The Dallas Cowboys need a win.
They know that. Their fans know that. Everyone knows that.
The Cowboys lost their fifth consecutive game Sunday, falling to the Seattle Seahawks 13-12. They have not won since Tony Romo fractured his left collarbone in Week 2.
“Those are the things that win games in the NFL,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “We talk about the ball a lot, protecting the ball, but also going to get the ball and somehow stealing an opportunity, stealing a possession for yourself.
“Greg [Hardy] did a great job on that [interception], giving us a chance in the red zone, a great scoring opportunity late in the ball game. So you need those kinds of plays. You need to make a play on offense. They did a very good job preventing us from making big plays. We only had three explosive plays in the game. Two of them came on Matt Cassel runs. I thought he did a good job taking advantage of those situations.
“But that’s how you win. You need to take the ball away; you need to secure the ball; you need to make some big plays and do some things that change the game. And the best teams do that. When we played our best football, we’ve been able to do that.”
But forget calling Sunday night’s game against the division rival Philadelphia Eagles a “must win.”
The Cowboys remain in last place in the NFC East. But with the New York Giants losing at New Orleans on Sunday, the Cowboys stand only two games back in the win column. The Eagles and Washington Redskins are only a game ahead of Dallas, which has a 2-1 division record.
In any other division except the AFC South, the Cowboys would find themselves three or four games out of first place.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was asked Sunday if he felt “fortunate” still to have a shot at the division title despite his team’s misfortune.
“I’ll go with you on the fortunate thing if you let me say how unfortunate it was that we’ve got this fortunate by how others are playing,” Jones said Sunday. “I’ll go with you there, if you’ll go with me that it’s unfortunate we’ve got to depend upon the consequences of these other ballgames to have something positive. This is quite a different visit I’m having here with you than I thought I would be after seven ballgames.”
The Cowboys should remain within sight of the division lead, regardless of what they do in the next two games before Romo returns for the Nov. 22 contest at Miami. But it doesn’t take a math major to figure out that the losses are adding up.
Since 2002, when the league went to its current divisional alignment, the NFC East winner has gone 10-6 or better all but once. The 2011 Giants won the division with a 9-7 mark and went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.
If the Cowboys lose the next two, they will sport a 2-7 record when Romo returns. That would leave them little room for error in the final seven games of the season.
“We’re just focused on winning this ballgame this week,” Garrett said. “That’s really the approach we always take. We’re focused on this game, regardless of who the opponent is. Obviously, when it’s a division opponent and a win for us and a loss for them, it’s a good thing. We get that; we live in the real world.
“But we’ve just got to focus on ourselves, and we’ve got to focus on each day for our preparation to get ready to play our best football Sunday night.”
Cowboys vs. Eagles
7:30 p.m. Sunday, KXAS/5
NFC East overview
Giants (4-4): Shaky defense has given up at least 20 points in all but one game this season, including 52 on Sunday. Schedule includes games vs. Patriots, Panthers and Eagles.
Redskins (3-4): Washington has beaten one team currently with a winning record, the Rams (4-3) in Week 2. Next five games are at Patriots, vs. Saints, at Panthers, vs. Giants, vs. Cowboys.
Eagles (3-4): Philly also has only beaten one winning team, the Jets (4-3) in Week 3. Remaining schedule is relatively forgiving, despite games at Patriots and vs. Cardinals.
Cowboys (2-5): Dallas has lost five straight without Tony Romo, but steal a win or two before his return and hope is restored. Toughest remaining games look like Carolina and at Green Bay. Romo could be back by then.