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Garrett has Cowboys thriving

PHILADELPHIA - Each week, we see a little more of Jason Garrett's influence on these Dallas Cowboys.

It's making them a better football team.

Garrett, you see, has banned pity parties, no matter how small. He preaches accountability, which is why underperforming players regularly get benched, and players on the bottom third of the roster realize a bad week or two of practice will result in unemployment.

But Garrett's most important contribution is removing every single alibi and excuse from the club's Valley Ranch training complex.

DeMarcus Ware, a future member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, missed the first game of his nine-year career on Sunday. The Cowboys' defense, suspect much of the season, responded with the season's best defensive performance.

They dominated Philadelphia's offense, which ranked first in rushing (175.8 yards) and plays of 20 yards or more (42), third in total offense (449.8) and fifth in scoring (27.7 points).

Philadelphia failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season, and the Cowboys intercepted three passes, recorded three sacks and made running back LeSean McCoy a non-factor.

Dallas 17, Philadelphia 3.

"When something happens to a player, the next player has to step in there and play. It's the mentality that everyone in the organization has," Garrett said of playing without Ware and running back DeMarco Murray.

"It has to come from the whole organization, the coaching staff and the players themselves. Injuries provide opportunity.

"Opportunity for individual guys to establish themselves and their careers and the chance to help step up and be counted on a football team."

Your Cowboys -- 3-0 in the NFC East for the first time since 2007 -- sit alone in first place with winnable games at Detroit and home against Minnesota the next two weeks.

Garrett gives this team a direction it hasn't had since Bill Parcells coached the Cowboys in 2006. Talk to the players and they espouse his philosophies.

These Cowboys don't always perform well, but they perform with the same effort and intensity play after play, quarter after quarter and game after game.

It's the relentless spirit Garrett is forever talking about that gives these Cowboys an edge. They're a difficult team to play against because they keep banging away.

The Cowboys took the second-half kickoff and drove 66 yards in 10 plays to take a 10-0 lead on Phillip Tanner's 1-yard run. An interception set up a Philadelphia field goal, pulling the Eagles within 10-3 on the first play of the fourth quarter.

This is when we've see recent Cowboys' teams melt down. This is when Tony Romo would throw another interception. Or a penalty would ruin a drive. Or they would go three-and-out and their opponent would seize momentum and eventually win.

Not today.

Romo completed seven of eight passes to four different receivers as the Cowboys responded with a nine-play 72-yard drive. A 9-yard slant to Terrance Williams gave the Cowboys a 17-3 lead with 9:25 left.

"Give Bill [Callahan] credit," Romo said. "He called an aggressive game. To me that was fantastic. They trusted me. They trusted our team to go out there and execute, and we put the game away when we had to.

"It's never easy to go on the road. It's never easy to execute perfectly, even though we want to. If we stay together as a team and fight and keep competing and keep getting better, then our team has a chance to be the kind of team we want to be."

But the Cowboys won because their defense shut down one of the league's best offenses.

Think about it, there had been nothing in the first six weeks of the season to suggest the Cowboys could slow down Philadelphia. After all, Dallas' weaknesses -- stopping the run and allowing big plays -- were the Eagles' strengths.

The Cowboys ranked 30th in defense, and first-year Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's teams at Oregon had averaged 50 points and 601 yards in three games against Kiffin's defense at USC.

Sure, there's a difference between college football and the NFL and even bigger difference between the talent Kiffin has had to work with at USC and in Dallas. Still, that's an awful lot of success for an any offensive guru to have against a well-respected defensive guru such as Monte Kiffin.

The Cowboys used a safety to help against the run, and played considerably more man-to-man, just like they did last week against Washington. The result: McCoy gained 55 yards on 18 carries.

"All we talked about all week was their offensive tempo," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "In practice, we were running plays every 10 or 15 seconds to get us prepared for the tempo.

"It taxes your body and, obviously, it was exaggerated, but the coaches wanted us to get used to it as much as we could. They wanted us to be able to diagnose things and play good technique when we were tired."

This game, once again, reminds us of the beauty of sport. It's why we watch the games.