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Eatman: Please Don't Forget The Last 3-0 Start 


Every now and then, I'll run across a fan or a friend who will ask me to reflect on my favorite games or moments from covering this team.

Immediately, games like the 1999 opener against the Redskins (my first with the Cowboys) or the win over Seattle in 2014 come to mind.

Very rarely does anyone ever ask me about the worst losses.

If they did, I would easily go back to the 2008 season. I think about four or five of the worst live in that year.

And to think, that's the very season we've been pointing to here in the last few days after the Cowboys beat the Dolphins on Sunday to improve to 3-0. It's been well documented that 2008 was the last time the Cowboys began a season with three straight wins. Yeah, Jason Garrett wasn't even the head coach. Instead, he was in just his second year as the team's offensive coordinator.

So it has been 11 seasons since the Cowboys began one like this. But all you have to do is look at that 2008 season to see what a 3-0 start means.

It means you've won three games. That's it.

On one hand, you've scored at least 31 points in every game and have basically dominated all three. On the other hand, none of these three teams you've faced look like a team that will compete for anything other than perhaps the No. 1 overall draft pick.

I get it that the schedule has been soft. Still, I hate that argument because all you can do is hammer those teams and the Cowboys have done that.

We all know it's about to get tougher, and it starts Sunday in New Orleans.

So let's get back to the 2008 season. Because speaking of getting tougher, the road started to get bumpy in Week 4 and the Cowboys didn't even play a great team. They lost to the Redskins at home in a game that they should've won but just didn't execute. Kind of like the second quarter last week against the Dolphins. The Cowboys, though, did that most of the day against Washington and lost.

But that wasn't one of those terrible losses that I'm referring to. It was just the first one in a season that spiraled downward in a hurry.

Let's not forget that 2008 was supposed to be "the year." They were 13-3 in 2007 and lost in the divisional round to the Giants, but this next year was going to be even better. Jerry Jones went all in with talent, adding Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson to a team already loaded with great players.

The Cowboys were 4-1 heading to Arizona. When we say that weird things happen against the Cardinals, this is the game we're referring to. It still stands as the only game in NFL history that started and ended with a special teams touchdown.

It's also the only time I can recall when tying the game with a 52-yard field goal to force overtime was a bad thing. Yes, the Cowboys would've been better to just miss the kick and lose the game 24-21. Instead, Nick Folk's field goal sent the game to overtime, where both Tony Romo (broken finger) and Mat McBriar (broken foot) got hurt in about two minutes. The latter injury was on a blocked punt that was recovered for a game-winning touchdown.

That was a bad loss. Next week was worse because not only did the Cowboys get spanked by a bad Rams team, 34-14, but it was the game that Romo was never going to play, however he was never ruled out. He was in uniform and warmed up before the game. But it just seemed like the entire team was waiting for him to take the ballcap off and jump in to save the game that Brad Johnson wasn't winning. It never happened and the Rams just kept scoring points. To me, that was one of the most embarrassing losses that I can recall.

But there are more. The Cowboys got it rolling with Romo back, and in early December they went to Pittsburgh with an 8-4 record after winning three straight. The Cowboys had chances to win this game, but in the fourth quarter the bottom dropped out and Romo's pick-six in the final minutes was the difference in the Steelers' 20-13 win.

That's when the finger-pointing within the team went to another level. Players like Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton publicly stated that Romo and Jason Witten were drawing up plays for each other, alluding to a division within the offense.

Still, the Cowboys were able to enter the final two weeks of the season with a 9-5 record, needing to win a game to make the playoffs.

It didn't happen. The final game at Texas Stadium should've been a memorable one but instead, all I can remember is two 75-yard runs in the fourth quarter by the Ravens, who ruined the night with a 33-24 win, spoiling the after-party that included just about every great player in franchise history who attended to turn the lights out on the stadium.

Ironically enough, the lights would turn out on the season the next week in Philadelphia. The Eagles needed a ton of help from other teams that day to even have a shot to make the plays. They got everything to bounce their way with the early games that day, and by the time the ball kicked off at 4:30 in Philly, this was essentially a playoff game. The winner moved on, the loser went home.


Yeah, the Cowboys lost 44-6 in a game that wasn't even that close. That's the day Romo made the infamous, "If this is the worst thing that happens to me" comment – which I still never really disagreed with. Still, you can't dispute just how bad that season ended. Starting out 3-0 and got it to 8-4 but finishing 9-7 and out of the playoffs.

If you're still with me, I apologize for taking you down that rocky road called memory lane. But you get the point. A 3-0 start is a nice beginning, but there's so much season left to play, it can still go one way or another.

So how do you avoid 2008? For one, the locker room has to be as strong as ever. There will be some bad games along the way, but the offensive and defensive leaders have to unite. There can't be egos like the Cowboys had with T.O., who was a great player and very productive, but still prevented the necessary leadership that is a must for teams to be successful.

And you have to somehow be able to withstand injuries. The Cowboys had a big one in 2008 with Romo missing three games, as the team only went 1-2 in that stretch.

All you can do is be prepared when those moments hit. Sure, the Cowboys have depth at some positions, but there are a few others where we all know there'd be a big drop-off.

But with all of that being said, I truly believe this football team is better than that team in 2008. I think what they've got right now with their balance of run/pass on offense and a defense that is very solid, and perhaps on the verge of getting better with more pass rush, is just a better football team altogether.

But it doesn't really matter what I think, or what you think, or what the national pundits think.

It's going to sort itself out – it always does.