Playoffs Well Within Cowboys' Grasp

If the month of September is any sort of preview of the rest of the season for the Dallas Cowboys, you better hold onto your hat. Following a 2-2 September, the Cowboys have positioned themselves to make a playoff run <b>this season.</b> The key to that run will be the continual improvement of the defense and the growth of quarterback Quincy Carter.

I'll be the first to say it. The Cowboys have a shot at making the playoffs, and no, I'm not talking about next year. I'm talking about this year.

Sure, most oddmakers won't buy it, and the experts will certainly laugh at the notion, but the fact is that the Dallas Cowboys finished the most difficult stretch of their season at a modest 2-2.

If I recall correctly, most folks had the Cowboys pegged at 1-3 after 4 games. An easy win in the season opener in Houston, a tough loss to the Tennessee Titans, a rough one in Philly, followed by another blowout in St. Louis were almost etched in stone by the media in late July.

Boy, were they wrong.

Following an embarrassing loss to the expansion Houston Texans in week one, the Boys rebounded by taking out one of the Superbowl favorites in the AFC. After a blowout loss in Philadelphia, Dallas responded in a big way by taking out the St. Louis Rams Sunday.

Even with the Rams reeling with 3 consecutive losses, they still are known as the "Greatest Show on Turf," and most experts still felt like they would rebound to make the playoffs.

Thanks to Dallas, the playoffs appear to no longer be in the cards. 0-4 is almost an obstacle to big to overcome, even for the high flying Rams.

Simply put, Sunday's win was huge, and everyone wearing the silver star knows it. "This is the type of win that will hopefully give us momentum and propel us the rest of the season," said defensive end La'Roi Glover said.

"This was a huge win for a young team," said Dexter Coakley. "I don't care what their record is, we won that game. Everyone looked at our schedule and picked us to lose. This just shows us what we can do."

While the Cowboys may not have won beauty contests in their two wins, the team seems to be improving on both sides of the football.

Quincy Carter, while not spectacular, has been effective in the two Cowboy victories. He's thrown for over 200 yards in the last 3 games and given the proper time; he seems to make better decisions every week.

Rookie wide receiver Antonio Bryant has done an excellent job filling in for the injured Raghib Ismail, and the additions of Roy Williams, La'Roi Glover, and Kevin Hardy have already started paying off in the young season.

Sure, there still is a big question mark at cornerback, and the offense seems to struggle to find an identity at times, but as each week passes, the Cowboys find a way to work around it.

And with upcoming games against Carolina, Seattle, Arizona, and Detroit, the schedule looks friendly for the first time in years.

"We need to keep building on what we're doing here the next few weeks. We just want to be consistent and win some football games, and right now we're headed in the right direction," said Carter.

So what about the playoffs, can the Cowboys make a run this season? You bet they can, but the key to a potential playoff run will be improvement.

The defense must continue to play well, make plays, and keep the scoring down. Through 4 games, the Cowboys are giving up an average of 21.5 points per contest. While that number is high, it's somewhat inflated considering that more half of the total points scored against Dallas came in a 44-point explosion by the Eagles.

Ideally, the defense is going to have to limit the opposition to under 20 points a game if the Cowboys are going to have a realistic chance to win. The offense simply hasn't found a steady rhythm yet.

And speaking of the offense, Quincy Carter and company must learn to sustain longer drives with touchdowns, not field goals. As Bruce Coslet develops a better understanding for this team's limitations in certain situations, I have a feeling that the offense will become more productive- it's only a matter of time.

"We are still learning, but I like the direction this team is headed," said Dave Campo. "We've got some things to work with, all we need to do now is continue to improve."

Improvement- that's the name of the game for this team this year. How fast that improvement comes will be the difference between the playoffs and another losing season.

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