Commentary

Cowboys haunted by Giant losses

Dallas wants to put failures against rivals in past, but it's easier said than done

Updated: September 3, 2012, 1:08 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys, at least in public, are trying to hide their hatred for the New York Giants. They're not saying what they really feel about their NFC East rivals.

Coach Jason Garrett doesn't want to talk about last season's painful losses because he doesn't want his team to dwell on a past that can't be changed.

[+] EnlargeTom Coughlin, Jason Garrett
AP Photo/Evan PinkusCowboys coach Jason Garrett doesn't want his team thinking about their season-ending loss against the Giants last year.

From time to time, however, things slip out.

Owner Jerry Jones invited fans at a training camp rally to come watch his team "beat the Giants' ass."

DeMarcus Ware had to stop speaking at a kickoff luncheon last week because he started to shake when thinking of Big Blue.

Then after the final preseason game, Dez Bryant walked into the locker room and told a reporter he couldn't wait to play the Giants.

Wednesday night can't get here soon enough for the Cowboys.

Dallas lost twice to the Giants last season, including in the regular-season finale with a playoff berth at stake. Beating New York in the NFL season opener would ease a lot of pain.

First, the Cowboys will have to sit in the visitors' locker room at MetLife Stadium and hear the roar of the crowd while the Giants get their Super Bowl rings.

At some point you have to wonder if the Cowboys are sick and tired of the Giants.

"Yeah, absolutely," quarterback Tony Romo said in a conference call with New York reporters when asked if he was frustrated about the Week 17 game. "That was a tough loss. It still sits there where you want to go out. That feeling that you have, you want to bottle it up and use that every day in the offseason. I think that you can use that as motivation to know that as a football team we need to get better and improve. I think we took steps to do that this offseason, and I'm excited to be moving forward."

Romo That was a tough loss. ... That feeling that you have, you want to bottle it up and use that every day in the offseason. I think that you can use that as motivation to know that as a football team we need to get better and improve.

-- Tony Romo, on last year's Week 17 loss to the Giants

The Cowboys upgraded their secondary in the offseason to contend with the Giants' speedy receivers. Cornerback Brandon Carr signed a five-year, $50.1 million deal. The Cowboys moved up in the draft and selected the best corner, Morris Claiborne, at No. 6 overall.

"Well, we felt good about those decisions at that time and there's nothing that's happened since then that makes us feel any worse," coach Jason Garrett said about adding Carr and Claiborne. "It certainly makes us probably feel better. We've gotten to know those players. I think they fit into our defensive scheme fairly well. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of challenges ahead of us, starting with the world champs at their place next Wednesday."

Getting Carr and Claiborne allows defensive coordinator Rob Ryan to send more pass rushers. There is no need to have outside linebacker Anthony Spencer hang around in passing lanes when Eli Manning is in the pocket. Spencer will rush the passer more in 2012.

Of course, this means more is expected from the secondary. In two games against the Giants last season, the Cowboys gave up 12 plays of 20 or more yards, 11 of those through the air and two for touchdowns.

That can't happen again. The Cowboys can't even think about having given up 68 points to one team last season.

Week 1 is about setting the tone for your season. The Giants want to make a statement as they begin their title defense.

The Cowboys have nothing to defend. They just want to stop the stretch of five losses in six games against their rivals.

The Giants know what to expect.

"Just hard-fought games," New York coach Tom Coughlin told reporters Sunday. "Every game is a tough game. Seems to go pretty close to the wire. On the 17th week last year was a little bit of an exception, but every game is a battle. These two teams play each other hard and they're two talented teams that are very physical and that's the way these games always are."

The bitter memories are deep, going well beyond last season's disappointment. Remember 2007, when the Giants eliminated the Cowboys from the divisional round of the playoffs and went on to win the Super Bowl?

The Cowboys know they can't let those ghosts linger.

"We've moved on," defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "[Garrett] has moved on and everybody has moved on, that's just the way it is. Enough said. We'll see them guys on Wednesday."

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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