NFL: Sunny side up for Cowboys
IRVING, Texas ó Connecting the dots between Tony Romoís late-game flubs, a letdown by the defense, a breakdown on special teams and the excruciating, last-minute loss to the Jets, the Dallas Cowboys couldíve come away from their opener thinking, ěHere we go again.î
Fans sure did.
Jason Garrett doesnít see it that way.
In the locker room right after the game, he told players they played hard and well, and that if they keep playing that way, good things will happen. He said the same thing to reporters a few minutes later, then again on Monday, after heíd watched the loss to the New York Jets again in slow motion.
And you know what? His players believe him.
ěItís not, ëHere we go again.í Itís, ëGet in there and watch the film,íî linebacker Keith Brooking said. ěThis is a new season. We have a lot of football to be played. The only thing that creeps into my head is letís go watch this film, letís learn from our mistakes and letís get out there Wednesday and get better from it.î
Tight end Jason Witten echoed that, saying, ěWe let that one slip. Weíll be better because of it.î
The Cowboys refuse to be dragged down by a single loss or the shame of becoming the first Dallas team to let a 14-point, fourth-quarter lead turn into a loss. Most of all, they refuse to link their 1-7 start last year to being 0-1 this year.
There are various reasons why they insist things will be different, why this self-inflicted opening loss wonít have the same snowball effect as last yearís self-inflicted opening loss in Washington.
Near the top of that list is Garrett and his sunny-side-up approach.
ěWe feed off of our head man and his message,î Brooking said. ěHis message to us (after the game) was pretty simple. He was proud of our effort and the way we fought. He wouldnít trade any of us for anybody out there on the streets or on any other team. … Thereís not a guy in here that wasnít out there last night just fighting and biting and scratching and bleeding and giving it up for the team. Thatís going to take you a long way in the end.î
Bill Parcells was harder on his teams after they won than he was when they lost, figuring they would beat themselves up enough. Maybe Garrett is following that sort of script in his own way, which means harping on the same things heís harped on since he took over ó the process of playing winning football.
Garrett praised his team for ěplaying with passion, emotion and enthusiasm,î which he often calls ěline oneî of the job description. He noted the guys who played hurt and those who filled in, both of which were extensive lists. He talked about the atmosphere and the caliber of the foe, a Jets team thatís been a win away from the Super Bowl each of the last two seasons.
Sure, he eventually got around to acknowledging the mistakes, saying ěwe didnít handle the things that teams that win ball games do and do well.î
But his overall evaluation was quite positive.
ěThe approach was right. The preparation was right,î he said. ěWe didnít handle the situations as well as we needed to, and we lost as a result of that. Hopefully, it can be a great learning situation for our whole football team and weíll move forward.î
Whether the Cowboys learn from their mistakes will be the ultimate proof of whether Garrettís way is working. Their next chance to find out is Sunday at San Francisco.
Team owner Jerry Jones also downplayed the negative and pumped up the positive on his radio show Tuesday, especially on the subject of Romoís performance.
ěThis may draw a little criticism, but I thought Tony played one of the best games Iíve ever seen him play,î Jones said. ěYou can make a big case that the way he played for three quarters was how we got there at the end and looked like for sure we were going to get the win. But he played outstanding.î
Jones noted that Romo averages 10 wins for every 16 games heís started in the NFL. He didnít mention that Romo has been making the same mistakes he made against the Jets ó fumbling near the goal line when Dallas only needed a field goal to likely secure the win, then having an ill-advised pass intercepted, setting up the game-winning field goal ó for years, most of them with Garrett as his offensive coordinator.
ě(Romo) is one of the best assets we have to get us where we want to go,î Jones said. ěWhen you got somebody that can master it you got something special. He is close. Donít drop Romo. Heís going to be our ticket.î
Being close seems to be the theme right now. The Cowboys believe they just have a few things to clean up and theyíll be contenders again. However, one of those things is handling the pressure when things get tight late and time is running out, and thatís not so easy to learn.
ěIf you donít know football and you watched the game, itís pretty evident ó we have to make the plays in the end,î Brooking said. ěThatís the one thing we have to work on.î
The Associated Press