Cowboys go all-in for overtime win

LANDOVER, Md. -- Tony Romo will receive much of the credit, as he should, for the Dallas Cowboys' victory over the Washington Redskins.

Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, too.

And so will kicker Dan Bailey, since his 39-yard field goal in overtime gave Dallas a 27-24 win.

But what happened Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field is exactly why Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is always saying it takes everyone on the roster to win an NFL game.

It takes maligned players such as Martellus Bennett catching key passes in the fourth quarter and overtime. It takes injured players such as punter Mat McBriar forcing elusive returner Brandon Banks out of bounds after a 55-yard return instead of conceding what appeared to be a sure touchdown.

And it takes phased-out veterans such as Bradie James applying enough pressure to quarterback Rex Grossman that he makes an errant pass that Orlando Scandrick intercepts.

Oh, and it took some help from the Redskins and their kicker, Graham Gano, who missed a 52-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime that would have given Washington a win.

Instead, the Cowboys have won three consecutive games for the first time since 2009 and have a share of first place in the NFC East after the Giants lost to Philadelphia.

That should be more than enough motivation during a short week for the Cowboys to get ready for the rejuvenated Miami Dolphins.

The Cowboys didn't play their best game against the Redskins, who took their first lead since Oct. 2 -- a span of 21 quarters -- late in the second quarter and scored more than 20 points for the first time in 63 days on Donte' Stallworth's 4-yard touchdown catch with 14 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.

In the end, it doesn't matter how the Cowboys prevailed -- only that they persevered long enough to win.

Let's keep it real. We've seen these Cowboys lose a bunch of games that they controlled for three quarters only to fall apart in the fourth quarter in the past few seasons.

It happened last month on the road against New England and at home against Detroit. And who can forget the opener in New York against the Jets?

So this isn't really the time to discuss the 89-yard drive the defense surrendered in the final five minutes, forcing the game into overtime. Or the atrocious punt coverage unit.

"This was a game about our will," Witten said. "How many of these games like this have we lost?"

We're still trying to figure out just where the Cowboys belong in the NFL's hierarchy.

Aside from their win over San Francisco, which required a massive fourth-quarter comeback, how much emphasis can we really place on wins over Washington, Seattle, St. Louis, Buffalo and Washington? Not much.

Not yet.

We shouldn't expect this team's story to be written until the final month of the season, when it plays two games against the New York Giants. Until then, it's simply positioning itself to accomplish its goals.

See, these Cowboys aren't good enough right now for us to worry about style points.

It's strictly about winning and losing.

The Cowboys beat the Redskins because they received contributions from nearly every player active for the game. Of course, Garrett preaches the importance of the entire team contributing on a weekly basis.

Then again, what coach doesn't?

"It's not just the same old garbage every week from Jason. That's for you guys," said Romo, referring to the media. "He's a lot more eloquent with us when he says it.

"He's sharp, and guys listen to what he has to say. It doesn't just go in one ear and out the other."

Garrett's best assets are eliminating excuses for failure and keeping these Cowboys on the same emotional plane whether they're coming off an important win, a tough loss or a blowout.

It's the reason he spends so much time talking about the Cowboys being a process-oriented franchise. He wants the players to understand that winning is the result of committing to the process of winning each day.

Luck has nothing to do with consistently winning. Neither does anything other than preparation and execution.

"It takes everybody on every play," Garrett said. "They hear this from our staff, really, on a minute-to-minute basis every single day.

"There's so much evidence week to week. If guys just watch the tape and understand what goes on throughout the course of the season, so many different people need to step up."

It's the reason the Cowboys already have matched their win total from last season.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.