Sixty minutes away.
The Cowboys are at least familiar with this position. They were in it in 2016. And 2014. And 2009. And 2007. Twice against Green Bay and once against the Giants, they came close. Once against Minnesota, they did not.
On Saturday night in the LA Coliseum, they get their chance once more to reach the NFC Championship Game. It has been mentioned in this space numerous times but deserves a full examination, now that the Cowboys have won their third playoff game of the century.
There was a time, youngsters, that the Cowboys owned the NFC Championship Game or at least an invitation to it. For all the reasons you can say that Tom Landry deserves that statue outside AT&T Stadium – most folks will point either to the five Super Bowl trips in the '90s or, more likely, the 20 consecutive winning seasons (a streak that ended when I inherited the News' Cowboys beat in 1986) – I will go with 12 NFC title games in 17 years.
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Now it should be mentioned that those Cowboys lost seven of them. They broke their fans' hearts more than once against the Packers, the Redskins, the Eagles and the 49ers. But if you choose to put your time and effort and, most important, faith in a professional sports team, you're hoping for championships but what you really want is to feel like your team is consistently relevant and in the hunt for those titles.
Landry's Cowboys got into the hunt in 1966 and they stayed there for nearly two decades.
The Cowboys of the 21st Century can't find the damn hunt. Not since the end of the 1995 season has this club found its way to what you could call football's final four.
They're close once more. It won't take perfection but it may take their best game of the season or at least their finest effort since a 13-10 win over the Saints a month ago. The Cowboys thought they might be facing the Saints right up until the final seconds in Soldier Field, but the football bounced off the crossbar Philadelphia's way and not Chicago's. So instead of a rematch with the Saints, the Cowboys play the Rams, a team they lost to a year ago at AT&T Stadium. But it's also a place where Dak Prescott's pro career got its start, even if it was just two quarters of an exhibition game in 2016.
These divisional round games represent a hurdle that the Cowboys under Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett have turned into the Grand Canyon. Only the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins, who met in the 1991 NFC title game, have gone longer without a championship game appearance.
Since the Cowboys' last trip, the Eagles and Packers have played in six NFC championship games. They are the leaders but four franchises have participated in four – Atlanta, Carolina, San Francisco in Minnesota. In fact, 13 NFC teams (everyone not named Cowboys, Lions or Redskins) have played in at least two championship games during the Cowboys' drought.
In other words, whatever this game means for Garrett as a head coach, it speaks much louder of Jerry Jones' stewardship of this team as general manager.
The Cowboys now have won three playoff games since Barry Switzer was dismissed 21 years ago. Basically, they win a game every seven seasons. But it has been 23 seasons since they won consecutive playoff games, and that's the target now.
Most of the club's postseason journeys the last two decades have been built around an offensive foundation. This is a team that got to 10-6 largely because of a stingy defense. The hit-or-miss offense did its part but not consistently.
Oddly enough, the Cowboys were the lowest scoring team among the 12 playoff clubs. They advanced by being the highest scoring team of the weekend, and, given Russell Wilson's last-minute heroics, they needed all those points.
Chances are that Dallas will need to score into the 20s again Saturday night. The Rams had their struggles down the stretch, but those came long after LA had wrapped up the NFC West crown. The team the Cowboys will face is only a few weeks removed from that magical 54-51 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
The first weekend of the playoffs was dominated by defense. The Cowboys would love for that trend to continue but, if not, maybe the team finally has the right leaders on offense. Prescott was two years old the last time the Cowboys won an NFC title. Ezekiel Elliott was six months old. Perhaps the best way to rid oneself of a long-standing disappointment is to know next to nothing about it.