Cowboys already facing December doldrums

The Dallas Cowboys already have the December doldrums again, no

matter how much coach Wade Phillips wants to avoid that kind of

discussion.

“Well, the facts are that we’re 8-4,” Phillips said Monday,

trying to fire a preventive strike for the questions he knew were

coming. “It’s crushing when you lose a ball game, but you’ve got

to bounce back from those things. It’s a 16-game season, the

results from the 16 games determine where you are.”

Yes, the Cowboys have won two-thirds of their games so far. But

on the first Sunday in December, after winning seven of their eight

previous games, they couldn’t win despite career-best days from

Tony Romo and Jason Witten, another 100-yard game from Miles Austin

and even two touchdowns from Roy Williams.

With a 10-0 lead and a chance to bury the struggling Giants in

the NFC East, the Cowboys lost 31-24 on Sunday in New York.

That allowed the Giants to move within one game of the division

lead instead of falling three games back with four to play. And the

Cowboys now share the NFC East lead with Philadelphia, the team

that kept them from making the playoffs last season.

The Cowboys’ failures in December have been well-documented, and

stretch the past 12 seasons – all that have passed since they last

won a playoff game in the 1996 season.

Last year, they were 1-3 in December to miss the playoffs by one

game after a 44-6 loss at Philadelphia in the season finale. They

were 13-3 in Phillips’ debut the season before that, then lost

twice in December before getting beat in their first playoff

game.

Dallas plays its only December home game Sunday against AFC

West-leading San Diego (9-3). The Cowboys then go to undefeated NFC

South leader New Orleans and Washington before ending the season at

home Jan. 3 against the Eagles.

And they face that difficult stretch already with talk of

another December jinx.

“We can’t allow that to creep up on us. We can’t let that

happen,” Witten said after 14 catches for a career-high 156 yards

against the Giants. “We’re too talented for that, too good for

that. We’ve got to step up now and do something about it. We’re at

a critical point. We can’t let this thing turn.”

Romo was 41-of-55 passing for a career-best 392 yards with three

touchdowns and no interceptions in New York. Austin had 10 catches

for 104 yards and a touchdown, and Williams had his first two-TD

game since coming to Dallas midway through last season.

The locker room was virtually empty when open to reporters

Monday, which as usual, was before players were required to be at

the facility.

“Until we win, I know we’re going to hear about (December),”

linebacker Bradie James said after the game. “No matter how bad it

can be, we’ve got to figure out a way to win. We’ve got to fix the

mistakes, and we had a couple of them. We still have four games and

guys will respond. We just have to stay together.”

Phillips said Monday that he is confident his team will bounce

back from losses like it has before.

Despite repeated questions about late-season failures of the

past, and the loss to start this December, Phillips said what will

happen the rest of this season can’t be determined yet. He kept

referring to a 16-game schedule and the team’s current record and

standing as co-leaders in the NFC East with a head-to-head

tiebreaker against the Eagles.

“I think we have a winning team,” Phillips said. “If you have

a bunch of winners, I think you’re going to bounce back from

losses. I think also they do take it one game at a time and that’s

what we need to continue to do.”