Commentary

Jason Garrett's message gets through

Cowboys interim coach's focus on handling adversity has made team more resilient

Updated: December 6, 2010, 5:50 PM ET
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett quickly raised his arms, smiled and calmly took off his headset after David Buehler's game-winning field goal went through the uprights with 7:55 to play in overtime.

His response fell in line with how he has operated as the Dallas Cowboys' interim head coach over the last month: businesslike and measured.

With Sunday's 38-35 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts, the Cowboys are 3-1 under Garrett in this forgettable 4-8 season. There will be no playoffs, but that does not mean the season will be complete loss.

Garrett has made sure of that since taking over for Wade Phillips on an interim basis at the least.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireJason Garrett walked off the field a winner the third time in four games since he became the Cowboys' interim head coach.

"We are certainly giving him the opportunity, win over the fans," said Jerry Jones, Cowboys owner and general manager.

The Cowboys have taken on the personality of their coach. He lasted 12 years as a backup quarterback in the NFL for four different franchises on guile and smarts more than physical ability. He fought and scrapped, not for playing time, but for a roster spot.

Players who go through that tend to make the best coaches. They have to pay attention to detail. They have to look everywhere for an edge. They have to know everybody's job.

"Everything I would have thought he'd be about -- his organization, his energy, his quickness, his ability to articulate his ideas to the players, his ability to get them to understand what it is he wants, what he's trying to tell them -- all of that is really positive as the head coach," Jones said. "I thought it was really good as the coordinator, but it's working real well after four games as the head coach."

Inside one of the ballrooms of the Westin on Saturday night, Garrett talked to the team about handling adversity that would come their way Sunday. He repeated it to them inside the locker room Sunday.

"Adversity is going to happen, but it's what you do in adversity that shapes who you are," receiver Miles Austin recalled as Garrett's message.

There was no more trying time on Sunday than after Taj Smith blocked Mat McBriar's punt and recovered it for a touchdown to give Indianapolis a 28-27 lead in the fourth quarter. A 17-0 lead built in the first two quarters had evaporated, and Lucas Oil Stadium was as loud as it had been all day.

"You have to look at each other and say, 'Let's go. Let's go to work. This is where it gets fun,'" Garrett said. "I used the expression last week: You don't blink in that situation."

The Cowboys responded with a season-high 18-play drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Jason Witten and subsequent two-point conversion to Roy E. Williams with 2:38 to play.

Adversity did not affect the Cowboys after Peyton Manning answered with a game-tying drive capped by a Javarris James touchdown run with 29 seconds to play in regulation. The defense opened overtime with a stop and put the Cowboys in position to win the game with Sean Lee's second interception on the Colts' second drive.

Adversity did not affect Buehler either. He missed from 48 yards to close the first half and had the game-tying 59-yarder he missed versus New Orleans on Thanksgiving on his mind, too. Even when Indianapolis called timeout to ice him one final time, it didn't affect him.

"You've got to bring what you do on the practice field out to the game field," Buehler said. "I made a ton in practice and had to come out here and make it when it counts."

Buehler did, and another Garrett axiom hit home: Stack good days on top of one another.

"It takes everybody from the equipment guys to Tony Romo," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "It takes all of us, and the guys have bought into that. ... We didn't respond to that adversity at the beginning of the year. That's the difference in our football team. We're responding to it now."

Todd Archer covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his mailbag.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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