The Dallas Cowboys (7-6) are riding a two-game win streak and have renewed playoff hopes because they suddenly changed their fortunes in the second half.
In 38-14 and 30-10 wins against the Washington Redskins and New York Giants, respectively, over the past two weeks, the Cowboys have taken over the game in the second half, outscoring both opponents by a combined score of 41-7.
It's a complete reversal from the funk of the three previous weeks which featured three blowout losses in which they were outscored 72-6 in the second half of the games combined against the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Chargers.
Coach Jason Garrett said it was a combination of the offense finally getting used to playing without suspended running back Ezekiel Elliott. The losses were the first three games of Elliott’s suspension.
It was also a matter of the some of the younger players being able to grow and handle setbacks better.
“I think more than anything else it’s being able to handle the adversities of the game better,” Garrett said. “During that stretch, we were at a good position at halftime in each of those games and something happened in the second half or maybe we had some younger players playing and they let one bad thing turn into a number of bad things.
“We just didn’t do a good enough job of putting that last play behind us and just going to the next play. I thought the last couple of weeks we’ve done a much better job of that. Teams will make plays in a game. They’ll have some success. You’ve just got to keep playing. I think our guys have done a good job of that the last couple of weeks.”
The running game has been much better and much more of a factor in the past two weeks. The Cowboys rushed 42 times for 182 yards against the Redskins and 31 carries for 122 yards against the Giants.
It has allowed quarterback Dak Prescott to be more patient and efficient after forcing some things during the three-game losing funk when he tossed five interceptions and had three fumbles.
He has thrown five touchdowns the past two weeks including three after halftime. Prescott had a career-high 332 yards passing against the Giants.
“He’s a really mentally tough guy and that’s probably line one with him is his poise, his composure, his mental toughness to handle the positives and the negatives that come with that position,” Garrett said. “And he does such a good job fighting his way through adversity from week to week or within a ballgame. A big part of that is learning from the experiences.”