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Late-season surge has Cowboys in control of fate

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Late-season surge has Cowboys in control of fate

IRVING, Texas (AP) Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can't help but think about the New York Giants going from 7-7 to a Super Bowl title last season.

It probably wouldn't hurt to remind him that the Green Bay Packers had a defense that overcame injuries and won a championship a year earlier - at his stadium, no less.

``You can legitimately look at how the Giants played last year, what they did at the end of the year and how they took it all the way,'' Jones said after Dallas beat the Steelers in front of thousands of Terrible Towel-waving fans at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. ``And that's not unrealistic to think that that can happen to you.''

Maybe Jones was a little giddy after the Cowboys beat Pittsburgh 27-24 in overtime for their third straight win.

Dallas is tied for first in the NFC East after winning three straight games and five of six, and for the first time in weeks doesn't need help to reach the playoffs.

The Cowboys (8-6) are in if they beat New Orleans on Sunday at home and win at Washington in two weeks.

The game against the Redskins could end up looking a lot like last season's finale, when the Giants beat the Cowboys in New Jersey with a playoff berth on the line.

The Green Bay connection is even more striking. The Cowboys have lost about as many defenders as the Packers did when they beat the Steelers in the Super Bowl after the 2010 season.

Four Dallas starters are on injured reserve, and a fifth - defensive tackle Jay Ratliff - won't play again in the regular season after sports hernia surgery. Nickel cornerback Orlando Scandrick (left hand and wrist) is out for the season as well, and rookie starter Morris Claiborne missed the Pittsburgh game with a concussion. Claiborne said Monday he thought he would play against the Saints (6-8).

Ratliff's backup, Josh Brent, won't return this season following his arrest on an intoxication manslaughter charge in the one-car accident that killed teammate and close friend Jerry Brown.

Yet somehow, the Cowboys keep winning, with plenty of help from the defense. Brandon Carr set up a touchdown with an interception in a 20-19 win at Cincinnati the day after the crash that killed Brown.

Dallas attended a private memorial service for Brown last Tuesday, then Carr won the Pittsburgh game by intercepting Ben Roethlisberger on the second play of overtime and returning it to the Steelers 1.

Dan Bailey kicked a winning 21-yard field goal a week after his 40-yarder as time expired beat the Bengals.

``You never know how you're going to handle situations when you're dealt with adversity like we had last week,'' said tight end Jason Witten, who caught a touchdown pass from Tony Romo for the first time this season Sunday against the Steelers.

``Everyone handled it professionally. Yeah, we were emotional. We stayed together and stayed focused.''

It would have been easy for the Dallas defense to give up after Thanksgiving, when linebacker Bruce Carter sustained a season-ending elbow injury in the most demoralizing game of the season.

The Cowboys wilted in the return of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to Texas. The former Baylor star dazzled in a 28-point second quarter that led the Redskins to a 38-31 win.

The loss of Carter meant the top two inside linebackers were gone for the season - including defensive leader Sean Lee - and the roster shuffle was on. Brady Poppinga joined Ernie Sims as veterans brought in off the street to help Dan Connor, who figured to be a backup when he signed as a free agent.

Second-year player Alex Albright, Dallas' third-leading tackler against Pittsburgh after Sims went out with a concussion, and rookie Kyle Wilber were much higher on the depth chart than planned.

At least the Cowboys knew all the names of replacement linebackers on game day. When safety Charlie Peprah - another off-the-street pickup - injured a foot in practice after he'd already dealt with a concussion, the Cowboys brought in Sterling Moore so late on a Friday they barely had a chance to talk to him before putting him on the active roster two days later against Philadelphia.

And then there was Michael Coe, a former New York Giants cornerback who recovered a fumble against Dallas in October before he was released and signed by the Cowboys last week. He was No. 36 before Sunday's game. He was No. 20 during it.

``We're battling and peaking,'' Romo said. ``I said earlier we need name tags. A couple of the guys earlier, I said, `Great job No. 20?' I know his name is Coe now, but there a bunch of guys who just got here that are playing and getting a bunch of minutes.''

At least Romo knows Coe's name now. Defensive end Jason Hatcher was calling him ``a guy from New York'' after beating the Steelers. Who's the cornerback from New York?

``I don't know,'' Hatcher said. ``You see what I'm saying?''

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

Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

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Former Hoya Marcus Derrickson signs a two-way contract with Golden State Warriors

Leaving the Georgetown Hoyas a season early is initially paying off for Marcus Derrickson. 

Less than a month before what would have been his senior season at Georgetown, the 6-7 forward has signed a two-way contract with the Golden State Warriors. 

Derrickson nabbed the second two-way position on the Warriors after an outstanding Summer League translated to a solid preseason.

Fitting right into the Warriors deep-ball oriented scheme, Derrickson was 6-16 from three point range during the five-game preseason. He's a versatile stretch-four that continues to develop and improve on his outside game. 

By signing a two-way contract, the former All-Big East Second teamer will have a chance to get called up to the two-time defending NBA champions at any point this season for up to 45 days. The remaining time will be with the Warriors' G-league affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors

This arrangement will earn Derrickson a contract of $75,000 and a prorated amount for however much time he is practicing/ playing with Golden State. 

If he is called up to the NBA for more than the allotted 45 days, then the Warriors are obligated to give him a minimum rookie contract. 

Derrickson continues to prove himself as the list of aspiring players dwindles. As each contract begins to near its end, the Warriors time after time offer another opportunity.

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

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Trading Jodie Meeks gives Washington Wizards much-needed salary cap relief

With a luxury tax bill of approximately $19 million on the way, the Washington Wizards gave themselves some salary relief on Monday by trading veteran guard Jodie Meeks to the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Wizards attached a future second round pick and cash to the deal and in exchange received a future second round pick of their own, NBC Sports Washington has confirmed. ESPN first reported the news.

Though Meeks, 31, was due to make $3.45 million this season, his departure saves the Wizards about $7 million because of projected tax penalties. That's a lot of savings in a deal that got rid of a player who had become expendable.

Meeks had fallen out of favor with the Wizards for a variety of reasons. He was due to serve a 19-game suspension to begin the season due to performance-enhancing drugs. The ban was announced the day before their first round playoff series against the Raptors was set to begin in April.

Meeks also underperformed last season in the first year of his contract with the Wizards and requested a trade in February. This summer, Meeks exercised his player option to remain with the team.

The Wizards were not likely to count on Meeks much at all this season because they traded for Austin Rivers in June to add depth at the shooting guard position. Meeks' role was made clear by the fact he did not appear in any of the Wizards' four preseason games against NBA opponents.

Meeks' tenure in Washington was a significant disappointment. The Wizards signed him last summer in hopes he could shore up the shooting guard spot on their bench. 

Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he never earned the trust of his coaching staff. The Wizards opted to rely more heavily on starter Bradley Beal, who logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player last season.

Now, they are moving on.

Meeks leaving the organization should have little effect on the Wizards, though it does leave them with a hole on their roster that needs to be filled. They currently have 13 players, one below the league minimum. The Wizards now have 14 days to add a 14th player.

They could sign a free agent, convert one of their players on two-way contracts (Devin Robinson and Jordan McRae) or make a trade. The Meeks deal gives them a $3.45 million trade exception.

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