The players understand they have little margin for error in their last six games, so there wasn't much jubilation in the locker room after their 24-14 win.
Tony Romo wandered around the locker room shaking hands and handing out words of encouragement, and several players sat at their lockers smiling after the end of the club's longest losing streak in 26 years.
The performance pleased coach Jason Garrett, who's at his best under circumstances such as these. Garrett's strength is motivating his team to live in the moment -- not yesterday or tomorrow -- which is why he's talking about his players having a good meeting, followed by a good walk-through, followed by a good practice each day. He says that gives the Cowboys their best chance to play well on Sundays.
Garrett refuses to let the Cowboys focus on the enormity of the task they're trying to accomplish -- to make the playoffs after starting 2-7, which no team has ever done. Sure, they trail only the New York Giants by two games in the NFC East and the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins by one game. But last place is last place.
A win Thursday over the undefeated Carolina Panthers, who have outscored their opponents by 108 points this season, would give the Cowboys a tremendous emotional boost before they get 10 days to prepare for a matchup at Washington.
"We've got a lot of really good guys on our football team and our football character is outstanding," Garrett said. "A tremendous work ethic, tremendous competitive spirit, and I think we've demonstrated that over the last couple of months."
None of that resulted in wins, but Garrett insists he never questioned his process. All he wants is for the players to work as hard as they can every day. Do that, he tells them, and the results will take care of themselves.
"Just come and spend a little time with us in our locker room on our practice field and watch our team play on Sunday," Garrett said. "That's how we play.
"Give credit to our guys and give credit to our coaches. You just come to work and you keep fighting and you keep battling."
It's no longer enough to battle. Now, the Cowboys must win.
Romo, who returned from a seven-game absence against Miami, gives his teammates confidence. That's important because so much about professional sports is whether a team believes it can win.
"He just gives us that juice," wide receiver Dez Bryant said of Romo. "We know who our leader is."
Today's NFL is all about the quarterback, and every time Romo steps on the field, the Cowboys think they have an edge at quarterback. While Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is in the MVP race based on the season he's having, the Cowboys still expect Romo to put them in position to win the game.
Romo makes the running game better because teams must respect his ability to throw. And he makes the defense better because the offense is scoring points and winning time of possession.
The Cowboys ran 38 times and passed 28 times against Miami. They kept the ball for 38 minutes and ran 27 plays more than the Dolphins. It's the formula Dallas used to win 12 games -- and the NFC East -- last season.
So it doesn't matter if history says the Cowboys won't achieve the impossible and make the playoffs.
"We believe," tight end Jason Witten said. "It's not my job to convince you or anybody else that we can do it.
"Our mindset is to take it one game at a time because we believe we can make the plays we need to win games each week."