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Against All Odds


complete this argument for me, having said this on Sunday's Cowboys-Texans Fox broadcast: "The reason a lot of 0-3 teams don't make the playoffs or a lot of 0-2 teams don't make the playoffs is because, most simply, those teams just aren't very good. That's not the case with Dallas."

So it's not so much teams starting a season 0-2 can't recover in time to make the playoffs as much as it is generally the reason teams start a season 0-2 is because they aren't very good to begin with.

OK, but don't get me wrong, this 0-2 start is going to be a supreme grind for the Cowboys to recover from, just as it was during that 1993 season when team owner Jerry Jones got Smith signed in time for Game 3 and the Cowboys took off on a seven-game winning streak. But a two-game losing streak would follow, leaving them 7-4 with five to go when Johnson told his players they needed to "run the table" in order to get into the playoffs.

Well, Jimmy was clairvoyant, because not until the Cowboys won their fifth of those five games, and in overtime at Giants Stadium riding Emmitt's separated shoulder at that, did they even clinch the NFC East, only finishing one game ahead of the Giants. That close.

"What you don't understand is the kind of confidence, the kind of calm we had as a group," Haley said of that season, suggesting they knew they were good. "We never pulled away from each other. Hey, we pulled together. We realized that those 55 or 60 guys in that room were all we needed to be accountable to."

And that accountability didn't end until they torched the Bills again, this time 30-13 in Super Bowl XXVIII.

This is not some Pollyanna history lesson to suggest all is peachy keen around The Ranch just because the Cowboys finally won a football game for the first time since crushing Philadelphia in that playoff contest on Jan. 9, or just because they avoided 0-3. Not at all.

Even Jones suggested he's analyzing the situation just as if the club is sitting here at 0-3 this bye weekend, because they are only one-step better than worst-case scenario, and instructed everyone else at The Ranch to do the same. He knows they've got a grind on their hands to become just the second Cowboys team to qualify for the playoffs after an 0-2 start.

Jones also knows if this team waits until its back is to the drywall to turn on the jets too many times, as it did last year heading into New Orleans on a two-game losing streak, or as it did this past Sunday in Houston after the most recent two-game losing streak, then at some point you will contract a debilitating rash.

Or, better yet, if they need a rah-rah speech from the head coach or an inspirational speech from the special teams coach every week - or once every couple of games - just to play with the necessary weekly passion, those messages eventually will fall on deaf ears. Just like a race horse, jockeys need to be very judicious when going to the whip. I mean, whip a horse the entire mile and a quarter, and at some point that horse will turn its head, as if to say, "What the hell?"

But at least the Cowboys realize they've got them a thoroughbred running from behind so far this season, not some old, washed up mule.

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