LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — On fourth down, feeling the season was on the line, Tony Romo dropped back, scrambled forward and found the correct color uniform. DeMarco Murray made the catch, his momentum taking him into the end zone for the winning score.
For much of the second half, Romo and Dallas Cowboys had flirted with their usual December swoon.
A recently signed fullback lost a fumble. The quarterback threw a bad interception. An eight-point lead became a nine-point deficit. Murray lost 9 yards on a third-and-goal at the 1.
But there was one chance left to pull off a win. Romo-to-Murray converted the fourth-and-goal at the 10 with 1:08 remaining Sunday, giving the Cowboys a 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins.
"We just had to make a play," Dallas receiver Dez Bryant said. "Tony did a Houdini."
It's a magic moment that matters only if the Cowboys can win one more. The victory ended a two-game skid — as well as a four-game December losing streak — and sets up a winner-take-all, regular-season finale for the NFC East title next week, when the Cowboys (8-7) host the Philadelphia Eagles.
"Today we felt like we were playing for everything," Romo said. "Next week will be the same thing."
The Cowboys, who beat Philadelphia 17-3 on Oct. 20, set themselves up to quash two years of 8-8, collapse-around-Christmas misery.
"I know in some ways we've gotten hit with just the fact of losing the last couple of years in the final game," Romo said. "I think we're the only team that keeps getting themselves in position to win the NFC East every year — that's a credit. It's also a negative in the fact that we didn't do it the last couple of years."
The Cowboys melted down big-time last week against the Green Bay Packers, blowing a 23-point lead with Romo throwing two interceptions in the waning minutes.
On Sunday, the Cowboys fell flat in the third quarter instead of the fourth, leaving just enough time for a comeback.
"Coming back and playing well and working hard can help your character. Now, I don't recommend the way we came back today as a way to get there," Dallas owner Jerry Jones said with a smile. "I would've liked for it to be a little easier and confident."
The Redskins (3-12) aren't building much of anything. They lost their seventh straight, the second in a row by one point, both with Kirk Cousins starting in place of shut-down franchise player Robert Griffin III.