After an agonizing five-season absence, the Cowboys are back in the playoffs — and as division champions to boot.
Led by a spectacular performance by quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys rolled to a 42-7 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Romo was splendidly efficient, completing 18-of-20 passes for 218 yards with four TD passes, three of which came in the first half as Dallas quickly burst clear of sloppy Indianapolis, which committed eight penalties and three turnovers.
With the win, the Cowboys (11-4) clinched the NFC East title. They are guaranteed of hosting at least one playoff game. They will be the only NFC East club in the postseason, as Philadelphia has now been eliminated from playoff contention.
The Cowboys made short work of the Colts (10-5), who saw their faint chances at a first-round bye go completely by the wayside. The Cowboys never trailed, scoring on their first drive and never looking back.
The game was decided in about a 15-minute span in the first half. After Dallas had taken a 7-0 lead about eight minutes into the game, Indianapolis tried a fake punt on its own end of the field. The play looked it would lead to a first down, but rookie defensive back Dewey McDonald dropped a pass from punter Pat McAfee.
On the next snap, Romo threw his second TD pass, hitting Dez Bryant from 19 yards out to make it 14-0.
And from there, Dallas poured it on. A minute into the second quarter, Romo threw another TD, connecting with Colt Beasley on a 24-yard score. And when tailback DeMarco Murray plunged in from a yard out later in the period, Dallas had a 28-0 lead.
Incredibly, the Colts’ first points didn’t come until about five minutes were left in regulation. By then, quarterback Andrew Luck had been pulled from the game as the AFC South champs looked ahead to January. And for as poorly as they played, the Colts will be one of 12 teams with a chance to win the Super Bowl.
So too will Dallas. And with Romo in sharp form and their defense holding up its end of the bargain, the Cowboys look like real contenders.
It’s enough to make 90s kids dust off their Apex One and Starter Dallas jackets. On Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys were back. And the NFC East, finally, is theirs once again.