Stalling effort: AFC South champ Colts lose momentum in 42-7 loss at playoff-clinching Cowboys

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ARLINGTON, Texas — So much for Andrew Luck and the AFC South champion Indianapolis Colts building some momentum for the playoffs.

At least they avoided their first shutout in 21 years, long after Luck took his last snap Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.

Tony Romo threw four touchdowns, one immediately after Dewey McDonald flubbed a perfectly thrown pass on a fake punt by the Colts, and Dallas clinched its first NFC East title in five seasons with a 42-7 victory.

"We will find a way to get these things fixed. If we play the way we did tonight, we can't expect to do anything down the road," coach Chuck Pagano said. "It's the National Football League. It's a tough business. It's not for everybody. That's why we don't get discouraged. Disappointed, yeah, but discouraged? Never."

Indianapolis (10-5), held to a season low in points and yards for the second week in a row, has one game left to get back on track before going straight into the playoffs without a first-round bye.

"I'm thinking about Tennessee first," Luck said. "We've got to fix this game and focus on Tennessee, and then we can worry about the playoffs."

Things went awry in a hurry for Indianapolis, with Dallas opening the game with a 15-play touchdown drive that took nearly 8½ minutes and the Colts failing to get a first down on three rushing plays. When punter Pat McAfee saw McDonald uncovered on the outside, he threw a lofting pass. McDonald just flat out missed what would have been an easy first down.

Romo threw his own perfect pass on the very next play, a 19-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant to give Dallas (11-4) a 14-0 lead.

"A lot of these are self-inflicted wounds," said safety Mike Adams, who was then asked if the Colts are ready for the playoffs. "We have no choice but to be ready. After this performance, it's hard to say. ... The most dangerous team going into the tournament is the wounded team, and that's us right now."

After Romo surpassed Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman as the Cowboys' career passing leader with a 25-yard TD to Jason Witten for a 35-0 lead with 4:41 left in the third quarter, Luck gave way to backup Matt Hasselbeck.

The Colts, with only 1 yard rushing among their 229 total yards, finally scored on Hasselbeck's 1-yard TD pass to Zurlon Tipton after a pass interference call in the end zone wiped out a Dallas interception on a fourth-and-10 play.

Hasselbeck, who finished 15 for 21 for 126 yards, appeared to have another touchdown. But tight end Jack Doyle — almost fittingly — dropped the ball in the end zone with 22 seconds left.

There were other drops, and Luck (15 of 22 for 109 yards) had interceptions just before and right after halftime. But the tone was set on that failed fake in the first quarter.

"I took my eyes off of it for just a split second," said McDonald, whose flub came right in front of the Colts' bench.

"We've been practicing that play for a long, long time and executed extremely well during practice,," Pagano said. "They gave us an opportunity for that play to be there, and we didn't execute it."

With a home playoff game already in hand, Indianapolis sat receiver T.Y. Hilton (groin injury) and right tackle Gosder Cherilus.

NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray played with a broken left hand, but the Cowboys didn't need much from him. He finished with 58 yards, with a 1-yard score.

Romo, in his eighth full season, was 18 for 20 for 218 yards to put him at 32,971 for his career, 29 more than Aikman, a three-time Super Bowl winner.

"For us to get the W and Tony to break the record, that's a great accomplishment," Bryant said. "He's a warrior. Today he was on fire. He was on fire."

Notes: By avoiding the shutout, Indianapolis has scored in 336 consecutive games since a 38-0 loss at New England on Dec. 26, 1993. That is the second-longest active scoring streak behind Denver's 355 games. ... Colts TE Dwayne Allen had a pair of drops on passes that should have gained first downs before leaving with a knee injury. ... A holding penalty stalled a drive after Indianapolis finally got a first down with six minutes left in the first half.


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