getting there with an attitude and a purpose."
Chimes in linebacker Akin Ayodele, whose two interceptions have come in this three game winning streak, "We're starting to establish ourselves as very physical, and we're beginning to dictate the tempo of the game."
Spears again: "We're not so worried about making mistakes. It really started from the coaches telling us not to be cautious on the field. You've got to remember, this 3-4 is a technical, technique-heavy defense. You have to be unselfish to play this defense."
This is something that for 11 people at once is not natural. But success breeds success, and suddenly because they find they can, they think they can. Or, as Yogi Berra said about his sport, "Baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."
The offense does play a part in this. As Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells pointed out at his Wednesday media briefing, "We've been holding the ball more on offense. That rests the defense. Our turnovers are down, so our field position is better, and when you play with a lead, the opponent is often more one-dimensional, and you get more opportunities for (takeaways)."
Some of what Romo has done, because of his agility or extra-terrestrial powers or whatever, has helped. Here's my favorite stat of all: Prior to the Thanksgiving game, the offense under Drew Bledsoe converted third-and-seven-or-more about 23 percent of the time (9 of 38). Seems about normal. Under Romo, third-and-seven-plus has been converted an astounding 44 percent of the time (16-36).
That's why linebacker Bradie James, asked if Romo had affected the defense as well the offense, says, "I don't think Romo has. But I think the improved play of the offense has definitely made us better. We know we just need to get them the ball back and they'll make something happen. It all rubs off."
But nothing rubs off like a turnover, either way. Nothing deflates a team as much as coughing the ball up. The possible exception can be a missed field goal at the wrong time, which is a big part of the reason the role of Mike Vanderjagt will be played this week by Martin Gramatica. (And by the way, owner Jerry Jones says of the kicker switch, "The one thing I do know is this: You've seen us spend big money on a kicker for the last time.")
And nothing sparks a team like a takeaway. You want a charged-up sideline, you find the one where the defense is knocking the other team into next week and taking away its favorite toy.
This is the team the Dallas Cowboys have resembled these last few weeks. The best news for Cowboys fans is that no one seems to think they're done.
Ayodele says "We're tapping into our potential."
James insists, "We're coming into our own, but we haven't arrived yet. We haven't matured."
Apparently they've been listening to Parcells, who says of his defense, "Our margin for error is not as great as what the stats might show."
Maybe not. But we're getting close to a place where the stats don't lie.