Cowboys defensive captain Bradie James had so many messages to send Wednesday that he didn’t bother waiting for any questions.
As soon as reporters approached his locker, James launched into a 1 1/2-minute soliloquy on all the things Dallas needs to accomplish against the New York Giants on Sunday.
The short version: He wants to stick the Giants with a loss that will bury their season, get revenge for them spoiling the debut game at Cowboys Stadium (and for supposedly bragging about it) and deliver a measure of payback for knocking Dallas out of the playoffs two seasons ago.
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He also wants to keep the Cowboys in first place in the NFC East and get their dangerous December off to a good start.
“There’s no way of getting around just how much we need to win,” James said. “There’s no need to say ‘We’ll get them next time’ or ‘We have more games’ because if you look at it in that way, we’ll never turn the corner. This team needs to win. We’re in a good position. We’re No. 1 in our division and the only way we can stay No. 1 is we have to beat the teams in our division. … That’s it. No excuses.”
The Cowboys (8-3) have won six of their last seven to grab control of the NFC East. However, four of their remaining five games are against teams with winning records, and the only exception is a longtime rival they beat by one point at home.
Plus, there’s the black cloud of their post-Thanksgiving woes: 5-10 since Tony Romo took over and no winning record in December and January since 1996, which also was the last time Dallas won a playoff game.
James is in his seventh season, so he’s been through plenty of the struggles. He’s still hurt by the playoff loss to the Giants following the 2007 season, when the Cowboys were coming off a 13-3 season that included a pair of wins over New York. The Giants went on to win the Super Bowl that season, while Dallas missed the playoffs last year before shaking up the roster coming into this season.
“There’s no way that I can forget that,” James said. “The only way we can get past that is we’ve got to go ahead and beat these guys.”
And beat ’em up, he hopes.
“I might have to carry a portable ice tub,” he said. “That’s the mentality that they have, we have. It’s going to be a good, old, tough game.”
James has been one of the team’s louder leaders for several years. This speech was unique because he was bucking the company line about ignoring the subject of their disastrous Decembers.
“The truth is the truth,” he said. “What I’ve learned is no matter what your season is individually – you can have one of the best seasons of your career – if you lose and don’t go to the playoffs, you’re going to get criticized. Nobody is exempt from the criticism if you don’t take care of business in December and go to the playoffs and do what we need to do. That’s what time it is now. That’s what we’ve got to do.”
The Giants (6-5) have lost five of their last six games and injuries are piling up. Linebacker Antonio Pierce just went on injured reserve, quarterback Eli Manning is playing through some foot injuries and two backup running backs missed practice Wednesday and may not be available Sunday.
Dallas, of course, couldn’t care less. Not considering all the recent history in this rivalry, especially New York’s 33-31 victory in the first regular-season game at Cowboys Stadium, Dallas’ only loss in its $1.2 billion showplace.
As if all that wasn’t bad enough, James said Manning rubbed it in by scribbling his name and adding the score, the date and the words “First Win in the New Stadium” on a concrete column in the visitors’ locker room. James hasn’t seen it, but he’s seen a picture and is convinced it’s real.
True or not, it’s being used as motivation.
“We won’t forget that,” James said. “It just makes for a more intense game.”
With the Giants moving into a new stadium next season, this almost certainly will be the Cowboys‘ final appearance at Giants Stadium. So is James bringing a pen to leave his own mark on the visiting locker room walls?
“I don’t know, I might,” he said. “I just want to win and that’s it. I’ll let our playing do all the talking. That’s it. … I don’t care if it’s by 30 or if it’s by a point, we just have to take care of business and get rid of these guys right now.”