IRVING -- Jason Garrett's play-calling Sunday was questioned by every Monday Morning Quarterback, including his owner. But no one evaluated Garrett the offensive coordinator tougher than Garrett the head coach.
"The most important thing that we're trying to do as coaches is to put our players in position to be successful," Garrett said Monday. "...We always make our decisions based on that, and execution is a big part of that. We go back and evaluate the calls. We go back and evaluate how we executed the situation on those individual plays, and we go forward. We're very process-oriented.
"There are a lot of things that you do in a win that you don't like very much. There are some things that you do in a loss that are actually pretty good. You go back, you look at them, try to isolate them, make the evaluation, put them in front of your players, help them understand what happened, what was good, what was bad, and then look forward to the next challenge."
The Cowboys are 2-3, with their five games decided by a total of 16 points. Their two victories have been by a total of five points, their three losses by a total of 11.
The Cowboys blew fourth-quarter leads in losses to the New York Jets, the Detroit Lions and the New England Patriots.
"We are who we are," safety Abe Elam said when asked whether the Cowboys should have a better record. "Our record is 2-3. But we continue to move forward. We can't think about the past. All we can do is make corrections and move forward."
On Monday, Garrett explained his play calls late in Sunday's 20-16 loss. After the Cowboys reached the New England 10-yard line, with six minutes remaining in a tie game, they never threw the ball into the end zone. The third-and-goal play from the 5-yard line was a shovel pass to Tashard Choice.
The Cowboys, though, did take the lead with a 26-yard Dan Bailey field goal.
After the game, owner Jerry Jones wondered out loud whether the Cowboys should have been more aggressive after getting back the ball two minutes later after forcing the Patriots to go three-and-out.
Rookie DeMarco Murray lost 2 yards on first down and another on second down. A false-start penalty on rookie right tackle Tyron Smith pushed the Cowboys back 5 more yards, and, on third-and-18, Choice gained 8 yards on another running play. The Cowboys punted, and the Patriots drove 80 yards for the winning touchdown.
"When you look at it, what we were trying to do was really just manage the situation," Garrett said. "Certainly, in that case, you want to make a first down; you want to end the game right there. But we just felt like it was important at that time to try to run the ball, get the clock moving, force them to use their timeouts, and then hopefully get yourself in a manageable third-down situation where you can run it or you can throw it and try to end the game right there by making a first down. Hopefully, you execute the plays early in that sequence to get yourself in a manageable third down. We didn't do that."
Garrett said he explained himself to Jones after the game, and he has no problem with Jones second-guessing his play-calling.
"We're trying to win football games," Garrett said. "Everybody is passionate about it. When you lose a ball game like that, sometimes things are said and you've just got to kind of understand what the environment is, process it and move on. We all went up there and swung the bat hard against New England."
Despite their record, the Cowboys are encouraged. They probably should be. Their first five opponents have a combined 21-8 record. Their next three opponents are a combined 4-12.
"I think our team realizes that we have a chance to be a good football team," Garrett said. "We haven't done everything perfectly. We've had five good challenges this year. We've won two of them. We've lost three of them. They've all been close. I think we have had an opportunity to win all five games against good football teams. What we need to do is take a breath, evaluate this game, get away from it [today], come back on Wednesday and get ready to try to win a ballgame against St. Louis."