September 25, 2011

Cowboys Stadium a big house but not yet home entering Season 3 tonight

“People have to fear coming into your house,” an ESPN analyst says.

The Dallas Cowboys have been frequent fliers the past four weeks. They have crisscrossed the country, traveling 4,838 air miles in going from Minneapolis to Miami to East Rutherford, N.J., to San Francisco.

The Cowboys last played a game in Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 21, an exhibition against the Chargers. They haven't played a meaningful game at Cowboys Stadium since Dec. 19, a 33-30 victory over the Redskins.

They have been away so long that LSU has won two games at Cowboys Stadium since the Cowboys have.

Finally, though, the Cowboys have come home again, hosting the Redskins tonight in what is the latest home opener in franchise history.

"Yeah, we haven't been home in a while," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "... It's good to be back."

There is no place like the Cowboys' $1.2 billion stadium, but they have yet to turn their house into a home. Dallas lost the first regular-season game in Cowboys Stadium -- 33-31 to the Giants in 2009 -- and they went only 2-6 there last season.

The Cowboys are 9-8 at home in the stadium's two-year history, including a victory over the Eagles during the 2009 postseason.

"I go back to losing the last game at Texas Stadium and losing the first game at Cowboys Stadium," said Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, now an analyst for the NFL Network. "I just can't tell you how disappointed I am with that. I think that if they don't turn this thing around, people are going to remember those things. If you don't come out and put a Super Bowl in this new stadium -- not watching two other teams play, I'm talking about the Cowboys winning a Super Bowl when they are in this stadium -- then that's what we remember, because there's no greatness to overshadow that great mess.

"A club like this, with so much tradition, there's no way -- there's no way! -- you're supposed to lose the last game in the old stadium and the first game in the new. They've got to turn it around. They've got to get it right. They've got the best stadium in the world, and you're not clicking. People are coming to see this and experience this, and they're not leaving with the best feeling. That's not a good combination."

The Cowboys are hoping home is where the wins are this year after being beaten out of house and home in 2010. Last season, they were better on the road (4-4) than they were at home, where five of their six losses were by a touchdown or less.

"That was last year," Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said. "Last year was tough all the way across the board."

Winning at home is the key to winning it all. The Packers were 7-1 at Lambeau Field last year, but only 3-5 on the road. They were one of four playoff teams with a non-winning record on the road.

Of the past 10 Super Bowl champions, only one had a losing record at home. The New York Giants did it the hard way in 2007 as a wild-card team, after going 3-5 at home, by winning three consecutive road playoff games to reach Super Bowl XLII.

"I believe you absolutely have to have a home-field advantage," ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. "People have to fear coming into your house. It's easy to talk about, but it's hard to develop.

"The great teams win their home games, and then if you can go out on the road and win half those games, you're going to win your division, and more than likely, you're going to go deep in the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl. I think winning at home is absolutely critical. You have to develop that idea of: 'It's our house. You're not going to come in here and win.' The Cowboys have not been able to develop that, at least not last year."

Charean Williams, 817-390-7760

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