IRVING, Texas -- It’s hardly the rallying cry that would be befitting of one of those t-shirts Jason Garrett likes so much, but this is what has become of the Dallas Cowboys' season: Just get a win.
Forget the playoffs. You can even do your best Jim Mora imitation if you want. At 2-7, the Cowboys’ season is not about the playoffs anymore.
A simple W. Imagine that for a moment. The Cowboys are in their longest losing streak since 1989. Twenty-four current Cowboys weren’t even born when the Cowboys lost their final seven games of Troy Aikman's rookie season. They have lost because their defense has not been good enough (failure to hold leads). They have lost games when the offense has not been good enough (failure to score a touchdown in three games). They have lost games because special teams have not been good enough (allowing a 100-yard kickoff return).
On Monday, Garrett said more than twice that the Cowboys had been in six of their seven losses. They had the lead at halftime in four of the seven games. They were tied or in the lead in the fourth quarter of six of the seven games.
One of the t-shirts Garrett had made up this year reads, “Finish.” The Cowboys haven’t come close to finishing. They have been outscored 73-30 in the fourth quarter and overtime during the losing streak. They couldn’t hold fourth-quarter leads against the Atlanta Falcons, Seattle Seahawks or Buccaneers, although none of those advantages were greater than three points.
So much of the losing streak has been the same old story.
“They’re all tough, man,” wide receiver Cole Beasley said. “But I mean I’d say, it gets more frustrating the more they add up. But I mean, what we do in this locker room, we lose one, we forget about it and we move on to the next one and we work hard. So this is the hardest working team I’ve ever been with. If anybody can get out of this hole it’s us.”
During the losing streak the common refrain has been the sad state of the NFC East. Only the New York Giants have a .500 record (5-5). The Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins are 4-5. The Cowboys can keep pointing to being only two games back in the loss column.
The loss to the Buccaneers did not lose them any ground to the Giants, who lost to the Patriots, but only seven games remain.
“We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that,” Garrett said. “We focus on ourselves. Certainly, we understand what the landscape of the division is and what the other teams’ records are, but if you spend too much time thinking about them you’re not putting your best foot forward. The approach we take is focus on us, focus on today and focus on the challenge we have this week.”
The challenge this week is the Miami Dolphins, led by former Cowboys tight end and current interim coach Dan Campbell. The Cowboys rarely take a big-picture view under Garrett and that message seems even more appropriate right now.
The Cowboys will have to go at least 6-1 to possibly have a chance to win the NFC East. That might not be good enough. They might have to be perfect over the final seven weeks. And that might not be good enough.
“It’s about winning games, man,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “Can’t think about the playoffs. We got to think one game at a time. One game at a time. One game at a time.”
What could one win do?
“One can do a lot,” Mincey said. “One can do a lot. We just got to get one. Just one.”
Maybe that should be the message on the t-shirts.