Monday, October 19, 2009

Cowboys feeling better about NFC East foes


IRVING, Texas - Those ugly wins are starting to look a lot better to the Dallas Cowboys.

After seeing all three of their NFC East foes lose Sunday while they were enjoying their bye weekend, the Cowboys returned to work Monday a little more proud of their 3-2 record.

Sure, two of those wins were squeakers against then-winless teams. But at least they were wins. Philadelphia and Washington would've taken those; instead, the Eagles were stunned by Oakland and the Redskins lost to the Chiefs, the same team Dallas needed overtime to beat in its last game.

The Cowboys can even feel better about their two losses, both decided in the closing seconds. That's better than the drumming the Giants endured in a battle of unbeatens against New Orleans.

All told, Dallas got a half-game boost across the division Sunday without even breaking a sweat, and coach Wade Phillips got more fodder for his lectures about all wins being precious and not taking any foe lightly.

"It just shows you that you've got to play well each week," Phillips said. "You can be favoured and all those things, but you've got to play well to win ballgames. ... It's tough to win in this league. I've said it all along - I think winners come through. I think that's the big key, being consistent."

The Cowboys have been anything but, going back and forth from wins to losses over the first five games. They've beaten bad teams and lost to the good ones. Next up is another of the best, 4-1 Atlanta.

"It's time to exert ourselves and get an identity for our team," running back Tashard Choice said. "We need a big push for the second quarter (of the season). We've got to be ready to make a move, to get ourselves on track."

Safety Gerald Sensabaugh was the only starter held out of practice, but there's a chance he could return from thumb surgery. The offence could get a big lift from the return of speedy running back Felix Jones and No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, plus starting running back Marion Barber should be fresher after more down time for his lingering thigh problem.

Nose tackle Jay Ratliff said he didn't know the Giants, Eagles and Redskins lost. He also said it doesn't really matter, emphasizing another of Phillips' messages to the club this season.

"It's all about us, all about what we do," he said.

Choice spent his weekend off in Las Vegas. Tony Romo went to his alma mater, Eastern Illinois, for a game and a ceremony for the retirement of his jersey. Receiver Miles Austin hung out and got several massages.

Most of all, guys avoided the pound of an NFL game.

"We feel rested," Ratliff said. "All those nagging little injuries are going away. It feels like it's the beginning of the season again, starting all over."