FRISCO, TX — It was a close call when the Dallas Cowboys visited the Los Angeles Chargers, but a win is a win and, in the NFL, every single one of them counts the same. There's also something to be said for what's learned in close games, e.g., real-time resilience, that can't be duplicated in a 40-0 blowout, though the latter is admittedly more fun.
It's been a roller coaster first six games for the Cowboys, one that's now seen them blowout three teams — two in historic fashion — but having also suffered a blowout loss before recovering to take a 20-17 victory in Los Angeles.
For his part, head coach Mike McCarthy says he isn't afraid to ride roller coasters.
"Well, I mean, roller coaster rides are fun," said McCarthy as the Cowboys prepare to enter their much-needed bye week. "You've got to look at the high points, too. … It all gives you a chance to learn."
And learn they have, but learn they must continue to do, as both the past and the present can certainly serve the evolution into the future. When players return to the facility early next week, they'll be met with messages from coaches regarding needed improvements to try and get their motor firing on all cylinders.
Part of that will also include the usual "Across the Hall" series, where players are directed to spend time in meeting rooms with other position groups to get a greater sense of how each part of the machine works toward the greater good of driving the vehicle forward.
"To be honest with you, we have a segment called 'Across the Hall', and we'll do that on Monday when we get back with the players," said McCarthy. "That will coincide with the self-scout on things that'll come out of offense, defense and special teams, and then we've got to turn the page and get on to the Rams."
Gone are the age-old labelings of "quarters" as it relates to the 17-game NFL schedule, at least in Dallas, that is. McCarthy has … evolved … to instead view the season as trimesters. With six games down and 13 remaining in the regular season, the focus now shifts to the second segment that effectively concludes at the end of November, right before the all-important gauntlet of December.
Each segment carries a growing importance, the one that concludes having given the Cowboys several key takeaways as they try to get their new-look offense on the right track while seeking consistency of performance from one of the best defenses in the league.
"To me, this season is really broken up into trimesters this year, the way it's fallen; and we've just completed our first one as we get ready for this next run," McCarthy explained. "We've been on the road four out of six games. It'll be fun to be home and play in front of our crowd. … Speaking to the coordinators, I think the description yesterday was the best: 'It was gritty but it wasn't pretty.'
"You guys like pretty and that's part of wearing the Star, but the gritty part is, to me, that's our foundation. That's something we need to continue to build off of."
There have been eye-popping positives for the Cowboys that have led them to a current record of 4-2, still hot on the heels of the 49ers, Eagles and Lions (who are quietly 5-1 right now), but there are also glaring areas of opportunity that need addressing.
McCarthy is ready to pull out the stamps and envelopes on Monday.
"We do need to clean some things up," he admitted. "The pre-snap penalties … I think [correcting those] is part of being a team and going through the ebb and flow … We just need to continue to find ways to be creative, demanding but making sure we're stressing the correct things coming out of this bye."
That's because as fun as roller coasters are, standing on top of a mountain is better.