ARLINGTON -- First, the Dallas Cowboys lost their quarterback. Then, they lost the game. But all was not lost.
Tony Romo vows to play in a winner-take-all NFC East showdown on New Year's Day, despite an injured right hand, and the Cowboys vow to play better than they did Saturday. Or the last time they played the Giants.
"We're ready to go," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said. "You can't ask for anything more to be able to play the Giants for the [East] title. For me, it's a dream come true to be able to do it. We're all excited to get up there and get it done."
The Cowboys have a 24-hour rule, as all NFL teams do. They celebrate victories for 24 hours. They live with losses for 24 hours. Then, they turn their attention to the next game.
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But the Cowboys had moved on from Saturday's 20-7 loss to the Eagles before the game was even finished. Once the Giants defeated the Jets, Dallas knew it would take a win on the road next week to make the postseason.
In the locker room afterward, Cowboys players said as much about the Giants as they did the Eagles.
"If, at the beginning of the year, you would have told us we would have an opportunity to play for a division [title] in Week 17, we would have jumped on it," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "... This is a great opportunity, but you've got to go grab it. We've been in this situation, a handful of us, a few years ago, when we went to Philadelphia. We let that opportunity slip.
"We need to live in the moment and go grab it. I think this is the right type of guys who are going to go do that. But it's going to be a dogfight. We know that."
On Dec. 11 against the Giants, the Cowboys blew a 12-point, fourth-quarter lead. New York scored two touchdowns in the final 3:41, and Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a last-play field goal by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey for a 37-34 victory.
The Giants had 510 yards against the Cowboys, including 400 passing yards from Eli Manning, as they kept their postseason hopes alive.
The Cowboys are excited about a second chance to bury the Giants, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan promises his unit will be ready.
"We know what we're playing for," Ryan said. "We know what's in front of us, obviously. We have to be at our best. We're going to be at our best, and our guys have to execute the best. That's what we have to do. This is the greatest deal ever. We're playing for the [division] championship, so there it is."
As it turned out, Saturday's game meant nothing to the Cowboys' postseason hopes, but they did have a scare when Romo injured his hand. On the fourth play from scrimmage, Romo was hit by Eagles defensive ends Trent Cole and Jason Babin. Romo's hand hit Babin's helmet on his follow-through. X-rays were negative, though broken blood vessels led to significant swelling.
Romo said he would be fine for Sunday.
"I'm excited," Romo said. "The playoffs start."
Sunday's game is an elimination game, just like the playoffs. Win, and the Cowboys will host a wild-card game on the weekend of Jan. 7-8. Lose, and the Cowboys will be home for the postseason for a second consecutive season.
"It's do or die," running back Sammy Morris said. "Everybody in this locker room understands that. All the coaches understand that. It's a do-or-die game."