IRVING, Texas** – "It is Wednesday morning right now," Jason Garrett said toward the beginning of his Monday press conference.
That's the message he's delivering to his players after an emotional victory on the road against the Giants, as they have to move on quicker than usual to prepare for a Thursday game on Thanksgiving Day against the Raiders.
The Cowboys celebrated jubilantly and fully after their division win, but they don't have long to dwell on that feeling if they want to move two games above .500 for the first time this season.
After getting stomped by the Saints, the Cowboys collected themselves and took care of business a week later against an NFC East opponent. They didn't let that loss to New Orleans linger, and Garrett hopes his team will do the same after a significant win.
"If you look around the league, there are a lot of teams that have bad losses – sometimes they're close bad losses and sometimes they're blowout bad losses," Garrett said. "The teams that are able to put that one aside and come back and go win the next game and put their best foot forward, those are the ones that play at the end of the year. It's a long season. Games go a lot of different ways over the course of 16 games. You've just got to keep going."
As they keep going this week, Garrett's convincing his players that Monday should be treated like a typical Wednesday, Tuesday like a Thursday and so on with the unique Thanksgiving football schedule. He said the team spent just minutes wrapping up the Giants game and now all the energy and focus is on the Raiders.
Quarterback Tony Romo wasn't interested in waiting even until Monday to start looking at Oakland.
"I'll be onto Oakland on the flight home," Romo said at his Sunday postgame press conference. "The coaches have already started."
Tight end Jason Witten said the short week means preparing more mentally than physically, and DeMarco Murray said a lot of that has to do with staying in the classroom and watching more film with limited time to physically practice to prepare. The running back also said it's a privilege to be able to play on Thanksgiving.
"With the quick turnaround, we spoke on the Giants game briefly and we're on to the Oakland Raiders game," Murray said. "You've got to get your antennas up, got to watch film, got to get ready for those guys, good offense, good defense over there, good team in general. We've got to make sure we're prepared for them."
The Cowboys saw the Raiders in the preseason, but they lack the familiarity they had with their last opponent in the Giants. Dallas hasn't met Oakland in a regular season game since 2009 and the two teams have only played each other 10 times total, with the Raiders holding a 6-4 advantage.
Witten said the Cowboys have got to get this win and that it would be huge to head into December with a 7-5 record after going .500 team throughout the year.
"You move onto the next one," Witten said. "That was a big win last night, but they just get bigger. For our football team, that's what it's all about is focusing on this and saying, 'We're one game above .500, we've got a long way to go.' Get to 7-5, and that's the only thing we can think about right now."
Witten admitted there was a lot of emotion poured out during and after the Giants game, but the Cowboys have to get better at carrying success from game to game. They haven't demonstrated that ability, as their 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4 and 5-5 records showed earlier this year.
"As emotional as it was, you've got to put it behind you," Witten said. "It's a new opponent, new scheme, and you've got to be on it because they're going to come with it. They're a team that plays hard, they play fast defensively.
"You can't have a letdown. You've got to be able to build on this."
It also adds a little extra that it's the annual Thanksgiving Game.
"It's special," Witten said. "As a kid, you grow up watching those games of the Cowboys. I know there's a lot more games now. It seems like every week a team's playing with the new schedule. But there's nothing like playing on Thanksgiving.