Carter, Cowboys in first place alone under Parcells

Updated: October 6, 2003, 8:13 PM ET

IRVING, Texas -- The day after the Arizona game last year, Quincy Carter was replaced as the Dallas Cowboys' starting quarterback and the team had a losing record for the rest of the season.

After a 24-7 win over the Cardinals on Sunday, the Cowboys (3-1) are alone at the top of the NFC East standings. And Carter, who regained his job during coach Bill Parcells' first training camp, is leading the NFL's top-ranked offense.

What a difference the coach has made in his first month of the regular season.

"He's brought an attitude around here that's second-to-none. That's why our temperament has changed, because of the way he is," Carter said Monday. "I don't think we'd be 3-1 without him."

The Cowboys have their first three-game winning streak since they were 3-0 and last alone atop the NFC East to start 1999, their last playoff season. Dallas has at least 360 total yards in four straight games for the first time since 1993, the year it won its second straight Super Bowl championship.

There are plenty of reasons to feel good after three straight 5-11 seasons.

Still, Parcells is downplaying the early success.

"We're doing some good things, I just don't want to enumerate the things we're doing better, because I don't think we're ready to hear them all," Parcells said. "I'll tell the players, but I don't want anybody to think we're doing great. We're not."

Dallas won consecutive games in New York against the Giants and Jets, both playoff teams last season. But the teams the Cowboys have beaten have a combined 3-10 record.

"I'm trying to get the team to improve and understand what it takes to be successful," Parcells said. "We've got quite a few guys starting to figure that out. We've got a whole bushel basket full that don't know what's going on."

The coach's response doesn't surprise the Cowboys.

"He's going to be pushing all of the way. That's his style, how he does it. It's working," said defensive tackle La'Roi Glover. "He doesn't like to lose, he doesn't like mistakes. And when you win, the ante goes up."

The Cowboys play Sunday against Philadelphia (2-2), which has won the last six games against Dallas by an average margin of 24 points. Dallas then plays at Detroit (1-4) before six straight games, through Thanksgiving Day vs. Miami (3-1), against teams that have winning records.

"We have to try to put some wins together and get in position for November. This isn't going to be an easy task," Parcells said.

In position for what?

"Just to stay in the race," he said. "Your whole goal is in Week 16 to be playing for something. We want to get to the halfway point on the plus-side of the ledger."

Through one-fourth of the season, they've done that.

The Cowboys lead the NFL with 382.2 yards per game. Carter has completed 71 of 126 passes (56 percent) for 1,031 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions.

Carter was benched last season after throwing four interceptions -- two near the goal line -- in a 9-6 loss at Arizona that also included a heated sideline argument with owner Jerry Jones. The Cowboys were 3-4 when Chad Hutchinson took over at quarterback.

When Parcells was hired, he gave both quarterbacks a clean slate. Carter won the job after working with new offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon and quarterback coach Sean Payton.

"He is now more a complete quarterback than a young guy trying to learn how to play," said receiver Joey Galloway.

"Give the kid the credit. Give Mo and Sean credit because all I do is yell at him. That's really the truth," Parcells said. "Then I try to give him some constructive criticism and then I do try to positively reinforce that when I see progress. He's improving and working hard."

That's evident in how Carter celebrated the latest win. He was at the team's practice facility Sunday watching the game film.< ^Extra points:@ Rookie TE Jason Witten underwent surgery after Sunday's game to repair his broken jaw. Parcells said Witten is "very doubtful" for Philadelphia, but won't be out too long. ... The Cowboys have had a 100-yard receiver in every game. Add Antonio Bryant's 170-yard effort in last year's finale, and it's five straight games, the longest streak since a team record seven straight in 1995.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index