Commentary

Cowboys hit reset button on season

Playoff odds remain long, but win in Philly, manageable schedule ignite hope

Updated: November 14, 2012, 9:29 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys believe in their season now more than ever.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Elsa/Getty ImagesCan Jason Garrett's Cowboys end their Sunday night skid with the struggling Eagles visiting Dallas?
This team doesn't care what the media, fans and opponents say about them. The playoffs are still a possibility.

You should have seen the locker room Sunday in Philadelphia, a place that has humbled the Cowboys in years past. Players were yelling, smiling and believing in their season again.

It was like a frat house.

The Cowboys don't care about the statistic that shows only seven teams have reached the postseason after a 3-5 start since 1990. They beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday afternoon to keep the season alive and improve to 4-5.

The Cowboys don't want to talk about a season-saving game -- at least publicly -- because there are seven more remaining in the regular season.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is so narrowly focused on this Sunday's opponent, the Cleveland Browns, that he wouldn't acknowledge the distractions of last week when his job status was put into question.

But the schedule looks pretty good. Only one of the remaining seven teams has a winning record. The first-place New York Giants appear on the verge of another second-half collapse. Their quarterback, Eli Manning, has denied reports of a tired arm.

A division title might be the only way for the Cowboys to reach the playoffs. A wild-card berth seems slim. Four teams have better records than the Cowboys, and that doesn't include the division leaders. At 6-4, the Seattle Seahawks own the first tiebreaker with the Cowboys thanks to their Week 2 victory.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Carr
James D Smith/AP PhotoIf turnovers come in bunches, then Brandon Carr and the Cowboys can expect a bounty given Sunday's turn of events.
The Cowboys don't want to hear any of that right now. Cleveland is next on the schedule. The Giants have a bye, and by next Monday the Cowboys could be 5-5 and just a game out of first place. Coming off their bye, the Giants have a Sunday night game against the Green Bay Packers and could be fighting for their playoff lives themselves.

"We know we have a shot," Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said. "We're not looking around to see what everybody else is doing. We have to control what we're doing in our locker room, and that's all we have control over. If the Giants lose, win, draw -- however it may be -- it has nothing to do with us. We have to go out with the mindset of each game to take care of business."

While the schedule appears easy when you view the opponents' records, there are NFL teams that are not giving up on their seasons. The Cowboys have two games against the Washington Redskins and Robert Griffin III, including the regular-season finale in Landover, Md.

The Eagles visit the Cowboys on Dec. 2. The Cincinnati Bengals (4-5), with former Cowboys Terence Newman and Pacman Jones, host Dallas the next week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the only team with a winning record on the Cowboys' schedule right now at 5-3, and you can bet their fans will travel to Arlington on Dec. 16. The New Orleans Saints, (4-5) who visit Dec. 23, currently have a two-game win streak and are trying to emerge as one of the two wild-card teams. The Saints' schedule is daunting, with games against the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons and Giants looming.

Revisiting the Eagles game tells you something about this Cowboys team.

There's an old saying about turnovers coming in bunches. Carr got an interception Sunday and returned it for a score, Anthony Spencer had a pick negated by penalty, and Orlando Scandrick should have had two. Spencer's blindside hit forced a fumble that was recovered for a touchdown by Jason Hatcher to seal the victory in Philly.

The offense continues to struggle, producing just two touchdowns and one field goal. Dez Bryant is making big plays and Tony Romo is cutting down on the turnovers -- he didn't have any the past two weeks -- to help things out.

"You go 3-6, it's a different mindset and you basically have to go 7-0 down the stretch," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "It was our backs were against the wall, but you just stay together and you focus on what you need to do to win the game and the entire team did that the whole game."

With 50 days remaining in the season, the Cowboys have hope.

That's all you can ask.

"You can never save something you don't know if it needs to be saved until you get to that point, to where you don't have opportunity," Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "And I feel like we have that opportunity to keep moving and we've just got to play it a week at a time."

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.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

ALSO SEE

MORE NFL HEADLINES