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Ravens two-step -Shut down Cowboys, stadium at same time

December 20, 2008|By JAMIE ARON

IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys sure would like to close Texas Stadium the way they opened it in 1971.

Not just by winning the last game.

By winning the Super Bowl, too.

The Cowboys began playing under the hole in the roof in October 1971 and won their first championship at the end of that season. Four more Super Bowl titles and 37 seasons later, Dallas will play its 313th and final game there tonight, taking on the only team that's never visited, the Baltimore Ravens.

"I know the fans will be excited, I know the players are excited," quarterback Tony Romo said. "We'd like to send it out on the right note."

The Cowboys (9-5) also need a win to get closer to the playoffs. There are even three scenarios in which Dallas could lock up a wild card this weekend, but all require a victory over the Ravens, who are among three 9-5 teams fighting for the AFC's lone remaining wild card.

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The Cowboys are 213-99 at home, counting the playoffs, since moving from the Cotton Bowl into this state-of-the-art building in the suburb of Irving in October 1971.

Next season, Dallas is moving into another sports Taj Mahal, a $1.1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium.

Dallas comes in on a 4-1 roll since Romo returned from a broken pinkie on his passing hand. The only loss was in the final minutes of a tight game in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers bashed Romo pretty good that day and the New York Giants nearly finished him off Sunday night. He went down wincing with a back injury late in the first quarter and probably will still be feeling it when Ray Lewis and the hard-hitting Ravens take the field. Fans ache just thinking about that.

"He has a lot of playmakers on his side of the ball, so (we can't) let him sit back there and pick and choose," Lewis said. "People that have had success against him have really made him not sit back there comfortable."

Dallas' collection of playmakers seemingly got along just fine this week, unlike their turmoil-filled week leading up to the Giants game. T.O. acknowledged that a win makes all the difference, an indication that tempers could flare again with a loss.

Baltimore is coming off a late, tough loss in Pittsburgh that was even tougher to overcome because of a controversial ruling on the Steelers' winning touchdown. As much as the Ravens insist that play is behind them, they're going to need a strong showing against the Cowboys to prove it.

That won't be easy. Dallas' defense is playing on par with Pittsburgh's and Baltimore's.

The Cowboys lead the league in sacks, with DeMarcus Ware four away from setting the NFL single-season record. The unit has held teams without a touchdown three times this season, and the Ravens offense is coming off a touchdown-less game of its own.

"Our line has done a great job all year of stopping anybody's pressure," said Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, who averages a sack every 15 attempts. "I'm going to trust that they are going to do another great job this week."

If the Ravens win, they'll join the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders as the only teams never to have lost at Texas Stadium. The men in silver and black went 3-0.

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