Cowboys can't eat the cheese

IRVING, Texas -- Brandon Carr didn't play for Bill Parcells, but the Dallas Cowboys cornerback is aware of a famous Parcells-ism: Don't eat the cheese.

Parcells told that to his players when things were going well. He didn't want them to read about their successes for fear it would infect their work. It was Parcells trying to affect the players' minds.

At 3-1, the Cowboys are something of a surprise. They have the NFL's leading rusher in DeMarco Murray. They have a dominating offensive line. They have a defense that has played better than many thought.

And everybody is about ready to believe that they are for real.

"Don't read your own clippings," Carr said, offering up a definition for don't eat the cheese. "It's 17 weeks and you can't come up for air until the 17 weeks. You know around here how things go in December and January and those last couple of games. It's crucial that, like you said, you don't eat the cheese, keep the chip on your shoulder, stay hungry and just keep that attitude because we're still in the process of establishing our identity as a football team."

Coach Jason Garrett does not offer up any Parcells-like imagery. He prefers to talk about the process and having a great Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. Carr claimed to be unaware of the Cowboys' schedule beyond this week and how four of their next five are at home.

"We're not going to have any issues with complacency," Garrett said. "We'll make that point very loudly and clearly. But one of the byproducts of doing this new schedule the way we're doing it is the emotional part kind of goes away by the time we get to the tape, and that's a really good thing. When we watch the tape, it's about learning. There's no better environment to learn in than the game. The game is just such a valuable teaching tool. You keep the standard high. You hear me say this all the time, build on the good stuff. Recognize it and build on it. Those are good things. That should give guys confidence, that should make us feel good as a team. Having said that, there's plenty of stuff that you got to address. We're going to address it and we're going to get it right."

It's one thing for Carr to understand the one-game-at-a-time process. He is in his seventh season. He is used to life in the NFL, but the majority of teammates are not.

The Cowboys haven't been 3-1 since 2008. Only Jason Witten, Tony Romo, L.P. Ladouceur, Anthony Spencer, Doug Free and Orlando Scandrick remain from that team. Only 16 players have been around for the four-game winning streak the Cowboys experienced in 2011.

The majority of the Cowboys have not experienced what it's like to have sustained success in a regular season. They know nothing more than 8-8.

"I think we're young enough to not even think about the cheese, that's how young we are, which is good," Carr said. "Don't even know about the cheese. As long as nobody puts no mouse traps around they're not going to know what it is."