Commentary

Cowboys need to stay in winning groove

Takeaways, balanced offense and confidence are keys to more success under Garrett

Updated: November 16, 2010, 2:24 AM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

It's hard to determine what bad teams will do on a week-to-week basis.

But what about teams who have talent, enough that many experts think they should have high aspirations, but underachieve badly?

That describes the Dallas Cowboys after their 33-20 win on Sunday against the New York Giants.

After such a strong performance against the Giants, many fans wondered just where this has been all season.

[+] EnlargeJohn Kitna
AP Photo/Kathy WillensJohn Kitna threw only 22 passes against the Giants, but the Cowboys rolled up 327 yards through the air.

It could take a novel to describe the bad things the Cowboys have gone through in 2010. The reality is that despite the victory over the Giants, the Cowboys have still lost seven of their first nine games heading into Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium.

How do the Cowboys build on things?

"It's harder. It'd be easier if this was the first game of the year and this happened," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "It's harder. We're 2-7 and we can't hide from that."

Interim coach Jason Garrett keeps preaching to his team not to look into the past. Garrett is trying to become the coach of this team full-time, so he has no time to dwell on bad things. He gave himself and his team 24 hours to celebrate the victory over the Giants because he knows the season doesn't stop for the Cowboys just because they won a game.

Garrett has said nobody is going to feel sorry for the Cowboys.

What helps the Cowboys at this stage of the season is they face a Lions team that has lost 25 consecutive road games and will not have its starting quarterback, Highland Park's Matthew Stafford, on Sunday.

A key to the Cowboys' success against the Giants was creating turnovers. The Cowboys forced three turnovers: two interceptions and one fumble recovery. NFL teams have a high success rate when that happens, something Garrett tells his team.

The coach is not big on stats, unlike the former coach in Wade Phillips, who was quick to point out if his team won the battle of total yards, but not the final score.

Garrett believes that whoever wins the turnover battle will win the game.

"We had one interception in the end zone," Garrett said. "But if you are plus-2 in the turnover ratio you have a good chance of winning the game. It starts there."

A balanced offensive attack is also important for the Cowboys to build on. On Sunday, they ran 27 times and threw 22 times. It was the first time all season the Cowboys had more rushing attempts than passing attempts. When they did throw, Kitna challenged the defense with deep passes and connected on big plays of 45, 44 and 27 yards.

Felix Jones was able to get some quality blocks to make things happen in the short passing game. He also turned a screen pass into a 71-yard score.

"It's easier to have a balanced offensive attack when the game and score is manageable," Garrett said. "Certainly, when you are ahead you can continue to run the ball throughout the game.

"We haven't been in those situations in recent weeks."

Attitude readjustments is also the key.

Several players noted a different attitude on Sunday went a long way for the team to have plenty of confidence.

It's these things the Cowboys hope can carry them to their first win streak of the season.

"It's really a great story and I want it to be, even if it's a small consolation," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of beating the Giants and trying to build on it. "I hope it's a good feeling for our fans, but don't think that I think not for one minute that it's a consolation about how we've stunk it up this year. It is not. It's just a way for us to get going."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins covers the Houston Rockets and the NBA for ESPN.com. He joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers as well as colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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