Jason Garrett: Season's promise started with Niners' loss

IRVING, Texas -- As you look for the game or the play or the moment in which the Dallas Cowboys' season became this, just know your answer will be different than Jason Garrett's.

Maybe it was the Week 2 win at Tennessee when Tony Romo delivered a third-and-15 after the Titans cut a 16-0 halftime lead to just six points. Maybe it was the win at Seattle and that third-and-20 catch by Terrance Williams. Or Romo's spin-o-rama away from J.J. Watt against the Houston Texans. Or the scoreless first half put up by the defense on the New Orleans Saints. Or the comeback from a 21-0 deficit against the St. Louis Rams.

All of them might be good choices as you look back at this 11-4 record and wonder if you want to buy an NFC East champion T-shirt or hat for Christmas.

To Garrett, it was the Week 1 loss to San Francisco. Romo admitted to having some doubt about his own abilities after throwing three interceptions in that game. Garrett found solutions.

"I'm the only guy around that I know who felt good after the San Francisco game," Garrett said. "When I watched that game in detail -- and I told our team this -- I said, 'That game told me what we were capable of doing. But it also told me what we had to do as a football team.' If you remember in that game, we turned the ball over three times against a really good football team, and they took advantage of it. They beat us. They beat us handily. But we also did some positive things. We did a good job on defense, slowing them down. We ran the ball fairly well against a good defensive team. To me, if you get in there and you say, 'Let's take these plays away. Let's not play that way to give good teams these kinds of opportunities. Let's go play this way. Let's defend the run. Let's run the ball. Let's take advantage of some opportunities in the passing game when we get some favorable looks to throw it. That's the kind of team we can be.' I expressed that to our staff after the game. I expressed that to our team."

The Cowboys lost 28-17 to the Niners. San Francisco returned a DeMarco Murray fumble for a touchdown on the game's second play. Later in the first quarter, Romo had a pick returned to the Dallas 2, which was turned into a touchdown. His third interception of the first half was also turned into a touchdown.

San Francisco had a 28-3 halftime lead and coasted in the second half.

Garrett's answer was not even part of the question. Garrett was asked if he had similar doubts as Romo about the quarterback's play after that game.

Garrett brought the answer back to Romo.

"I expressed it to Tony very directly about the style of football we could play and be successful with," Garrett said. "That game to me was encouraging because of the success and the kind of team that that team has been over the last three years, and we did something that really prevented us from winning that game, but I felt like if we could take those plays away, there was a lot of good stuff in that game. That applies to Tony, as well. Tony's a really, really good football player. He's been a good football player for a long, long time, and when he plays the right way in the right kind of environment, he can be among the best in this league. I think that's how he's played throughout this year."

Romo has rebounded with his best season. He has 32 touchdown passes and eight interceptions. In three December games, Romo has 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions. His name has been linked more to most valuable player talk in the last week, but Garrett is not concerned with those conversations.

"Obviously he's had a fantastic year for us. He's been a great leader for our team," Garrett said. "He's played really well. He's made some big plays. He's certainly a difference-making player for our team. Again, we're not really talking about individual statistics and individual rewards. It's about our football team playing good football."

To Garrett, it was about the team after the San Francisco game, too.