FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys were in the locker room when word came back that the Washington Redskins lost to the Houston Texans on Sunday. Jason Garrett was in mid-ramble during his news conference when a potential game-winning field goal attempt fell short.
With the Cowboys’ victory against the Atlanta Falcons and the Redskins’ loss, Thursday’s game at AT&T Stadium is for first place in the NFC East.
There’s nothing like a big NFC East rivalry, especially one like the Cowboys and Redskins that spans so many generations.
“I just think it’s huge,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said in the locker room Sunday. “Redskins on Thanksgiving, it doesn’t get better than that. They’ll be ready to play. They’re a really good football team. We’re going to have to give it our best shot again. We’ve got to build on this and take it home and make some plays.”
After the Cowboys’ loss to the Redskins at FedEx Field on Oct. 21 when Brett Maher’s game-tying, 52-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright following a snap infraction, this type of meeting did not seem possible. After the Cowboys’ loss to the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5, it looked even bleaker.
The Cowboys were 3-5 at the midway point and shaken. Calls for Garrett’s job were growing louder. Dak Prescott’s future was questioned. With a three-game winning streak, the Redskins were 5-2 and appeared like they would take control of a weak division, but they have lost two of their past three games.
And here we are.
“It’s just fitting for football fans on Thanksgiving, and certainly for our fans, to have a lot at stake on a national holiday is a big deal for us,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “You know what Thanksgiving means to the Cowboys and to our tradition. We’re so proud to have done what we’ve done for the NFL on Thanksgiving Day. To have it boil down to a game of this substance, that will be a treat for us on Thanksgiving Day.”
The Cowboys are riding their first two-game winning streak of the season into Thursday’s game. Washington will be without starting quarterback Alex Smith, but his replacement, Colt McCoy, has had success against Dallas in his career.
“I think you guys know how important this game is,” Ezekiel Elliott said.
The Cowboys have faced Washington more on Thanksgiving than any other foe. Thursday will be the ninth holiday meeting and the Cowboys hold a 7-1 advantage against their NFC East rival.
The only loss came in 2012, when Robert Griffin III threw four touchdown passes in a 38-31 win.
Two years ago, Prescott threw one touchdown pass and Elliott ran for two in Dallas’ 31-26 win, the team’s 10th straight victory that season. The most memorable part of that game was the postgame scuffle involving Dez Bryant and Josh Norman, with the former Cowboys receiver saying the Redskins should ask for their money back from Norman.
Who knows what story develops Thursday, but the winner will be in a better position to win the division and earn a playoff spot.