IRVING, Texas (AP) — DeMarcus Ware knows what a milestone it was for the Dallas Cowboys. So do his teammates, though they have a slightly different view than their Pro Bowl linebacker.

After consecutive losses to start December, including a game Ware left immobilized on a stretcher with a neck injury, it was his sack and forced fumble with 6 seconds left that clinched a victory over previously undefeated New Orleans.

“I think beating the Saints was a defining moment for us, letting us know we can win a game in December and really get over that hump,” Ware said Wednesday. “I think that really motivated us.”

The Cowboys (11-5) followed the Saints game with consecutive shutouts for the first time in their 50-season history, juiced up and confident after beating the NFL’s most prolific offense and the NFC’s No. 1 seed. Dallas clinched the NFC East with its 24-0 victory over Philadelphia last weekend, which returns Saturday night for the first playoff game at the new Cowboys Stadium.

“Just to have him back (against New Orleans), it uplifted the team and everybody rallied around that, and we’ve been playing lights out since then,” linebacker Bradie James said. “The momentum is still going. I wouldn’t say he single-handedly won that game against the Saints, but he did make that big play at the end.”

Even though he didn’t start and had his snaps limited to mainly third-down situations after a week of recovery from a strained neck, Ware sacked Drew Brees twice, forcing fumbles both times.

Coach Wade Phillips called Ware’s return and performance against New Orleans “an inspiration” for the entire team.

“His role in that game, and him coming back and having the type of game that he had and us being able to win that game, it was a must-win for us and it put us in the situation we are in now,” said Anthony Spencer, the NFC defensive player of the week after five tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble against the Eagles.

Now Ware and Co. have to face Philadelphia again less than a week later.

The Eagles (11-5) had set a franchise record with 429 points before losing to Dallas for the second time this season.

“The challenge is obviously learning from your mistakes and have a short-term memory,” Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. “You get in a situation like that when you have got stuff riding on the game and the way you’ve been playing leading up to it, it can become frustrating. But you can’t allow that to happen.”

Philadelphia was averaging 31.2 points during a six-game winning streak before getting shut out by Dallas and missing a chance to be a No. 2 seed with a first-round bye. The Eagles gained only 228 total yards Sunday and have only one touchdown in 21 offensive possessions against the Cowboys this season.

Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson has 63 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns. In two games against Dallas, he has only five catches for 76 yards and no scores. Rookie Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles’ other big-play threat, has six receptions for 91 yards.

“We’ve just got to put it together, any way possible to go out there and win,” Jackson said. “They’ve got our number this year. They’ve beat us two times. I’m not going to put anything more into it. They’re a good team, but they’re a beatable team. ”

McNabb was 20 of 36 for 223 yards Sunday and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for only the second time this season. He overthrew Jackson on an early deep pass that would have tied the game and fumbled away a low snap from new center Nick Cole inside the 20. There were dropped passes by both Jackson and Maclin.

While they have confidence, the Cowboys realize McNabb and the Eagles know how to get ready for the playoffs. Since Andy Reid became head coach and McNabb the quarterback in 1999, Philadelphia has won its first game in the playoffs in seven consecutive postseason appearances.

“We played well, but there were some opportunities they had,” Dallas linebacker Keith Brooking said. “They haven’t had all the success with Reid and McNabb by not making adjustments after tough losses like that. So we expect it.”

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