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Tuesday, January 8, 2013
What Went Right, No. 4: December win streak

By Calvin Watkins

Our five-part series on what went right and what went wrong for the Cowboys continues with No. 4:

The Cowboys were a mess at the end of November.

But coach Jason Garrett had the team just where he wanted them. The Cowboys were 5-6 and heading into a dreaded December schedule with tough games at Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and a rematch with Washington.

The Cowboys had lost four of five games earlier in the season and it appeared their playoff dreams were bleak. A wild 38-33 win over Philadelphia was followed by tragedy struck.

Practice squad player Jerry Brown was killed in a car accident. Backup nose tackle Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter in connection with the death of his teammate, and the Cowboys were forced to move on.

The Cowboys upended the Bengals, 20-19, in one of the more emotional games in franchise history. A stunning overtime win over Pittsburgh the next week clinched a winning December and set the Cowboys up for a potential playoff berth with the New York Giants struggling to finish the season on top of the division.

But losses to New Orleans and the Washington Redskins in the regular-season finale gave the Cowboys a 3-2 finish for the season. It was in sharp contrast to 2011, when the Cowboys finished the 1-4 in December/January.

You could say the Cowboys' finish to the season went badly, especially the loss in Landover, Md.. But they kept their playoff dreams alive until the final day. It backed up Garrett's boast of taking things one day at a time. It was something the Cowboys needed to do, given the emotional state of the team after the Bengals win.

Garrett should be given credit for how he managed the Cowboys though the final weeks of the season. While the team didn't reach the postseason, he put them in the right place when it counted considering where they were in November.