History suggests Cowboys won't climb out of hole

IRVING, Texas -- In Jason Garrett's process-oriented world, there is little use for the big-picture view. That doesn't mean there is no use for the big-picture view.

At the halfway point of their season, the Dallas Cowboys are 2-6. The only teams with a worse record than the Cowboys are the 1-7 Detroit Lions and 2-7 Cleveland Browns and San Diego Chargers. The Cowboys' six-game losing streak is the team’s longest since they lost seven in a row to close the 1989 season.

And yet the Cowboys' chances of recovering this season cannot be dismissed. At least not yet.

Mathematically, everything they wanted to do at the start of the season remains possible, if not probable.

"I think you always want to address that, the perspective part of where we are, where we've been and where we're going and what's out there," Garrett said. "But I don't think you want to spend too much time on that. I don’t think you want to spend too much time talking about other teams in the division, playoff races and all that kind of stuff.

"What we need to do is get better. We're going to come back in here [today] and get better as a football team. We'll show them why we need to get better, how we're going to get better and we'll give them a plan going forward from what we need to do on that day to make our football team better. That]s how we]re going to approach it."

So much of the Cowboys' season has been about what can go wrong will go wrong. The defense has been unable to come up with key stops or takeaways. The offense has not been able to sustain success or avoid critical mistakes.

When that happens, self-doubt creeps in. As the Cowboys rolled through a 12-4 record last year, things weren't perfect, but they expected good things to happen. And the fear is the opposite happens when a team is on a losing streak, spawning a woe-is-me thought process.

"Yeah, that doesn't exist here with the Dallas Cowboys," Garrett said. "It really doesn't exist in the National Football League. Nobody feels sorry for you. So wv've got to come back to work and we've got to coach and teach as well as we can tomorrow when they come back in. We have to learn from this tape. We’ve got to get our eyes forward and get ready for the next challenge."

As much as the disappointment in another loss to the Philadelphia Eagles permeated the locker room as Sunday night turned into Monday morning, the Cowboys remained hopeful, even if some of that hope will be predicated on needing misfortune for others. It didn't sound completely hollow, either.

The Cowboys have had the lead or been tied in the fourth quarter in five of their six losses without Tony Romo. Four of the six losses have been by seven points or less.

"Adversity brings out character in everybody," Matt Cassel said after Sunday's loss. "I think the way that these guys respond and continue to come out and play, there is not one person who is sitting out there feeling sorry for themselves. We do have eight games left. The season is not over by any means. As a professional, you get paid to go out and do a job, and our job is to go out and compete at the highest level each and every week and figure out a way to win.

"There is half a season left. I hate standing up here every week and saying that, but it's the truth."

History, however, suggests a climb that will be nearly impossible to finish.

Just to get an 8-8 finish, the Cowboys must go 6-2 in the second half. For that to possibly be enough for the Cowboys to win the NFC East, the New York Giants can win only twice more. The Eagles can win only three more games.

To finish above .500, the Cowboys will have to do something they have never done in the second half of a 16-game season: finish 7-1. Eight times since 1978, the Cowboys have had 6-2 second halves to the season, including last year, when they finished 12-4.

In 1970, the Cincinnati Bengals started 1-6, finished 7-0 and made the playoffs.

So where does the hope come from for the Cowboys?

"Just in how we play," Garrett said. "How matters. How we practice and how we play matters. We emphasize that to our team a lot. We believe if you play the right way over time, you're going to get the results you want.

"Now, did we play perfectly [Sunday]? No, we did not. There is plenty of stuff to clean up on offense, defense and the kicking game, and we recognize that. But the spirit we played with, the relentlessness we played with, the fight that we played with, makes me know the kind of guys we have on our football team. We're going to keep coaching them, and we're going to keep teaching them and we're going to keep trying to get things right and they're going to respond the right way."