Garrett likes killer instinct Cowboys have developed

One of mantras Jason Garrett has preached since he became the Cowboys' head coach is to win the fourth quarter.

It seems simple enough, but we all know good teams typically find ways to win the fourth quarter and the game while bad teams figure out ways to lose.

In that respect, we really shouldn't be surprised the Cowboys are 10-0 when leading after three quarters, which is among the reasons why they won the NFC East and are tied with several teams for the best record in the NFL.

Last season, the Cowboys finished 8-8 and missed the playoffs. They were 6-3 when leading after three quarters, including losses to San Diego, Denver and Green Bay. With wins in any of those games, the Cowboys would have made the playoffs.

In 2012, Dallas was 3-1 when leading after three quarters, and they were 3-3 in 2011.

One of the reasons Garrett has persuaded owner Jerry Jones to use first-round picks on three offensive linemen in the past four seasons is so the Cowboys could control the line of scrimmage and run the ball in the fourth quarter.

"We certainly talk to our team a lot about what wins in the NFL," Jason Garrett said. "We talk about turnovers -- that's the only statistic we emphasize because of its correlation to winning, but we also talk about the importance of efficient and executing in the fourth quarter because that's what correlates to winning."

The reality is that if the Cowboys had been good enough to win the games they were leading after three quarters in each of the past three seasons, they probably would've made the playoffs each year.

After the Cowboys' victory over Washington on Sunday, Garrett stood in the Cowboys' locker room and talked about the importance of the killer instinct the Cowboys have developed.

"It's a mentality and a mindset," Garrett said. "You hear me emphasize it a lot. When you're ahead in the game, you have to go after it. You have to go finish the job the right way. Any kind of relaxing is not good for anybody.

"The idea is that this matters. This play matters. This series matters. Don't look at the scoreboard -- play this play to the best of your ability. That goes a long way in instilling that killer instinct that you want."