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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Win could cure the Cowboys' ills

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- You don't trust the Dallas Cowboys' defense for obvious reasons. You don't trust Jason Garrett to make the right decisions in the final couple of minutes, either.

Lord knows you don't trust Tony Romo -- and that was before he bruised his right hand last week against Philadelphia.

Tony Romo
Tony Romo and the Cowboys get plenty of attention for their failures. Sunday provides a chance at redemption.
Frankly, it's all understandable.

This team doesn't deserve your trust. It hasn't earned it.

Not after blowing three fourth-quarter leads of 12 points or more this season, something that had occurred just twice in the franchise's first 770 games. Besides, we all remember what happened the last time the Cowboys faced a winner-take-all game, in 2008 against Philadelphia.

The Cowboys failed to compete, and the Eagles humiliated them 44-6. At least the Cowboys will show up Sunday night against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, right?

"I'm anxious for our team to get out there and play a great game," Romo said. "I'm excited we're in this position and we have an opportunity to go and play in a big game like this. This is fun."

The quickest way to aggravate folks at the Cowboys' Valley Ranch training complex this week is to suggest the debacle in 2008 has anything to do with Sunday's game.

They swear it doesn't. Well, it does.

Instead of running from that failure to compete that day, the players who participated in that game should own that defeat, talk about what they learned from it and how that awful performance made them better.

That, of course, would require some introspection from a team with a plethora of faux stars who can count their signature victories over the past five years on one hand.

We're all the sum of our experiences, the successes and the failures. It's the reason we're all constantly evolving.

It's no different for players or teams. Like us, they're constantly evolving because they're also the sum of their experiences.

The reason the Mavs had numerous fourth-quarter comebacks during their NBA championship run this past summer is that they believed without equivocation they were going to rally and win. More importantly, so did their opponents.

So much of winning and losing is about confidence. When a team believes it can win and should win, it often does. When doubt exists or a team isn't fully committed to the process of winning, it generally loses.

For the most part, the core of this team has repeatedly failed in big moments.

There's not much tangible evidence that leads us to believe Sunday's game will be different.

After all, these Cowboys are in the midst of yet another late-season swoon. They began December with a 7-4 record and a one-game lead in the NFC East. Had they not blown a 12-point lead at home to the Giants earlier this month, they'd be resting their key players this week and getting ready for a playoff game.

Now, the Cowboys must beat the Giants to avoid missing the postseason for the third time in four seasons.

The Giants are mediocre, too, but at various times this season they've played with a ferocity we haven't seen from the Cowboys. New York has more players capable of making a game-changing play than the Cowboys do.

New York is at its best at winning time, which is precisely when the Cowboys are at their absolute worst.

Sometimes, sports ain't complicated.

If the Cowboys are tired of hearing about their past failures, they can do something about it. The beauty of sports is that a team can change its history with a singular performance.

All the Cowboys have to do is make the three-hour flight to New Jersey, ignore the weather and the crowd, and kick the Giants' butt.

A win gives the Cowboys an NFC East title for the third time in five seasons and lets a national television audience know they're no longer going to fade when the games matter most.

Everything the Cowboys want remains in their control. All they have to do is take it.

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