Taking Care of Business

A simple proclamation that is easier said than done. In most cases, when a team is coming off an emotional high, following a "quality" win, they tend to struggle in the very next contest.

Thursday will be a true test for the Cowboys, and they can only pray it doesn't come down to a "must have" field goal to win. It's most difficult not being in position to savor the win over the Colts, but the Boys are staring down the barrel of the dreaded "short week" of preparation. There's no time to bask in Sunday's glory that was enjoyed by one and all in the Cowboys Nation. Time to get back to work, and they desperately need to take care of their business.

Can they do it? Can they muster up some badly needed consistency? Can they set the table for a December run? Can they productively dismiss inferior opponents and play competitive football against the remaining playoff contenders? The Cowboys need to produce something they haven't done in the last 10 years, and that's manufacturing a winning record in the month of December. Yet, let's not look too far ahead at this juncture. There's still the matter, and a very important one at that, of a Thursday football game on Thanksgiving Day.

In come the ever-improving Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and hopefully Terence Newman is fully conscious to go step for step with former Cowboys' burner Joey Galloway, the most notable of Buccaneer weapons. Hey T-New, the fair catch is your friend. Are some of you still wondering why Parcells doesn't run him out there for every punt? Any more shots like that, and #41 won't see the likes of Honolulu let alone December. Thank goodness he, and running mate Anthony Henry, was able to get up off the plastic and tire bits. Yes, the collective sigh of relief was the entire Cowboys Nation jump-starting their hearts.

The intensity levels must be maintained, and this is where the entire coaching staff and team leadership core must step up. Step up big time!! They cannot afford a meltdown or a step back against visiting Tampa Bay. Penalties and turnovers cannot be responsible for any wind reduction in the current winning sails. Knowing what they have to do is one thing, but executing it is completely another. While the future cannot be ignored, neither can the past. Which begs the following question.

What about Sunday's opponent or game caused the Cowboys to change their defensive philosophy? Did it take a Colts showdown for Zimmer and crew to bring some pocket pressure? Where's that display been in the previous 9 contests? Did it really take a potential HOF inductee coming to Texas Stadium in order to remove the wraps? What about the constant rotation of the front seven? Please don't single out the absence of Greg Ellis as the catalyst for the personnel rotation. Fresh legs make for renewed spirits. It really did resemble the early ‘90's philosophy. The steady stream of fresh bodies had Mr. Manning frustrated. A Colts' fan was overheard on his way out of Texas Stadium, "Peyton and Dungy blew it by not testing the Cowboys deep." Certainly the Achilles Heel was correctly identified, but the solution was unobtainable due to the mere presence of constant pressure. Amazing what happens when the heat is turned up.

Speaking of which, if a Bunsen burner or Aggie-sized bomb fire isn't lit under Vander-clank's sorry backside, flamethrowers should be purchased by the dozens. While it's easy to spend other people's money, no one would blink an eye if Jerry departed with about $4+ million of his invested income. There was a collective sigh of relief when the organization actually paid for a proven commodity at place kicker. Oh, how wrong that sigh has proven to be. To complicate matters, it's debatable whether the actual misses or his overall demeanor cause more consternation. This guy is a donkey through and through. Just ask him. The sheer audacity displayed as he sauntered off the field at halftime was enough to call for his immediate release.

While most normal human beings would have completely melted into the masses or avoided the public embarrassment, such was not the case with Vanderjagt. Even during pure humiliation, he calls complete attention to himself. His waltz to the Cowboys' tunnel was nothing short of a "look at me" death march. It was as pathetic as his two first half efforts. Not this past Sunday, but if this road continues to be hauled, it's going to cost the Cowboys in the games ahead. Parcells said, "Ya, it's starting to concern me." Well, how about ridding yourself of the concerns? Continued affiliations with this sidewinder will only prove the organization is as goofy as he is. Furthermore, he has the fan-supported Verizon commercial spot to keep him afloat while looking for another sucker to offer him employment.

This whole mantra can be summarized with one word. CONSISTENCY. It's all about consistent application of productive, practiced (endlessly) principles. The penalties and turnovers were there again Sunday, but the abundance was greatly reduced. The Cowboys need to forge some consistency heading into December. They have not been a good December team (home or away) in the last decade. Inconsistent Decembers lead to coming up short in playoff consideration or early exits in the post-season tournament. The team continues to mount confidence in Tony Romo and his quarterbacking abilities. If the defense can play shut down, opportunistic football for the remaining six contests, they can set themselves up for potential post-season play. The NFC is a wide-open conference, and there's no reason to believe marginal teams won't get post-season invites. Creating turnovers down the stretch will be key. Opportunistic football is vital heading into the playoffs. Outside of the Chicago Bears, the opportunistic defenses reside in the AFC; the home of balanced football. The atmosphere and NFC landscape favor the Cowboys. They need to use home field advantage to their benefit and mount an impressive December.

Will the chips fall their way? Possibly, but wouldn't you rather they control their own destiny? When you rely on others for help, you find yourself in the unenviable position the Cowboys were in last New Years Eve, and no one wants that sick feeling to duplicate itself. While far from perfection, it appears each week brings a little more continuity, and if continuity transforms itself into consistency, then the stretch run will be most interesting. But, for now, it's all about taking care of business. Tampa first; tomorrow after that. Tampa Bay is the prime "trap" game, and the Cowboys can't afford to get caught sniffing the cheese. Last year Parcells hung mousetraps from the locker room ceiling. He might consider shark cages this go round. Don't get caught looking ahead.

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