I For the first time since the opening week of the 2013 season, the Dallas Cowboys are no longer in first place in the NFC East.
As the Cowboys (5-5) enjoyed a much-needed bye week, the Philadelphia Eagles (6-5) took sole possession of first place in the division with a 24-16 victory over the Washington Redskins (3-7) on Sunday.
The Cowboys also are only one game in front of the New York Giants (4-6), who won their fourth straight game with a 27-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers.
The red-hot Giants have rebounded from six straight losses to open the season and are ready to make a statement when they host the Cowboys next Sunday.
And while the Cowboys still control their own destiny in the division with six games remaining, their margin for error has severely diminished as they return to action following the bye.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admitted the 49-17 loss to the New Orleans Saints before the bye was an eye-opener for him.
But he remains optimistic that the Cowboys can write a happy ending to the season because of the work the team put in during the bye week.
He said coach Jason Garrett, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and quarterback Tony Romo worked hard evaluating and making adjustments to improve the slumping offense, including fixing their problems on third down and finding ways to get wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten the ball and away from double teams.
The Cowboys rank 30th in the NFL in third down conversions, and Romo ranks 30th in the league in yards per attempt on third down.
Romo’s third down passer rating is a woeful 57.6.
“I don’t think we are far away, an adjustment here and an adjustment there,” Jones said Friday on KRLD/105.3 FM. “I think they are making adjustments that are called for.”
Jones said the defense will still be challenged because of the loss of middle linebacker Sean Lee for the next two or three games.
Also, the offense must pick up the slack to “keep the defense off the field. It needs some help.”
The Cowboys didn’t get the help they hoped for during the bye from the Packers and Redskins.
But Jones said the team’s season-long goals are still out there for the Cowboys to achieve: win the division, make the playoffs and go from there.
“We got six more games,” Jones said. “It’s before us if we want to take it. That’s the way we should look at it.
“It would be wrong to look at the [Saints loss] and count it out and say, ‘That’s the way we are.’”