With the regular season now in the books, the focus does start to shift towards the offseason.
But before we get there, let's go back to the 2012 regular season, where the Cowboys finished 8-8. It was a rollercoaster of a season with lots of ups and downs, twists and turns.
The staff writers of DallasCowboys.com – Rowan Kavner, Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus and Jonathan Auping - were on hand for every moment. So let's go through the season and find out what we learned from each game.
Game 13 – Cincinnati: There are great parallels in sports that can be applied to everyday life. The bonding of a team as a family is a powerful experience. Teammates regardless of race or background look at each other as brothers. The loss of Jerry Brown was tragic on so many levels because a young man lost the remainder of his life. Shock, disbelief and sadness travelled with that team on that day to Cincinnati. Jason Garrett would later say that there is no playbook to work from here. As critical as we all have been of Garrett and his game management style, he managed this franchise in a way that we all could be proud of. He understood the loss but he kept the team focus and in the end, it was their will to win that delivered victory that day. What we learned is when you want to question the leaders on this team, just take a moment a pause to remember the events of that weekend, that's all you need to know. – Bryan Broaddus
Game 14 – Pittsburgh:
In the Cowboys' 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers we learned that the Cowboys' banged up defense might not have had a lot of Pro Bowl talent left at this point of the season, but they certainly had heart and leadership. Team captain Danny McCray stepped up and led the team in tackles. The three leading tacklers of the game (McCray, Alex Albright and Dan Connor) were all projected to be backups at the start of the season. But looking back, it might be fair to say that in one play Brandon Carr, proved, or perhaps reaffirmed, that he was a valuable leader of the defense, a playmaker and someone worth the highly publicized contract he was signed to. Less than two weeks after the suicide of former teammate Javon Belcher and the subsequent death of Jerry Brown the following week Carr would be relied on heavily with Morris Claiborne sitting out with a concussion. Not only did Carr do a fine job covering the dangerous Mike Wallace (he also had four tackles in the game), but he also picked off Ben Roethlisberger in overtime and ran it back 36 yards to the one-yard line. The play of the game was made by one of the most dependable Cowboys of 2012. - Jonathan Auping
Game 15 – New Orleans:
We eventually learned this game would be moot, as a Giants loss later that day meant regardless of this game's outcome, the NFC East champion would come down to the following week's matchup between Dallas and Washington. But in the present, we learned the makeshift defense would eventually be too overmatched against a stellar passing attack, which Drew Brees provided. We also learned Tony Romo was right regarding the team's confidence when within 14-points of the opponent in the fourth quarter. That's exactly what the Cowboys trailed by before sending the game to overtime. We found out that despite having the luxury of Dan Bailey's leg, going to overtime isn't always a recipe for success. For the first time this season, the Cowboys lost in overtime. Lastly, we learned the rule on advancing a fumble in overtime might need a look this offseason. Marques Colston's fumble went 20 yards forward before Jimmy Graham fell on it, setting up the game-winning field goal for the Saints. – Rowan Kavner
Game 16 – Washington:
This one was simple … we learned the Cowboys' struggles in elimination games is worse than we thought. Blame it on Tony Romo, the play-calling, the defense for not stopping the run or the injuries that plagued the team all year. But it all boiled down to the fact the Cowboys had a shot to claim the NFC East and secure a home playoff game, and despite being down by 11 in the fourth, the Cowboys got it back with a chance to tie or win the game. Tony Romo's third interception was obviously the costliest. But Jason Hatcher's personal foul penalty wiped out another chance to get the ball back with a chance to win. We learned the Cowboys' run defense that had pieced things together for most of the season, just fell apart when it counted the most. We learned once again that putting the game on Romo's shoulders every week has its flaws, too. We learned the Cowboys just weren't better than the Redskins, who swept them for the first time since 2005. – Nick Eatman