Cowboys building momentum, healing at right time to make run for playoffs

Posted Monday, Nov. 28, 2011  comments  Print Reprints

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IRVING -- The Dallas Cowboys have won four consecutive games, and they're not even at full strength.

No Miles Austin. No Mike Jenkins.

Yet they're in first place in the NFC East. Can anyone imagine what it would be like if the Cowboys added some healthy players to this roll they're on?

Kevin Ogletree smiled. "Yeah. I can imagine it."

So... what does it look like?

He smiled again. "I'm trying not to tell you too much about it so the other teams can't do too much imagining," he said.

Right now, it's easy to imagine what the Cowboys can do with a December schedule that includes three four-win teams and home games against two division opponents.

The Cowboys resisted letting their imaginations run wild Monday at Valley Ranch, where they got back to work with a non-added practice after a three-day break. But it wasn't hard to find someone ready to talk about the importance of the confidence that can be gained from a four-game winning streak that includes two clutch fourth quarters.

"I think we were always a confident team," cornerback Alan Ball said. "It's just the ball wasn't always bouncing our way... We're the same team we were going in, it's just we're putting things together and the ball's bouncing our way a little bit more."

It's bounced through the uprights, at least, for two consecutive games. Dan Bailey kicked a 39-yard field goal to win in overtime at Washington, and his 28-yarder beat Miami on the last play on Thanksgiving Day.

The victories put the Cowboys in first place in the division. Now coach Jason Garrett can think at least a little bit about preparing the Cowboys for a division race.

"I think every so often as a coach, you do want to provide perspective about where we've been and where we're going," Garrett said.

"But I think more than anything else, we continue to emphasize the importance of doing what we can do individually and collectively to be our best. And we find it's best to do that on a day by day basis, and certainly on a week by week basis."

Garrett has talked about day by day and week by week since training camp. He hasn't talked a lot about momentum. But it's there, built by a four-game winning streak.

"You want to build momentum, especially with a special team like this," linebacker Victor Butler said. "You've got a group of talented guys. And it's important that you've got guys like this who play with confidence. Getting the four wins in a row helps to build that confidence. Now you've got a rhythm, you've got guys playing well, you've got young guys stepping in and contributing, special teams guys stepping in and contributing."

More contributors might be on the way.

Jenkins, who has missed four games with a hamstring injury, got back on the field Monday and is pointing toward a return against Arizona on Sunday. Austin, also nursing a hamstring injury, could practice Wednesday if he has a good day of rehab today.

"I think we have yet to put it all together," Ogletree said. "I don't know how many times we've been on the field without missing a guy like Miles Austin or Felix Jones or Mike Jenkins -- these guys who've been around and helped us get to where we're at now."

No matter who is on the field for the Cowboys this week, confidence is on their side in greater amounts than it was early in the season, when the players were trying to find their roles.

"It's real tough to play without it. But it's real easy to play when you've got it," Butler said. "And that's something that we are building a lot of right now. Guys are getting confident in their techniques, believing in their teammates and just in the scheme. And then what Jason Garrett brings to the table, the whole message about what we're doing here -- guys are believing in it, and it's showing."

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407

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