IRVING -- This is not the first time the Dallas Cowboys have lost two games in a row. But some two-game losing streaks seem harder than others.
"Mentally, to put this one behind us, it's going to take a lot," cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. "It was like having your heart ripped out."
This is where Jason Garrett's short-range approach might be useful. He has talked from the first day of training camp about not worrying about the last day or the next day.
The fate of the Cowboys' season, starting with tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, rests on whether his players can use that approach to shake off the heartbreak of the past two weeks.
"I feel that we are going to come out and prove we are mentally tough," Scandrick said.
Any team that can forget about the past two games ought to write a book about it.
Two weeks ago at Arizona, the Cowboys lost in overtime after their own timeout wiped out a field goal that would have won the game on the last play. Last week, a timeout from the New York Giants erased a field goal that would have tied the game with two seconds left.
Even more so than the other back-to-back setbacks the Cowboys suffered this year. In October, the Cowboys lost a 24-point lead on three second-half interceptions from quarterback Tony Romo and then allowed a winning touchdown drive by the New England Patriots' Tom Brady with 22 seconds left.
The Cowboys answered by winning five of the next six. They moved to the top of the NFC East. They were a game ahead of the field and gaining steam.
"It's always hard when you lose a game in the National Football League, especially two, and especially when they're tough losses that come down to the wire like that," Romo said. "A lot of it is to get back that energy and belief that you're going to do it. Our team has done really well at times during the season, and we just have to figure it out mentally."
That would be a handy tool for this team.
The Cowboys played three consecutive games decided on the last play, a field goal in overtime to win at Washington, a field goal with no time left to beat Miami and a touchdown that won in overtime for Arizona. The Giants game was decided with two seconds left.
"I try not to focus on the score and things like that," linebacker Anthony Spencer said. "When stuff like that starts to happen is when I focus on the little things, try to focus on getting the things done we need to get done. It just hasn't turned out the way we want it to. There have been a couple of games where it has come out our way. We've got the right people in this room. We're going to keep fighting regardless of what the outcome is."
The Cowboys are certainly testing the mental toughness of their kicker.
Dan Bailey has done his job twice only to have his work undone by a timeout. Each time, he missed the next kick. He was short against Arizona and had his kick against the Giants blocked.
"You're not going to last very long if you beat yourself up all the time on a bad day," Bailey said. "You're not going to last very long if you get too high on yourself, too. ... I can definitely improve, but I feel like mentally, I'm pretty good for a rookie, I guess."
Garrett waits to see if his daily repeating of his message pays off.
Can the Cowboys forget the last game? The last quarter? The last drive? The last play?
"We've had a couple tough ones the last couple of weeks, but we have to do our best as coaches and players to go forward to the next challenge," he said. "That's what it's all about. It's a 16-week season, and the teams that are mentally tough enough to handle the success and keep playing, handle the adversity and keep playing, and be their best when the next challenge arises, those are the ones that are typically around at the end."
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407