Under fire

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is under fire and his team is coming to the rescue just in time for Sunday's must-win game against the San Diego Chargers.

Several players have called out media members for their line of questions to Phillips, regarding his leadership and accountability. Phillips is accused of not being tough enough by ignoring the team's problems in December.

The Cowboys are 3-6 in December under Phillips and have not had a winning December since 1996, which was the last time they won a playoff game.

They are 0-1 this season after last week's loss to the Giants and face a crucial stretch that could make or break their chances of making the playoffs this season -- despite standing tied atop the NFC East with the Eagles at 8-4.

A loss to the Chargers would have them facing a possible three-game losing streak with the undefeated Saints up next. Then all bets are off with games against the Redskins and the Eagles to end the season.

Phillips said all that matters to him is this game and called his team winners. A reporter said the Cowboys' history doesn't suggest they are winners, causing linebacker Keith Brooking to fire back.

"Is he supposed to call us losers?" asked Brooking. "We're not talking about last year. We're not talking about two years ago.

"Bullcrap," Brooking said. "Why are we talking about two years ago? It's not about two years ago. It's about the Dallas Cowboys right now. We're 8-4. We're leading our division. There are two teams in the NFC with better records than we have.

"Am I happy about that? Hell no, I'm not happy with that. I want to get in the tournament and I want to win the whole damn thing, but at the end of the day, we are what we are. There are two teams in the NFC that are better than us, and our head coach I guess is supposed to sit in a press conference and call us losers because we went to New York and lost a game."

Phillips downplayed the notion that NFL players would try to win for their coach. But he does appreciate the relationships he has established with his players.

"It's a personal game," Phillips said. "It's not just, you're the coach and you don't ever talk to the players and those kind of things.

"I think they know I work hard at what I do and try to do my best for them."

It got personal with Brooking. He hates the notion that Phillips is called soft and the criticism that he doesn't hold players accountable. He said most outsiders only know what they see but are not there enough to know the truth.

"He owns up to it every day in front of us," Brooking said. "Because you might not perceive it as that means nothing, means nothing to me, means nothing to the football team. I'm there every day.

"I'm there at every meeting. I'm there every day during practice. You're in the locker room for 35 minutes a day, maybe. You're on the practice field while we stretch. You're not there every day. You don't see what goes on at every meeting and every practice, the sacrifices that we make, the accountability that Wade Phillips holds us to every day.

"I'll go to fight for that man until I hang my cleats up and I'm done playing football, because I have the utmost respect for him. Everything I've seen from my teammates and everything I've heard, they feel the same way, bottom line."

Phillips said he appreciates the sentiment from Brooking and the rest of his players.

"I'd fight for him all the way, too," Phillips said, "because he gives everything he's got on the field and he's a great guy off the field. That's the kind of players you like. That's the kind of players you want to have on your football team."

SERIES HISTORY: 9th regular-season meeting. Cowboys lead the series 6-2. Five of the eight games were decided by six points or less with the other two decided by more than 10 points. The Cowboys are 2-1 in games played in Texas. Dallas has faced only three teams -- Jacksonville (four), Baltimore (three) and Houston (two) -- fewer than the eight times it has faced San Diego.

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