The Dallas Cowboys dumped blue Gatorade on their coach, and their smiles only grew bigger when they donned championship hats and “Cowboys Run the East” T-shirts in a crowded locker room.
“It’s been awhile,” tight end Jason Witten said as he entered the victorious locker room.
But the team doesn’t just want to celebrate its first playoff berth since 2009.
“Obviously, it’s a very emotional locker room,” said coach Jason Garrett, who received a Gatorade bath.
“In so many ways, this is such a long journey and to get to a point to achieve your first goal of winning the division title, a lot goes into that.
“The way you play in securing that matters … but again, we’ve got to go back and clean it up. We’ve got challenges ahead, and we’re going to take an unemotional view of it and get ready for the next challenge.”
Dallas guaranteed itself a home playoff game with Sunday’s win. The Cowboys have an outside chance at a first-round bye, if both Seattle and Arizona lose.
More likely, the Cowboys will host the loser of the Detroit-Green Bay game in the wild-card round Jan. 3-4.
“We’re in the playoffs. That’s what it means,” wide receiver Dez Bryant said. “We did exactly what we wanted to do today, but at the same time, we understand what we need to do to try to get exactly where we want to go.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones even talked of a Super Bowl run, something that hasn’t happened in Dallas since 1995.
“This is as hard of a working team that I’ve ever been associated with, with football and anything else, and they’ve gotten what they deserved, and our fans have finally gotten what they deserve,” Jones said, “and that is a shot at the big prize.”
AT&T Stadium was once again home, sweet, home Sunday. The Cowboys finished the regular season 4-4 at home.
“It’s good to win at home, protect your home turf,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “We kind of had the mystique of not winning at home. … The guys put that behind us today, went out there and had fun, give the crowd something to cheer about.”
The Cowboys are 26-22 all-time at AT&T Stadium. That includes a playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in 2009.
“I feel very comfortable with our team playing at home, and I would rather play at home, believe me,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “There are just a lot of advantages to it. With the crowd being the way that it is, it is special.”
If Dallas wins in Washington, the Cowboys can finish 8-0 on the road. No Cowboys team has ever won eight road games in a season.
Entering Sunday’s game, Terrance Williams hadn’t found the end zone in six games. He found it twice Sunday.
The receiver, who last scored in a 31-21 win against the New York Giants on Oct. 19, started and ended the team’s scoring against the Colts. Romo found Williams on a 9-yard drag route with 6:36 left in the first quarter, and backup quarterback Brandon Weeden found him on a 43-yard reception with 10:12 left in the game.
“It felt good, but Tony is great at seeing things and changing plays,” said Williams, who finished with 52 yards on two catches.
Defensive tackle Jermey Parnell started for Doug Free, who has a left foot injury. It was Parnell’s fourth start this season and sixth in his five-year career.
“It all comes to preparation,” Parnell said. “If you prepare, you can have success.”
The 6-foot-6, 315-pounder said he’s matured a lot this season.
“The speed [of the game] has slowed down for me, and I’m getting more confident,” Parnell said. “I’m happy we’re I’m at, but I’m going to continue to work.”
Dez one away
Dez Bryant’s 14 touchdowns this season is a career-high and ties him with Frank Clarke (1962) for the second-most in a single season in team history.
Terrell Owens owns the single-season record with the 15 touchdowns he caught in 2007.
Dan Bailey doesn’t miss much, as he is the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker. But he went 0-for-1 Sunday, missing a 52-yard attempt wide right in the third quarter.
It was his fourth miss of the season, with three of the four coming at home.