Dallas Cowboys: Players Who Must Step Up in Tell-All Game Against Redskins

Steven Cook@@stevencookinFeatured Columnist IVDecember 24, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 23:  wide receiver Dez Bryant #88 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against cornerback Patrick Robinson #21 of the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on December 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. The New Orleans Saints beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-31 in overtime.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Despite the 34-31 overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys can still clinch a playoff spot by beating the Washington Redskins in their regular season finale on Sunday Night Football. 

But they won't do so if these Cowboys don't step up and carry their amount of the workload in defeating a very dangerous team, led by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins went from one of the most hapless teams in the league to a dangerous team that could make some noise in the playoffs, but they're still beatable despite the beating they put on Dallas on the road over Thanksgiving.

Let's take a look at the players who must have big games if the Cowboys are to close out the season at 9-7 and make the playoffs. 


DeMarcus Ware

The outcome of Sunday's game may have been different if Cowboys star defensive end DeMarcus Ware wasn't hampered by injuries and kept out of much of the second half and overtime.

Without the elite pass-rusher, Saints quarterback Drew Brees was virtually untouched in the pocket and gashed the Dallas defense to the tune of 400-plus yards. 

With RGIII on the schedule, quarterback pressure will be more important than it's been all season, as Griffin can tear it up with his scrambling technique.

If Ware can't go at his top-flight rate, it'll allow for more scrambles and more first downs for Griffin and the Redskins offense.


Dez Bryant

One bright spot from the Saints loss was obviously new No. 1 wideout Dez Bryant, who went for a career-high 224 yards and two touchdowns on nine catches. Surprisingly, it wasn't enough for his team to pull out the victory.

Even with weapons such as Miles Austin and Jason Witten, Bryant has had to be insane this season to give his team chances to win. And insane he has been, breaking 1,000 yards in his most recent outing.

Bryant will have to be reliable as usual to pump life into the Cowboys offense, which has a tendency to be on fire one possession and straight-up ugly the next.

If he can continue to play inspired football and be an unstoppable route-runner, he could end up making the difference in what should be a tight ballgame.


DeMarco Murray

It's one thing for a team's feature running back to lose a fumble in his second consecutive game, but it's another to cough the ball up at your 5-yard line in a tie game. That's just what Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray did in Sunday's loss.

Brees turned the untimely turnover into seven points, and it made the comeback that much more difficult for Tony Romo and Co. Murray has been notoriously secure with the ball in his career, but that reputation went out the window in the last two weeks. 

Murray is a high-motor runner and continued to make plays after his fumble. He'll have to take that mentality and run with it (literally) against the Redskins, who have one of the best pass-rush balances in the NFL right now.

Romo is looking more and more like an elite NFL quarterback, but he's much less without a solid running game. Murray having a big day early could give the Cowboys a much-needed first-half lead that they aren't accustomed to.


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