ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys had their way with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Their reward: the NFC East title and the challenge of trying to do it again.
Romo threw a pair of early touchdown passes and the defense took over from there, sending Dallas to a 24-0 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday and setting up a rematch at their new palace in the first round of the playoffs next weekend.
The Cowboys (11-5) have quickly become a team nobody wants to face this postseason. This was their third straight impressive win and their most complete performance of the entire season.
The shutout also made for a major milestone in the club's storied history: First-ever back-to-back blankings. Only twice in the previous 49 seasons had they even had two shutouts the entire season. The amazing part about this one is that Philadelphia (11-5) came in having won six straight, averaging 31.2 points in that span.
An added bonus for Dallas was getting revenge for a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia in last season's finale, a loss that kept the Cowboys out of the playoffs and led to all sorts of offseason changes.
"This ballclub has done a good job of putting its best foot forward when it has to," Romo said. "We haven't arrived and we haven't accomplished anything. This is a step in the process to continue to get to where we want to go. It's a positive one, definitely, but we still need to keep improving. There's hopefully a lot of season left."
The Eagles have a lot of work to do to get ready for Round 3 of this season series considering how they lost the first two.
Philadelphia had two of its three lowest-scoring games of the season against Dallas while getting swept for the first time since 2005. Game-breaking receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin have been held in check, and Romo has thrown for more than 300 yards in both games.
"I think we're going to see every blitz ever invented," said Romo, who was 24 of 34 for 311 yards, with the two touchdowns and an interception. He also capped the most productive season of his career and in franchise history, setting club records for attempts, completions and yards passing. The Cowboys also set a record for single-season yards.
McNabb was 20 of 36 for 223 yards, and Philadelphia finished with 228 total yards.The Cowboys had 291 yards at halftime on their way to gaining 474.
"We're going to go back to the drawing board and make sure that we get ourselves ready for this next game," Eagles coach Andy Reid said.
Dallas' surge since opening December with its first back-to-back losses of the season is a reputation-changer. They just posted their first winning record after Thanksgiving since 1996 and this win ended a nine-game losing streak in finales.
"People are going to keep coming back to (the past) unless you do something about it," coach Wade Phillips said. "This team did something about it."
Next on their to-do list: winning a playoff game for the first time since '96.
For Phillips, this was his second division title in three seasons in charge. That should be enough for owner Jerry Jones to pick up the club option on Phillips' contract for next season.
Jones had plenty to love about this game – from the biggest crowd since the opener (100,621) to the payday of a home playoff game at his $1.2 billion stadium. In the final minutes, the giant video boards showed him celebrating in his suite, wearing a gray division champion hat along with guests Emmitt Smith and golfer John Daly.
About the only thing that happened that Jones didn't like was seeing those video boards blank out for about a minute shortly before the 2-minute warning.
The stadium was buzzing long before kickoff, with the pregame flag wavers setting a tone by running out with sparklers flying out the top of their flagpoles for the first time. Dallas won the toss, took the ball and immediately got into a groove, with Marion Barber breaking off a 35-yard run on the second snap.
The Cowboys had four drives in the first half and came close to scoring on them all. They wound up with 17 points, getting a pair of touchdown passes from Romo and a 44-yard field goal. The only time they failed to score, they were inside the 10 when Romo's pass to Patrick Crayton was tipped and intercepted.
That pickoff was Philadelphia's best play of the game.
McNabb went three-and-out with a sack to start the game, then Maclin missed a wide-open pass that would've been a huge gain on the second series. Gains of 31 and 32 yards got the Eagles to the Dallas 14-yard line, but then McNabb fumbled a low snap from new center Nick Cole.
Philadelphia never got anything going in the second half. On a fourth-quarter series, Dallas lineman Jason Hatcher lost his helmet while going through the offensive line, but stayed with the play and ended up with his first sack of the season. On the next snap, McNabb threw deep for Maclin and cornerback Mike Jenkins was right there with him and cleanly swatted the ball away.