime, the Cowboys immediately gave up a 26-yard completion to Jimmy Graham before a fluky catch-and-fumble play ended with New Orleans on the Dallas 2. Garrett Hartley's 20-yard field goal made it three straight Cowboys games ending on the final play.

The Cowboys won't say it, but injuries could be wearing on a beleaguered defense. Five starters and nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick are out. Replacement free agents have been filling holes days after signing. DeMarcus Ware is trying to play through groin, elbow and shoulder problems, and he was mostly watching late while the Saints finished a sack-free game for Brees despite 53 attempts.

``A lot of different combinations of players playing for us against a really, really good offensive football team,'' Garrett said. ``I just thought that they fought, fought, fought.''

The Cowboys could always just try to outscore the Redskins. Tony Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns against the Saints, including a pair of 58-yarders to Dez Bryant, who had a career-high 224 yards.

Miles Austin caught a 19-yard tying score with 15 seconds left in regulation - the second of two TDs in the final 3:35 - and Jason Witten broke Tony Gonzalez's NFL season record of 102 catches by a tight end, grabbing six for 60 yards to put him at 103.

Dallas ran just 11 times for 40 yards, all by DeMarco Murray, but part of that was because the Saints kept the ball so long.

``When you get in, anything can happen,'' said Romo, who has 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions the past eight weeks. ``I know that. We've seen that far too many times. We just need to do the right things to get in.''

Jones acknowledges the injuries on defense, but still thinks the Cowboys are better than they were when they fell behind New York 21-0 in a 31-14 loss last New Year's night that propelled the Giants to a Super Bowl win.

``I think that we are with a healthier Miles, and Dez with where he is with his maturation,'' Jones said. ``I think we've got a better offensive line than what we had this time last year. I think we're better at corner as we go up there.''

Once again, the Cowboys get a chance to prove it.

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

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Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

Capitals stars react to losing Barry Trotz as head coach

LAS VEGAS—Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom weren’t expecting to lose their head coach less than two weeks after winning the Stanley Cup.

But business is business, Ovi said, and Barry Trotz is handling his by attempting to capitalize on claiming the championship.

“It’s sad,” Ovechkin said on the red carpet at the NHL Awards, where he accepted his seventh Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy on Wednesday night. “Obviously, we won together.”

The Caps’ captain also thanked Trotz for directing him—and his teammates—to new heights.  

“First of all, [I want to] thank him for a great job to be our coach, to be our dad, to give us a chance to win,” Ovechkin said. “But then again, it’s a business. You never know what’s going to happen. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be fine and I wish him luck.”

Backstrom, meanwhile, said he was caught off guard by Trotz’s decision to step down over a contract stalemate with the team. Trotz asked for $5 million per for five seasons; the Caps balked over the terms Trotz’s camp sought.   

“I was a little surprised, obviously,” Backstrom said. “I heard the scenario.”

Like Ovechkin, though, Backstrom praised the job Trotz did during his four-year tenure.

“He’s done a great job in Washington,” Backstrom said. “We obviously have him to thank for a lot. He’s done a tremendous job of schooling us and winning a championship. No one is going to take that away from him.”

Trotz’s next move is unclear, but he’s a free agent and currently eligible to negotiate with any team. The Islanders are the only team with an opening for a head coach.

As for Washington, GM Brian MacLellan said that associate coach Todd Reirden will get the first crack at replacing Trotz.

Ovechkin said he thinks Reirden would be a good fit.

“We all respect Todd,” Ovechkin said. “We all like him. Again, it’s not our thing to say who’s going to be head coach, but if it’s going to be Todd, it’s going to be fun.”

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A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

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Daniel Duffy on Twitter/@RealArtOfWords

A drawing of the moment Ovi lifted the Stanley Cup makes the moment joyful all over again

How do you make a photo of Alex Ovechkin hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time even more memorable?

You make it out of all the Capitals' game scores this year, of course.

Capitals fan and artist Daniel Duffy (@RealArtOfWords) posted a phenomenal finished piece commemorating the Cup win on Wednesday, June 20. It's a little meta and astounding to look at, but very fun to try and read. If you want to relive the glory that was the parts of the 2017-18 Capitals season, check out the piece.

The piece, which appears to be done in a traditional medium like pen or marker, holds the team faced, arena played at, and final score of every game. It uses six colors and over sixty lines of text. Ovechkin roars as he holds the Stanley Cup overhead, the white away jersey shaded with bits of grey text. It takes a skilled eye to sort text and colors into shapes and shading, but Daniel did a fantastic job! It's awesome to see a fanbase create different interpretations of iconic moments. We'll surely see more of Ovechkin in this moment.

Just as we thought we were going to get tired of the celebration, fans find new ways to surprise us. Stay creative, Caps fans!

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