4-game win streak sends Cowboys to top of NFC East

BY foxsports • November 10, 2009

The last time the Dallas Cowboys felt this good, Tony Romo and friends went to Mexico to celebrate. It's been a wild ride for the quarterback and the club since that pre-playoff siesta two years ago, but look at them now: 6-2, winners of four straight and in first place in the NFC East. Better still, the Cowboys are fresh off a 20-16 victory at Philadelphia that was satisfying in many ways. Exorcising the bad mojo from a 44-6 loss in last season's finale, which kept Dallas out of the playoffs, was part of the fun. Another key is that this win validates the changes since then were the right moves. "That's definitely another step up the ladder because it gives you confidence," linebacker Bradie James said Monday. "With it being the midpoint of the season, you really want to know. You want to know as players what you can count on and who you can rely on when the funk hits the fan, and we know that we can definitely rely on each other." The more the Cowboys win, the more everyone talks about camaraderie. There's no telling which causes the other, but Dallas is getting contributions from a lot of players and all three units. "If you want to talk chemistry or whatever, I think we have that with this team," coach Wade Phillips said. "We're not a big ego team. We're kind of a selfless team. But we'll find out more now with everyone telling them they're great. I think they'll handle it." Next up is a trip to Green Bay (4-4). For Romo, it's a visit to his home state. For DeMarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff, it could be a chance to pad their stats because Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers already has been sacked 37 times, easily the most in the NFL. James insists the Cowboys aren't looking beyond Sunday, but he knows fans are. And they like what they see: Washington (2-6) and Oakland (2-6) after the Packers. If Dallas can win them all, it would have nine wins before it even gets to "that December cloud over our head," as James called it Monday. Poor final months are a big reason the Cowboys haven't won a playoff game since 1996. "This game was kind of like a foreshadowing for me for December," James said. "Now we have to continue to stack up wins." Phillips is trying to keep everyone from getting too full of themselves by noting they're only 1-1 in division play. He also can use the last four weeks as a reminder of how quickly things can change. Back then, Dallas was 2-2 and considered in big trouble because it needed overtime to beat winless Kansas City, and the New York Giants were a 5-0 juggernaut. The Giants haven't won since and the Cowboys haven't lost. Dallas' surge has truly been a team effort. Romo is doing a steady job of leading the offense, helping receiver Miles Austin blossom into a star while still spreading the ball around "wherever the defense dictates," as he's fond of saying. The stat sheet shows it's no cliche as the Cowboys got contributions from all sorts of players against the Eagles. Supposed-to-be No. 1 receiver Roy Williams finally became a factor and No. 5 option Kevin Ogletree made several key plays. The Cowboys also got an early touchdown from backup running back Tashard Choice on their version of the Wildcat (they prefer "Razorback"), the winning touchdown from Austin, then in the final minutes starting running back Marion Barber and tight end Jason Witten picked up the first downs needed to run out the clock. On defense, Ware and Ratliff continue getting pressure on quarterbacks and sacks, and the secondary is coming up with key plays. On Sunday, Gerald Sensabaugh and Mike Jenkins had interceptions that the offense turned into points and cornerback Terence Newman stoned a much bigger player to force a punt. The biggest play of all, though, was a fourth-and-1 stop that led to Austin's touchdown. Phillips, who also is the defensive coordinator, expected Donovan McNabb to try a quarterback sneak. Dallas worked last week on a unique alignment to stop it, and it paid off. So count coaching as something else that's clicking. "Right now I just think that we have the momentum going for us," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "We just have to keep things rolling and keep playing well."