to keep everyone, including themselves, on edge. Hint: Don't think this is going to change any in these final three games, and not just because they have to play the Giants, Ravens and at the Eagles all in a row. These are the Cowboys. This is the 2008 season.
You know it don't come easy.
Come on, did you really think the Cowboys were going to win out the month of December, meaning they would have finished the season on a seven-game winning streak? Get serious. Not against that schedule.
So here they are, a chance to win the final three, but knowing they had better win at least two of the final three to give themselves at least a chance at one of the two NFC wild-card spots now that the Giants have sewn up the NFC East thanks to securing a better record against common opponents over the Cowboys, the only team left in the East which has a mathematical opportunity to match their record.
The worst part of this loss on Sunday - the Cowboys did elevate to the sixth seed in the NFC if the playoffs were to start today thanks to the Saints beating Atlanta (8-5) and temporarily owning the conference record tiebreaker over the Falcons - is they dragged four other teams (Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago and New Orleans) back into the race, all within no more than one game of them.
Look, the Cowboys wouldn't do anything this year if they didn't do it the hard way. They'll probably beat the Giants Sunday night at Texas Stadium, then throw in a clunker against Baltimore in the final game at Texas Stadium, likely meaning they will then need a road win at Philadelphia to secure a wild-card spot with their backs once again against the wall.
You know, the hard way, almost as if they wouldn't have it any other way, seemingly trying to prove to everyone just how resilient they are.
That is why to me, it seemed foolish many now wondering if this loss to Pittsburgh will be devastating, as if the Cowboys will get caught feeling sorry for themselves, thus lacking the necessary emotion and gumption to face the Giants, Ravens and Eagles.
There was no detection of a pity party going on Sunday night on the way home, or Monday afternoon after the players returned from their annual Christmas season visits to the area children hospitals. On the contrary. They actually seemed P-Oed.
"Nothing is going to be given to us," said corner Orlando Scandrick, who by the way did a number on Hines Ward in the slot Sunday afternoon. "It's tough man, real tough, but it's over now."
Time to move on to the next hole. Linger, and that bogey will be compounded by a double-bogey. This isn't interest we're talking about here.
And the good thing about the Cowboys this season, they have not been whiny at all. They have manned up when it's been time to man up.
They did so to keep their noses above water during Romo's three-game absence, at least beating Tampa Bay against what now seems should have been all odds. They did so by surviving Terence Newman's six-game absence. They did so winning at Washington. And they have done so by surviving six guys on injured reserve, along with Pacman Jones' six-game suspension, and any number of mounting injuries that seem to have beset and continue to beset this team this year.
Wouldn't expect anything less from them now.
"You can't live in the past, you can learn from the past, but you can't live in the past," Phillips said. "Can't let the last one hurt you in the next one . . . usually in this situation you bear down more."
How ironic. In one version of It Don't Come Easy, there is this verse:
Forget about the past
And all your sorrow
The future won't last
It will soon be your tomorrow
Well, we'll soon see.