Given several chances during his Monday follow-up press conference to say that his team won a must-win game against the Eagles and turned its season around on Sunday night, Jason Garrett stuck to his week-by-week theme.
Garrett maintains professionalism in speaking about wins or losses, but especially about losses when he doesn’t flinch much. He’s not prone to over-celebrating either and remained steady in the aftermath of the Cowboys 27-20 victory over Philadelphia.
He wouldn’t say it was a must-win and wouldn’t agree that Dallas was desperate for a victory.
Garrett did applaud his team for maintaining its focus in a roller-coaster type of game in Philadelphia.
“I thought the fourth quarter was probably symbolic of the approach the whole game and what you aspire to have with your team is to handle the success and the adversity of the game and just keep playing,” Garrett said.
The Cowboys went to halftime with a 13-3 lead, but then saw it evaporate in the third quarter. But Dallas (4-5) still grasped their first road win of the season.
“Fourth quarter starts it’s 13-13, so now everything up to that point really is irrelevant and now we’ve got to go play, we’ve got to win the last 15 minutes,” Garrett said. “And we did that. We responded the right way.”
Dallas got a huge play from linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who thwarted an Eagles drive with a tackle for loss on a key third-down play. And Ezekiel Elliott carried the load, as is always the plan for the Cowboys, and ignited the offense at the end.
“No better guy in the National Football League to hand the ball to as the game gets going than Zeke Elliott,” Garrett said. “I think he showed that.”
Now the Cowboys stay on the road as they play at Atlanta for the second straight season. Dallas was on a roll at 5-3 last November when the Falcons stopped that momentum and handed the Cowboys a 27-7 defeat.
Although Dallas is coming off a feel-good victory in Philadelphia, the team’s tactical problems are still just below the surface. When the Cowboys running game is producing, as it was against the Eagles, the offense looks pretty good. But then negative plays, turnovers and just plain bad passes can put it on the fritz in a hurry.
The good news for Dallas is that Atlanta ranks 27th in the NFL in total defense. That means the Cowboys must capitalize on the chance to get some real offensive momentum going with the three-headed weapon of Elliott, QB Dak Prescott and new WR Amari Cooper.