IRVING, Texas – Anyone who watched the 33-10 beating Philadelphia put on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving would probably agree that weren't many positives to be gleaned from the loss.
That won't be the case for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and his staff at Valley Ranch during the holiday weekend, though. For all the negatives that need to be cleaned up, Garrett said there will be plenty of positives and some "learning experiences" as the Cowboys digest the tape and move on to Chicago.
"I don't really believe in just throw the film away," Garrett said Friday afternoon. "It was an opportunity for us to get better, and we're going to take full advantage of that as a coaching staff. And when we're done with that we'll put the film down and we'll get ready for the next challenge."
Cowboys players are off Friday, but they'll break down the film on Saturday before Sunday's practice in anticipation for the Dec. 4 trip to play the Bears. In the meantime, Garrett and his staff will work on diagnosing arguably the most woeful performance of the season.
"It was just the consistency of our execution really in all three phases of our football team," Garrett said. "Some of that had to do with maybe being overanxious, overexcited. Too much of that instead of playing the poise necessary that we've played with for a lot of this year."
You can point to poise in a variety of situations, be it offense or defense. The Cowboys found themselves down 14-0 quite quickly, after a pair of lightning-fast Philadelphia touchdown drives. When given its own opportunities, the Dallas offense converted just 4-of-12 third downs and gave away three turnovers.
"We had some very manageable third downs throughout this game, particularly the early part of the game, that we didn't cash in on and that hurt us," Garrett said. "We turned the ball over right before half, that hurt us."
Garrett returned several times to the concept of the difference of one play. The Cowboys had eight possessions that lasted six or fewer players – a telling indicator of their inability to convert third downs, not to mention their turnovers. For a unit that has been reliable on third downs this season, Garrett noted the thin margin between success and failure.
"We had 12 of them in the game. We made four out of 12. If you make two more, you make six out of 12 and you lead the National Football League in third downs," he said. "Again, these are examples of those one or two plays in a game that are so critical. Earlier on in the year, on third downs, we were making those plays. We haven't made them lately."
Defensively, there will be positives to be found below the surface of the obvious stats. The Eagles raced to a 14-0 lead, they put up 464 yards of offense and they ran for an absurd 256 yards. Despite that, the Cowboys did hold Philadelphia to 10 second half points, and they forced the Eagles to kick field goals in four of their five red zone trips.
"They were put in a couple bad situations and they stepped up in some sudden change situations after turnovers, particularly down in the red zone," Garrett said. "They were down there five times and they only managed one touchdown. I thought that was good, we stiffened up when we needed to."
All of this will come as cold comfort, given the lopsided nature of Thursday's proceedings. The Cowboys trail in the NFC East race with a daunting road game up ahead. Which goes back to the original point. The only thing left to do is digest the tape and switch the focus.
"The biggest thing for us is to have the players come in tomorrow and go through this film really closely. Again, recognize what good stuff happened in the game, but also get to the stuff that we've got to get cleaned up in all three phases," Garrett said. "Start with that, and then our eyes will be focused solely on Chicago, and we'll have a great week of practice."