December to remember? Romo, Cowboys hope this is the year

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo was sitting at the podium Thursday after answering questions about Dallas' win over the Raiders when the quarterback turned to a group of media nearby with a grin on his face.

"Yeah, they won, but ... " Romo playfully said, mimicking the inevitable conversations about the Cowboys now that they're headed into December.

The NFC East-leading Cowboys (8-3) have won six of seven games after their 24-7 victory over Oakland. They are 4-0 on Thanksgiving Day games since Romo became the starter.

But now comes the post-Thanksgiving stretch where the Cowboys have faltered so often in the past, both before and since Romo took over.

"It's going to be something we're going to have to continue answering, honestly until we get better," Romo said. "So we'll hopefully do that this year."

Just last season, the Cowboys went 1-3 in December to miss the playoffs by one game. They were 13-3 the season before, when they lost twice in December before getting beat in the playoffs.

"We know where we were in the past and what it's been about. It's not going to be any easier this year," tight end Jason Witten said. "We've done all this work to get to this point, and we don't need to let it slip away."

That was basically the message owner Jerry Jones delivered in the locker room after the victory over the Raiders, though receiver Patrick Crayton said that would be a PG-rated version of how the owner encouraged the team to "take advantage of what's in front of us."

The Cowboys' last playoff victory came during the 1996 season, a year after their last Super Bowl title. They are 20-39 in games played after Thanksgiving since then, including five playoff losses.

Romo is 15-2 in November games, then 5-10 in games played after that, with losses in both of his playoff games.

Still, he insists he doesn't feel any extra pressure now that the calendar will flip to December.

"It's not different than the weight of a specific game," Romo said. "I don't know that it's any bigger than this last game because it was November and this next one is in December. ... I know it will be a fun little story; I'm sure there will be a few of them about it. But for us, we'll just kind of keep the blinders on and keep going."

Dallas plays Dec. 6 at the New York Giants (6-5), who back in September kicked a field goal on the final play of the game to ruin the Cowboys' debut in their new stadium.

The Cowboys' other remaining games are against division leaders New Orleans and San Diego, plus NFC East rivals Washington and Philadelphia.

After being limited to only one touchdown in each of their last two games, Romo and Co. had a much-needed resurgence against the Raiders (3-8).

Dallas had 494 total yards and became the first NFL team in three years with eight plays of at least 25 yards. It was Dallas' fifth 400-yard game, one short of matching the team record for an entire season.

The Cowboys have 4,313 total yards (392 per game), only 15 short of the most they've had through 11 games in a season -- and that was 43 years ago.


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Romo, playing four days after taking a knee to his back against the Redskins, was an efficient 18-of-29 passing for 309 yards with two touchdowns in his 50th career start. It was his 21st 300-yard games, and only Saints quarterback Drew Brees (28) has more since Romo became a starter.

Witten, playing with a sprained left foot, and Miles Austin gave Dallas two 100-yard receivers in the same game for the first time since the 2006 regular season finale. There was balance in the running game, with Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and Marion Barber all running for more than 60 yards and each with a play of at least 32 yards.

Now they get a three-day weekend before returning to practice Monday, the final day of November.

"This was a feel-good game for us. It was a game where we did a lot of things well. We feel good about ourselves," coach Wade Phillips said. "Confidence-wise, it certainly helps you. ... We probably have as tough of a schedule as anybody has, but we feel good about if we play well, we can do well."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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