When Jason Garrett took over the Dallas Cowboys, no one expected much of a change within the team. However, yesterday the Cowboys and played their best football of the season, winning convincingly, 33-20.
The Cowboys were an entirely different team on Sunday, one that we haven't seen all season. They had an attitude, swagger, and mostly, they believed they could win.
"When you're 1-7, you're practicing in pads two days this week and you've been blown out on national TV, it can't get any worse," DeMarcus Ware said. "Our backs were pushed against the wall, and we decided to push back.
Garrett got the Cowboys to play with effort and conviction, something that Wade Phillips was practically begging for when still in Dallas. The Cowboys ran the ball, they created turnovers, they had big pass plays and they kept their penalties down, and even when it seemed like the Giants were making a push to comeback, the Cowboys put their heads down and kept fighting instead of saying, "Here we go again."
Now, Garrett has to keep this team focused. In Week 3, Dallas beat the Houston Texans, and Cowboy fans everywhere thought things were returning to normal, but the Cowboys bought into themselves too much and started their free-fall two weeks later with a loss to the Titans.
Garrett has already shown that he's different by making the Cowboys wear pads in practice, give more effort in practice and has even installed a dress code for road games (which reportedly Marion Barber broke, which resulted in him getting just eight carries on Sunday).
Now, Garrett has to show he can get this team to stay focused and playing hard. He can't celebrate and let up on them like Phillips would. If he wants Jerry Jones to seriously consider him for the coaching job, he'll need to get his players to keep this momentum up.
The Cowboys are still a long way from being a good team. They may have won this game, but as much as they won it, the Giants lost it with their horrible play on both sides of the ball. This wasn't the same Giants team that lit up the Dallas defense three weeks ago, and Tom Coughlin told his team coming into this game not to underestimate them, but the Giants didn't listen.
"We didn't play well enough to win," Coughlin said. "We didn't execute the way we've been executing. We gave up big plays and didn't make as many big plays. We hung in there. We gave a good effort at the end, but it was too little too late."
The Cowboys have no margin for error and are pretty much out of playoff contention, but they have a great opportunity to make sure some other teams don't get in, as well. However, their schedule doesn't get any easier after this week, with games coming up against the Saints, Colts and Eagles in the next month.
This was a great start, but it's just a start. There has to be more to it.
If the Cowboys have a letdown next week, everything they did right in this game means nothing. Instead of Garrett picking the Cowboys up and making them a better team, it'll be just one Sunday where everything went right for the Cowboys and everything went wrong for the Giants.