Cowboys get chance to change tune again

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Well, well, well, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in position to make the playoffs as the season's calendar hits December. It seems like old times, doesn’t it?

At 7-5 following the 31-24 win against the Oakland Raiders, the Cowboys are in first place in the NFC East with four games to play.

Their formula is simple: keep winning. Just like it was in 2008 when they entered December with an 8-4 record. Just like it was in 2009 when they entered December with an 8-3 record. Just like it was in 2011 when they entered December with a 7-4 record. Just like it was last year when they entered December with a 5-6 record and ripped off three consecutive wins.

In 2008, they lost three of their four December games to finish 9-7 and miss the playoffs. In 2011, they lost four of their last five to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs. In 2012, they lost their final two games to finish 8-8 -- again -- and miss the playoffs.

The only successful run came in 2009 when the Cowboys closed the season with a three-game winning streak to finish 11-5 and win the NFC East.

"You have to be careful about taking a global point of view," coach Jason Garrett said.

Garrett does not do global views. He is the anti-Christopher Columbus. But Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is not afraid of the global view. He wants to see if the earth is round.

Jones knows the Cowboys have two road games left against the Chicago Bears (Dec. 9) and Washington Redskins (Dec. 22) alternating with home games against the Green Bay Packers (Dec. 15) and Philadelphia Eagles (Dec. 29).

“I still think that it’s going to come down to beating the Eagles,” Jones said. “Then again, I’m not forgetting about Washington. We’ve got these two away, two at home, formidable teams. Two of them are neck and neck. One of them will probably get (Aaron) Rodgers back, so those will be big games for us. Chicago on the road. Washington on the road. Believe you me, they’re going to sit here with some resolve after a game like they had the other night. So we’ve got our hands full. This will be a good test for us. If we can come through this thing and somehow get them and have some success and maybe have a chance for the playoffs, we’ll have run a good gauntlet that gets us ready if we don’t get hurt in a key spot.”

Bill Parcells waited to take global views until Thanksgiving. Once he got to Thanksgiving, he would know if his team was in the chase or not. At that point, it was about finishing and positioning.

The Cowboys have to prove they can finish. It has been a theme of Garrett’s for the past couple of seasons. On Thursday, they proved they can come back for a win just four days after an emotional, last-second win on Sunday against the New York Giants.

The Cowboys trailed 21-7 in the first half before Tony Romo directed a 73-yard drive that ended in a touchdown run by DeMarco Murray with 10 seconds left.

"We did start slow, but this team I think it's starting to get to the point where there is no panic anymore," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "A slow start doesn't necessarily mean that's the way the game should go."

An ill Romo was flawless in the second half Thursday, completing all 12 of his passes. The Cowboys put together drives of 10, nine and 14 plays in the second half in scoring 17 points. And now Romo gets another chance to change the belief so many have of him.

As good as Romo has been in November -- he’s now 24-5 -- is as poor as December has been for him. He is 11-15 in December.

"We just need to win some games," Romo said. "I think more than anything else you've just go to keep stacking wins together and see where you're at at the end. Our football team continues to try to improve each week that goes by and I think we’re playing some of our better football right now."