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"Eyes Forward" For The Cowboys After Best One-Season Turnaround In Team History

FRISCO, Texas – Even in defeat Sunday, the Cowboys made history.

They'd like to make more.

Despite losing their regular-season finale to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys produced their best-ever one-season turnaround: a 4-12 record in 2015 to a franchise-record tying 13-3 in 2016.

Nice? Sure. Rewarding? No.

"It's not really a time for reflection," head coach Jason Garrett said in his postgame interview at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Cowboys returned home Sunday night with some time off. They own home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs and a first-round bye. They'll play the lowest remaining NFC wild-card team (No. 4 Green Bay Packers, No. 5 New York Giants or No. 6 Detroit Lions) at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 15.

Garrett's message to the team was simple: the only thing that matters is what we do now.

"This is a time to get our eyes forward and get back to work," he said. "We will clean up this game quickly and get our eyes forward as a team. We will practice at the end of the week with our team and we will get locked in on that."

Tight end Jason Witten has been in this spot once in 14 NFL seasons. In 2007 the Cowboys had the top seed and lost to the Giants in the divisional round. He and the organization had been back to the playoffs only twice since, both times as wild cards (2009, 2014).

"It's hard to get the bye and have the opportunity to get healthy and evaluate ourselves and watch tape. You've got to go all in," Witten said. "You've got to make sacrifices and commitments over these next few weeks, not just another week. Everything tightens up, and this is win or go home, and I think our team has a clear understanding of that."

Reflection isn't necessary this week, as Garrett said, but rest is. The Cowboys' inactive list for Sunday's regular-season finale was essentially determined last Friday because seven players, including five starters, were already ruled out due to injury: left tackle Tyron Smith, cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Tyrone Crawford, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, defensive tackle Terrell McClain, defensive tackle Cedric Thornton and linebacker Justin Durant. Starting left guard Ronald Leary (back) was active against the Eagles but did not play.

An extra week off should improve their chances of getting back to full strength by Jan. 15. The team mindset, though, is more hard work.

"Everybody puts their blinders on," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "Everybody does really understand what a grand opportunity this is for this team and all of the work and everything that they've put in has got a chance to really pay off for them."

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