IRVING, Texas (AP) -How 'bout them Cowboys?
Since a 3-0 start that reinforced their preseason Super Bowl hype, America's Team has gone in reverse. The latest loss dropped them to 5-4 - and last place in the NFC East. With a week to stew over it, too.
Yet Dallas coaches and players have been eyeing the bye week for a while because this is when they're supposed to reload. Quarterback Tony Romo, running back Felix Jones, left guard Kyle Kosier and cornerback Terence Newman could all practice Wednesday and should be ready to play when the Cowboys go to Washington a week from Sunday.
``We are not going into it saying, `Hey, just because these guys are back everything is fixed and we are going to win all our games,''' coach Wade Phillips said Monday.
However, Phillips spent much of the rest of his news conference saying exactly that.
``It's kind of sickening,'' receiver Patrick Crayton said following a 35-14 loss Sunday to the division-leading New York Giants. ``I don't know what's going on. We really need to regroup during this off week. ... Right now, we stink all across the board.''
Having Kosier back should give Romo more time in the pocket. Jones' return provides another big-play threat, perhaps opening up room for Terrell Owens to have his first 100-yard game. Romo also has a new target in Roy Williams, the receiver acquired a few days after the star quarterback broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand.
But then there's this sobering thought: The Cowboys weren't very good in Romo's last three games, losing twice and barely beating a Cincinnati team headed to a record of 0-8.
``Everything is not well,'' Phillips acknowledged. ``I do think some of the players coming back will help us obviously in some areas. But that is not the answer. The answer, I told them after the game, is everybody doing their part in getting us where we need to be.''
One thing the last few weeks cleared up is that Bollinger is less awful than Johnson. Phillips said Bollinger is now No. 2 on the depth chart and would start against the Redskins if Romo somehow isn't ready.
Romo, whose tenure in that role ended quite memorably in a playoff loss against Seattle.
After going 13-3 last season, then seemingly upgrading the roster, Dallas was the chic pick to rule the NFC this season. By late September, the Cowboys were doing exactly that.
A home loss to Washington began the tailspin. It's hard to say whether the offense or the defense has been the bigger disappointment for Phillips and owner Jerry Jones.
So the dream of closing out Texas Stadium with an NFC championship victory has pretty much vanished. At this point, the Cowboys need to get in gear just to claim a wild-card spot.
``As far as I'm concerned, we're just playing to win games right now,'' Jones said Sunday, postgame. ``We know where we are and it's not where we planned to be at all by this point in the season. It's very disappointing. ... We just don't look anything like we had hoped.''
There are seven games left to change that. It's almost as if the playoffs already have begun for this group.
``You make or break yourself in the second half of the season,'' Phillips said. ``At least, with this team, that's where we need to go.''
Phillips believes his players are up for the challenge.
``I got the feeling after the game they're going to come back strong,'' he said.
And what gave him that feeling?
``Thirty-one years of coaching,'' he said. ``Just being around it and seeing how they react and I just get that feel. I think we do have a lot of high character guys that want to do well and they want to compete.''

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