|Cowboys' Phillips trying to keep expectations down despite impressive 8-1 start|
|Written by Admin|
|Monday, 12 November 2007 13:43|
Their 8-1 record? Nice, but not enough to clinch a playoff berth.
That bulging, two-game lead in the NFC East? Great, but it could dissolve if the Cowboys stumble and another team wins six straight games, like the division rival New York just did.
OK, then. How about the fact Dallas is a win away from matching last year's win total, which was good enough to get it into the playoffs, and still has seven games left?
Yeah, that one's pretty good. Phillips liked it so much he brought it up himself Monday, calling it ``important,'' then adding - of course - ``It hasn't guaranteed anything for us.''
Phillips finds himself in the envious position of trying to keep expectations down, both in his locker room and among fans of ``America's Team.'' That's not an easy task after the last two games.
On Sunday, the Cowboys went to New York and ended the Giants' winning streak with a 31-20 victory that hardly was in doubt in the second half. There were all sorts of notable statistical feats in the game, but the most important is that New York is 6-3 and two of those losses are to Dallas.
A week before, the Cowboys went to Philadelphia and throttled the Eagles badly. While some tried dismissing it as the end of an era for Donovan McNabb and a club that's won five of the last six NFC East titles, the way they pulled out a win Sunday against Washington proves the Eagles haven't given up.
So step back and consider Dallas' status this way: Following consecutive road wins over two tough division rivals, the Cowboys have only one loss all year, and that was to the team sparking talk of a perfect season; the Cowboys even had a rare second-half lead over them. Now, the biggest challenge left is against conference co-leader Green Bay, and that game is at Texas Stadium.
The Packers arrive at the end of a stretch of three straight home games. It starts Sunday against Washington, followed by a Thanksgiving Day game against the New York Jets. (Nothing like drawing a one-win team on a short week.) Dallas also has no significant injuries and has just added defensive lineman Tank Johnson to the rotation; he made his 2007 debut against the Giants.
Maybe things will fall apart and it won't get any better than this.
But for now, this is very, very good, better than the Cowboys have had it since Troy, Michael and Emmitt were in their prime and headed to a third Super Bowl title in four years. That's not just a guess, either; 1995 was the last time Dallas was 8-1.
As the Cowboys' bandwagon fills up, a popular topic of discussion among fans has become who deserves the most credit for it: first-year coach Phillips or his predecessor, Bill Parcells.
Phillips volunatrily thrust himself into the discussion Monday in response to a question about how players are able to keep from looking ahead.
``The credit goes to, uh, umm .... `` Phillips said, laughing and looking around to make sure everyone caught his drift. ``The good thing is everybody is talking about who gets this credit, who gets that credit. That means you're doing well, so that's what I'm happy about. I have my opinion as far as who gets the credits and how we're doing. No. 1 it starts with the players.''
There were many stars against the Giants, from Terrell Owens to Tony Romo, from a defense that recorded five sacks against a quarterback who'd gone down only eight times all season to offensive lineman Flozell Adams holding Osi Umenyiora without a sack. At least, that's what the record eventually will show.
Umenyiora was credited with one Sunday, but Phillips insisted he tackled Romo after a botched handoff and the quarterback was running, not scrambling, so it should be changed to a tackle for a loss. The Cowboys will ask the league to make the switch.
Phillips added that once the change is made, Umenyiora will drop into a tie with Dallas' DeMarcus Ware with eight sacks.
It's moves like that - and like giving players Monday off for a second straight week - that have earned Phillips the reputation of being a player's coach. Owens said Sunday that it all starts with having fun on the practice field and then carries over into the games.
``Well, that's what you try to get, that kind of atmosphere, but you don't get it without winning,'' Phillips said. ``We've gotten it because we've been successful, because I can tell you, if we were 4-5, I know who would be getting all the blame.''