IRVING, Texas – The phrase gets thrown around a lot in sports, and football in particular – "mental toughness" is an ideal quality for a team to possess.
The Cowboys have shown it at several points this season, perhaps most impressively Sunday afternoon, when they rallied back from multiple mistakes to win a road game against the Seahawks.
"We talk about it all the time and you're trying to create an environment for our team so we can become mentally stronger," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. "I think we saw a lot of that yesterday in the game. You said it. It's hard to get a punt blocked and turn the ball over twice and they get the ball in the red zone and overcome it on the road against a team like that. But our guys just kept playing."
Pick whichever accomplishment you want – defeating the defending champions, earning a perfect 3-0 mark in road games, achieving the franchise's first five-game winning streak since 2007 – but that mental toughness could come in handy after all the Cowboys' recent exploits.
Those accomplishments would draw attention to any team in the league. But considering it's the Cowboys who are the talk of the NFL, that scrutiny could become much more intense.
"That' the culture we live in. You have to just keep grinding away at it," Garrett said. "There's so many things that, when we look at our football team, that we have to get better at, and our players see that when we show it to them on tape. It's all over the tape."
Weeks like this one might make Garrett's newfound schedule beneficial in that regard. Monday is the Cowboys' off day, which means players weren't present while the coaching staff broke down the tape of the Seattle game. When the players return to work Tuesday, it will have been nearly 48 hours since the score went final at CenturyLink Field.
"There won't be a meeting until then, and really we'll go through the game unemotionally and try to recognize what was good in the game and build on that and correct the things that weren't good," Garrett said.
That approach has worked beautifully for the Cowboys through six weeks of the season, but a sound beating of the Seahawks might work to change that narrative. If, as Bill Parcells
said, "You are what your record says you are," then the Cowboys are one of the league's four or five best teams through the early going of the season. They've also authored one of the best wins of the first third of the season.
Garrett didn't shy away from that fact on Monday, acknowledging the quality of a win in Seattle – a place where only one other NFL team has won in the past 19 attempts. As for the rest, though, he didn't want to hear it.
"We are a work in progress. I will keep saying that, because that's what we are," Garrett said. "Any declarations about what this team is or isn't -- yesterday was a good game for us. We've gotten off to a good start. We have done some good things. We've got to focus on getting better. We have to focus on the day."
That's where mental toughness comes into play once again. The Cowboys are the authors of a five-game winning streak – which earned them the No. 1 seed in the playoffs last time they managed it. With a handful of obvious exceptions, such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten, a large swath of this roster hasn't experienced the frenzy around a successful Cowboys team.
Sticking with the same understated tone, Garrett sounded confident in his team to keep the focus where he wants it.
"We certainly like the makeup of our team. We spend a lot of time talking about the makeup of each player, before we draft them or sign them or bring them into our team," he said. "They have to be the right kind of guy, the kind of guy who loves to play football, wants to be a part of a team, guys willing to fight, scratch claw to be their best so we can be our best."