They parted with Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson, Greg Ellis, Pacman Jones and safety Roy Williams in the offseason. As a whole, the moves were considered addition by subtraction. In some way, they were distracting.
If you want to point to one reason for the Cowboys' success this season, the selflessness of the roster is a good place to start. The team's chemistry has improved. They have a better sense of team than in past year. The tight-knit group is making plays in tight games as the Cowboys are in the midst of a four-game winning streak and sit atop the NFC East.
"I think they have a good feeling together," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "We have enough young people with veterans. If you want to talk chemistry or whatever, I think we have that with this team. We're not a big ego team. We're kind of a selfless team. But we'll find out more now with everyone telling them they're great. But I think they'll handle it."
Linebacker Bradie James said the sense of community began in training camp. He said that was evident in crunch time against the Eagles on Sunday.
"This year, so far, has been definitely the best team atmosphere," James said. "With the characters we have on this team, guys are really just playing for one another, understanding the goals we have, sticking by each other's side. You want to know as players what you can count on and who you can rely on when the funk hits the fan and we know that we can definitely rely on each other."
Coming to Green Bay on high note
The Cowboys exorcised some big demons Sunday in a 20-16 victory against the Eagles.
They made amends and vindicated themselves of their embarrassing 44-6 loss to the Eagles in the 2008 season finale.
To lose that bad in the final game with the playoffs on the line was downright criminal.
The Cowboys spent all offseason trying to get over it and change their character — labeled as soft and unable to get the job done in big games.
Certainly, the Cowboys appeared to be on the right road through the first seven games of this season and rode a three-game winning streak into Philadelphia. But they needed to prove it to themselves. They needed that validation in Philadelphia.
"Our last loss against them really motivated us to come out and play (well)," Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware said.
Now, the Cowboys (6-2) are riding a four-game winning streak and are alone in the first place in the NFC East at the midpoint of the season. They are one game ahead of the Eagles (5-3) and 1.5 games ahead of the free-falling Giants (5-4), who are riding a four-game losing streak.
The Cowboys play at a sputtering Green Bay (4-4) next week and then have home games against the lowly Redskins (2-6) and Raiders (2-6) on Thanksgiving Day before a 10-day layoff preceding the crucial December stretch.
In fact, the Cowboys' defense played lights out against the Eagles, who were one of the most explosive teams in the league coming into the game.
The Cowboys kept their corners deep and gave up no big scoring plays. The Eagles couldn't consistently drive the field.
And when it mattered most, quarterback Tony Romo exorcised his own demons. The quarterback who couldn't win the big one, who failed at crunch time, threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin to send the Cowboys to victory Sunday.
Austin used a double move to get behind Sheldon Brown. Romo pump-faked and laid the ball into his breadbasket. Austin then split two defenders and raced to the end zone.
Romo finished 21-of-34 for 307 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
"We executed," said Romo, who returns to his home state to face Green Bay. "I think the coaches put together a good plan. You just have to keep fighting and getting better."
News and notes
— WR Miles Austin was held without a catch into the fourth quarter against the Eagles. He hauled in a 49-yard touchdown reception. He has a receiving touchdown in four straight games, the longest streak by a Dallas pass-catcher since Terrell Owens had a touchdown in seven straight games in 2007.
"They doubled him some, which we hadn't seen, but a lot of the time he was open, it just wasn't the read that Tony (Romo) had," Phillips said. "I feel good about him being consistent in that he is running good routes and he is hard to cover."Hopefully, we will hit him some more times when he has those openings."
Austin had 49 receiving yards against the Eagles to give him 531 over the previous four games — the third-most over a four-game span in team history. Terrell Owens had 575 yards between Oct. 21 and Nov. 18 in '07 and 537 from Nov. 4-22 that season.
— The Cowboys signed cornerback Jamar Love to the practice squad Monday. Love originally signed with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent on April 30. He was released by the Patriots in August 2009 and signed with British Colombia of the CFL on Oct. 22, where he remained until his release on Nov. 6. He played four years for Arkansas and recorded 77 tackles and 15 pass breakups in 42 games with nine starts. The Cowboys needed another body at cornerback to practice with after Mike Mickens was signed off the practice squad by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
— LB Keith Brooking's streak of 135 consecutive starts (140 including playoffs) came to an end against the Eagles when the Cowboys opened in a nickel package. The streak started in 2001 when with the Falcons.
— RB Tashard Choice had his third rushing touchdown of the season. Choice lined up at quarterback and took the snap from center for a 2-yard score. It was the first rushing touchdown of his career in that formation.
— QB Tony Romo threw for 307 yards against the Eagles, his 20th career 300-yard outing. It was his fourth 300-yard game of the season, the third-most in a season in club history behind his seven in 2007 and six in 2008. Romo's streak of attempts without an interception came to an end in the third quarter. He had attempted 143 straight passes without an interception — the longest streak in his career.
— TE Jason Witten's 43 yards receiving against the Eagles gave him 5,333 for his career and allowed him to pass Wesley Walls (5,291) for 15th all-time among league tight ends.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.