ARLINGTON -- One year and one game into the Jason Garrett era, this much is clear: the Dallas Cowboys are headed in the right direction.
The only question is whether it will result in a playoff berth in Garrett's first full season as head coach.
The Cowboys certainly looked the part in the 44-7 destruction of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday before 85,157 fans at Cowboys Stadium.
It was not only their most dominant performance this season, but the best since Garrett took over midway through the 2010 season.
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It was 28-7 at halftime as the Cowboys scored on their first four possessions for the first time all season. It was 34-7 after three quarters as the Bills never had a chance on offense or defense as the Cowboys scored their most points in a game since 2007 and had their most lopsided win since 2000.
"I think that's as good as we've played against a team that's credible," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "I think overall -- the [run-pass] balance, feeling like we could create problems for their defense -- I haven't felt like that since Jason has been the head coach. It shows we are making improvement."
Garrett, 10-7 as Cowboys coach, didn't want to talk about the big picture, saying his focus is on improving every week.
He had no choice but to acknowledge the dominance of his team on Sunday and that the Cowboys looked nothing like the team that was blown out by Philadelphia two weeks ago nor the one that blew a 27-3 lead in a loss to Detroit in October.
"I think we played well," Garrett said. "We executed in all three areas. The teams that make the playoffs and the teams that do well in the playoffs are the teams that improve through the course of the season. I'm not here to stand up and say, 'This is where we are and this is where we aren't.' We live in a day-to-day business. Prepare the right way and take advantage of the opportunity we have."
The key to improvement is a healthy Tony Romo, who directed a near-perfect performance on offense. He completed 23 of 26 passes, including 13 consecutive to start the game, for 270 yards with touchdown passes to Dez Bryant (34 yards) and Laurent Robinson (5 and 58 yards) on the first three possessions of the game. His 88.5 completion percentage is a team record.
Running back DeMarco Murray rushed 20 times for 135 yards and a touchdown, giving him three 100-yard games in four outings since replacing an injured Felix Jones.
Cornerback Terence Newman keyed a strong effort on defense with two of the team's three interceptions, and had a 43-yard return for a touchdown to close the scoring. Dan Bailey made three field goals, upping his streak to 22 without a miss.
"We are learning a little bit about who we are and what we can do and what we are capable of doing," Romo said.
Romo played a second straight week without a pain-killing injection, saying his broken rib has healed. And for the second straight week, Romo did not throw an interception.
"This was a byproduct of our team coming together. It feels good to be back and healthy," he said.
The Cowboys (5-4) are one game behind the first-place New York Giants (6-3) in the NFC East. They know they still have a long way to go.
But they also believe this was the type of complete performance that could propel them because of the respect they have for the Bills (5-4).
It was their second straight double-digit win since a 34-7 loss to the Eagles, and their next three opponents have a combined record of 8-19. It starts next Sunday at the Washington Redskins (3-6), who have lost four straight, then on Thanksgiving against the Miami Dolphins (2-7), followed by a trip to Arizona (3-6).
If Sunday is an indication, the Cowboys have a chance to get on a nice roll before an NFC East showdown against the Giants on Dec. 11.
They certainly have the swagger of a team gunning for the playoffs.
"We're confident and feel good about ourselves," said Jason Witten, who caught five passes for 37 yards and is now third all time in receptions by a tight end.
"We needed a game like this. This needs to be the foundation of what lies ahead for this team."
Clarence E. Hill Jr.