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Dallas Cowboys News & Notes: Complicated Road To Playoffs Starts In Chicago

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Latest Cowboys headlines: Cowboys trying to fix third down issues; NFL invents new "hitting too hard" penalty; Tony Romo promises to "play much better next week."

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Cowboys Look For Positives From Philly Loss, Quick To Shift Focus To Chicago | David Helman, DC.com
The positives: the Eagles were 1-for-5 in the red zone, and the defense held Philly to 10 second half points. That's it.

On to Chicago.

Tony Romo: "I Am Going To Play Much Better Next Week." - Blogging The Boys
Tony Romo didn't try to make any excuses for the lackluster offensive performance or his own unimpressive performance, but promises to be ready for Chicago.

Cowboys playoff picture is a bit cloudy after loss - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Thursday's loss to the Philadelphia Eagles complicates the road to the playoffs for the Dallas Cowboys, Archer writes.

Winning their final four games would not guarantee the Cowboys a playoff spot. Two other 8-4 teams, the Seattle Seahawks -- who the Cowboys beat earlier this season -- and Detroit Lions, own the two wild-card spots.

Even if the Cowboys win out, they are not guaranteed to win the division. The Eagles would still win the division if they won three of their final four because of a better division record than the Cowboys.

Cowboys have lost room for error, leave only one realistic shot to win the division | David Moore, DMN
Moore implies that "any given Sunday" doesn't apply to the Eagles anymore:

The sense of urgency is much greater for the Cowboys. The only realistic shot to win the division is to take the next two games while the Eagles stumble. The Cowboys can’t rely on an assist from Washington or the New York Giants — the Eagles’ opponents in the final two games — to claim the division crown.

Cowboys trying to fix third-down struggles | Rainer Sabin, DMN
Garrett explains why the Cowboys have struggled offensively on third downs recently.

"I think it always comes back to execution," head coach Jason Garrett said. "We were so good on third downs. We haven’t been as good lately. There were some protection issues and then inefficient throwing the football or catching the football… Earlier on in the year, on third downs, we were making those plays. We haven’t made them lately. We have to get back to doing that. It’s critical to moving the football, obviously."

Was The Short Week A Reason The Cowboys Were So Bad Against The Eagles, Or Just An Excuse? - Blogging The Boys
Tom Ryle examines how much of an effect the short week had on Thursday's game.

Garrett: Execution, lack of poise hurt Cowboys more than absence of passion | Rainer Sabin, DMN
Garrett said that the absence of composure – not desire – led to the loss against the Eagles.

"I think the best thing we did in that first Philly game up there [a 17-3 victory in October 2013] was to set edges and to force their runners back inside," Garrett said. "For a variety of reasons, we didn’t set the edge quite as well [Thursday]… Trying to defend the run, it was almost too aggressive. We had a number of missed tackles where guys were flying around and they were a little bit out of control. Too much of that instead of playing with the poise necessary that we’ve played with for a lot of this year."

Garrett not concerned about LB Rolando McClain’s durability | Rainer Sabin, DMN
McClain missed some snaps on Thursday with knee issue, but everything seems to be fine according to Garrett.

"He’s been dealing with a couple of things – the knee, the groin, some other things that he’s had over the course of the last month or so," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "Sometimes that can have an impact on your performance. But he did some good things in the game. He didn’t show up quite as much as he did certainly the other night. But we’ll get him healthy and cleaned up and get him rolling again for next week."

Terrance Williams: If Eagles show Tony Romo same looks during rematch, ‘he’s going to kill it’ | Jon Machota, DMN
Williams offers up an analysis of what bogged down the passing game, and how the Cowboys might deal with that in the rematch against the Eagles.

"[Tony Romo] had to get the ball out quick, so it’s one of those things you just got to go back in and look at it for the next time we go back down there," Williams said. "The stuff that they ran forced him to get the ball out quick. Sometimes the receivers weren’t ready when he was ready.

"It’s just like one of those things where we just got to go back and [fix it] because once we beat it the first time, they won’t run it again.

"The first time we see it and get to watch it on film, [Romo’s] going to find a way to correct it. There’s no doubt when you see the same thing, he’s going to kill it."

Cowboys' Garrett, Harris get strange explanation for flag: 'He hit him too hard' - Yahoo Sports
The penalty on Harris has got to count as one of the most ridiculous penalties ever called. In the fourth quarter, Harris blocked an Eagles player on a punt return, and was flagged because "he hit him too hard unnecessarily," according to referee Clete Blakeman.

"I don’t think I’ve ever heard that one," Garrett said.

"What am I supposed to do, not hit him at all?" Harris said. "I feel like I barely even touched him."

Jason Witten downplays sideline shouting - Tim MacMahon, ESPN Dallas
Witten was briefly caught on camera talking animatedly in the general direction of TE coach Mike Pope, and yesterday set the record straight about what was going on.

"Oh, we were just talking about a play," Witten said. "It wasn’t anything other than I get excited out there and talking about it. Nobody loves [Pope] more than [me] what he’s done for me, so there’s never any argument or friction between us. There’s just a lot of excitement and emotion and we’re talking through it."