Cowboys plan to keep on driving even if home field clinched
FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott made the playoffs with four games to spare in Dallas.
The Cowboys and their young stars could clinch everything else — topped by home-field advantage throughout the playoffs — with three games remaining if they beat the New York Giants on Sunday night and get some help.
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Coasting isn't part of the plan for the NFL's best first-year quarterback and the league's leading rusher.
"That's never been our mindset is to coast at any point," Prescott said Wednesday. "We get up in games, it's not, 'Let's coast this game out and finish this win.' It's, 'Keep the pedal on the metal and get things done.'"
Dallas (11-1) has a shot at a 12-game winning streak, the longest in franchise history , against the only team to beat the Cowboys — the Giants (8-4) in the opener. A win will wrap up Dallas' second NFC East title in three years, and the Cowboys can clinch a first-round bye with either a Detroit loss or tie or a Seattle loss.
If both those things happen with the Lions and Seahawks, a Dallas win would mean the Cowboys don't play another meaningful game until the divisional round of the playoffs in five weeks. That's a lot of time for things to grow stagnant.
"We don't know how to coast," linebacker Justin Durant said. "Check out our practices. You'll see that it's no coasting involved. We're always pushing each other at practice, trying to get the best out of each other. So I'm not worried about that at all."
Durant was with the Cowboys two years ago when they had little chance to change their playoff positioning in the finale at Washington. Coach Jason Garrett chose to play quarterback Tony Romo and most of the regulars on the way to a four-game winning streak to end the regular season.
The Cowboys beat Detroit in a wild-card game at home before falling to Green Bay in the divisional round on the road.
"I think it's just the mentality that we have as a team and what coach preaches," Durant said. "And that's, you get out of it what you put into it. We have to work in order to get good results. That's what we come in here every day and do."
This time, the question figures to come up much earlier. But Garrett's answer isn't likely to change much.
"Yeah, we're just focused on Wednesday," he said. "Locked in on our meetings this morning. And now we're getting ready for practice. That's the world we live in."
There will be an interesting twist if the Cowboys have the luxury of games they don't have to win. Romo is backing up Prescott after the rookie's sensational run put the 10-year starter on the bench when he was ready to return from a preseason back injury. As soon as the Cowboys clinch everything, Garrett will face a new round of Romo questions over whether the Cowboys should protect Prescott by playing the franchise leader in yards passing and touchdowns.
But that issue can wait. For now, the question is whether the Cowboys can keep their edge.
"A mentality is something you've built up to get to this point," Elliott said. "It's something that is your character. If you're the type of guy who coasts, you're the type of guy who coasts. But we don't have those type of guys in this locker room. I don't have any worries about that."
The Cowboys are likely to be tested, though.