pay attention to or try to chart momentum, as it can and will change in a nanosecond. When the game is completed it's fun to reflect back and analyze what and when grabbed the control and why and how did it change to the other side, and sometimes back again.
Last year, in the first game against Washington, the Cowboys had control of the 'Skins in Parcells' form. Dallas took a 13-point lead into the last four minutes of the game. Momentum had stayed with the Cowboys all day; they controlled every facet of the game. The only issue was that there could be more points up there based on the 'Boys dominance.
Then, the door was cracked open for Washington on the 70-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss. The extra point was made, and you could feel the collective doubt creeping into all those starred heads. One first down by the offense or allowing no big play by the defense could close the opened door, but Mo was shifting and was not going to be denied.
The Cowboys lost at home that day. It was strange, as it was one of those rare occurrences when the winning team never really had control of the momentum. They just had one more point on the scoreboard.
Last week, it was a classic momentum switch. Dallas built its case on the first four possessions of the game. The Cowboys moved the ball every time and scored 10 points. Jacksonville did not move far enough to register any points. Dallas was destined to win this game by 30, until . . . the momentum changed. "Our offense gave them a turnover right near the half. That was a big swing there," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said, referencing a shift in momentum.
Later an untimely penalty, a missed field goal and a couple of big bodied receivers turned the tide completely to where Jacksonville had just as much control of the game as Dallas had in the first quarter.
Old players and fans remember big plays that win games. But larger in my memory banks are the "swing plays," the ones that changed the Mo. Remember Jackie Smith against Pittsburgh in the 70's and Larry Brown against Pittsburgh in the 90's.
There are plenty of those crucial plays taking place while you have control, but one play usually does not change momentum. All one play does is offer up a swing possibility. It has to be followed up by a series of plays that create a mindset of confidence on one side and a doubt on the other.
Dallas is capable of competing on every play. If you are competitive on every play, and put together a string of solid plays, you have a good chance to win. If you win one game, then you should build a confidence to feed off of it to win a second game in succession, just exactly like a series of plays creates momentum within a game.
Seasons take on momentum surges. Dallas is capable of a "run" of wins to get and keep momentum on its side each week.
Let's look back and analyze at season's end if this rivalry game with Washington at home becomes the turning point that swings momentum over to the Cowboys' side, something enabling them to ride that wave for the rest of the season.