Cowboys Next Goal: A Return To Normalcy
For the first time since 2009, the Dallas Cowboys are 7-3. That was the last time this proud franchise won the NFC East and the last time it won a playoff game.
Once upon a time, that represented Cowboys "normalcy.'' Now? The ultimate goal remains the same; Dez Bryant is among the Cowboys who doesn't shy away from saying the words "Super Bowl.''
"Of course I say it,'' Dez told me at the team hotel in London in the wee hours following the Cowboys' 31-17 pounding of Jacksonville. "Why not put goals into words?''
And yet there is a more modest goal at the moment for a team that under coach Jason Garrett has sniffed around the edges of success -- this coach's clubs have been 6-4 (2011) and 5-5 (2012, 2013) but never sitting quite this pretty.
The next goal: Normalcy.
"There have some things up to this point that have been real positive for us and things that have been disappointed by," Garrett told us in the bowels of Wembley Stadium, delivering a sort of State-of-the-Union address. "But for the most part over the course of the first 10 weeks we feel good about the position that we're in."
That's the sort of evaluation a coach is usually asked to offer at the midway point of the season. But post-London, the bye week looms. It's a chance for rest and rehab and reflection.
"I'm proud,'' said QB Tony Romo of his teammates, "that they have gotten themselves and gotten ourselves in this position. ... (But) no one has won anything yet. It's all in front of you. You got to take it and move forward and get better."
Romo -- now sporting an NFL-best 26-4 record in the month of November -- will move forward in a way that allows his aching back to recover. His two transverse process fractures can completely heal by the time Dallas takes its next trip, two weeks from now, against division-foe New York. NFL leading rusher DeMarco Murray can use the time off. So can a Dallas defense that has more than done its part in helping the Cowboys try to put mediocrity behind them.
And Dez Bryant? He celebrated his 26th birthday in London on Tuesday, celebrated in a more literal sense on Friday (and came in too late because of it), was stellar in the win (his six catches for 158 yards and two spectacular scores all came in the pour-it-on second quarter) and now has some time to concentrate on other matters.
The bye week and contract negotiations make for a good fit, you know.
"I'm not going to pay any attention to the negativity,'' Dez told me. "I'm doing everything I can to be a good teammate, a good father, a good man. Part of my job -- and Tony and Witt (Jason Witten) both do this so well -- is to help us continue to keep our head down and focus on our goal, and we all know what that is.
"Stay together, play together, and hope for the best."
For three straight years, the Cowboys' season finale has represented the "NFC East Championship Game.'' Dallas is at Washington this year so that probably won't about the NFC East crown. But showdowns will come quickly. Nov. 23 at the Giants. Four days later, at home for Thanksgiving against the division-leading Eagles. Of course, that's "normalcy'' for the Cowboys. Special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia told me he's already done a lot of work on the Eagles gameplan so it can be installed in the short week after the Giants game, which he's also done extensive gameplanning work on.
"I think this Saturday is my annual chance to go to dinner with my wife,'' Bisaccia told me. "I'm really looking forward to that.''
Again, another Cowboys grasp at normalcy.
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