PHOENIX -- To say that things are going well for the Dallas Cowboys right now would be an understatement.
They stand atop the NFC East standings with a 7-4 record and riding a four-game winning streak heading into today's game against the Arizona Cardinals (4-7).
The preseason division favorite Philadelphia Eagles are out of the race with a nightmarish 4-8 mark. And the Cowboys' main division competitor, the New York Giants (6-5), are taking a three-game losing streak into their game today against the undefeated Green Bay Packers. The Giants might be coming off four consecutive losses and be two games behind the Cowboys when the teams meet next week.
The Cowboys feel good about their situation -- especially considering their 6-10 record of last year and how well quarterback Tony Romo has played of late.
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Over the past month, Romo has played as well as any quarterback in the league other than Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers. Romo has thrown 10 touchdowns with two interceptions during the four-game winning streak. He has a 19-2 career record in the month of November.
But if history is the guide, now is the time to worry for a Cowboys team that has not handled prosperity well in the past and a quarterback who has not been at his best in the final month of the season.
To that end, the Cowboys and owner Jerry Jones understand their past failings and that there is still much to be accomplished.
"I know on a personal basis and I know for many members of our team's leadership that last year was one of the biggest disappointments that we've had and biggest surprises," Jones said.
"I think we're fresh off of, haven't gotten rid of the feeling we had last year. We don't have that same type of mojo problem as you get into the game. We've actually built on that to Jason's [Garrett] credit and to the team's credit. I think all of those are positives to us, and I think we're getting a little healthier. That can change in a quarter, but we're getting healthier."
Linebacker Bradie James was even more emphatic than Jones about the team being motivated by past failures.
"This time last year it was bad all the way around," James said. "You talk about the sky falling, well, it fell. History can't repeat itself."
That goes double for Romo, whose poor record in December and January is used by critics as evidence of his inability to play well when it matters most.
While it is true that he has never had a winning record in the month of December -- not even in 2007 and 2009 when the Cowboys won the division -- it was not all because of poor play by Romo.
He has thrown 21 touchdowns with 20 interceptions in December all time, and that includes a 7-1 ratio in 2009.
Romo downplays the stat, saying it has more to do with the opponents the Cowboys are playing or, as in 2007, when the Cowboys had a playoff berth sewn up and he sat out parts of the final game.
"The problem with December sometimes is I don't know how many times you're out of the playoffs, in the playoffs," Romo said. "That stuff plays a role."
The numbers speak for themselves, and the Cowboys know there can be no backsliding this season down the stretch.
Romo is set up for a great finish in 2011 if the Cowboys continue to play well around him.
"He's playing really well now, creating a lot, and making a lot of plays for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "That's been huge for us. We're going to need him to continue that. We know what this month means. We need to hold up our end to help him."
Romo is also very aware that as quarterback of the Cowboys his December play is not what will ultimately define him.
The Cowboys understand the goal: Super Bowl.
Garrett has done a good job getting them to focus on one game at a time.
"You are humbled by it [the past]," Witten said. "You've got this moment and you need to grab it."
Clarence E. Hill Jr., 817-390-7760