IRVING, Texas — The moment the players left the dingy grass field of University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys began the process of moving on from a painful loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Inside the locker room, numerous players talked about forgetting the past, no matter how recent it was, and looking toward the future.
That’s how the Cowboys have done it, and despite a 19-13 overtime loss to the Cardinals on Sunday, which cost them a two-game lead in the NFC East, the season moves on.
The immediate future is Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, where the Cowboys take on the second-place New York Giants.
Once again, the Cowboys must purge themselves of a nasty defeat and regroup.
“At the end of the day, no matter how much you think about it, it’s not going to change,” cornerback Frank Walker said. “You just get over it. You kick it out. This team, we’ve lost some close games early in the season, so you know how to get over those close losses and you realize some games you should have won and some games you should have lost. But I come to realize, every week we’re in a thriller.”
Enduring a difficult loss isn’t new for the Cowboys, who have done it several times this year.
There was the season-opening loss at the New York Jets, where Tony Romo’s two fourth-quarter interceptions led to defeat.
The Cowboys lost a 24-point lead at home to the Detroit Lions and ended up losing the game.
In New England, Tom Brady engineered a fourth-quarter drive to down the Cowboys, 20-16.
Of course there was the game at Philadelphia where the Cowboys were beaten up badly, 34-7.
Yet, this team responds to the challenge.
A four-game win streak in November pushed the Cowboys into first place in the division and uncovered a new starting running back, DeMarco Murray, and confirmed how sound the signing of wide receiver Laurent Robinson was.
But now there are questions if this Cowboys team can move forward again.
“We’re in control of our own destiny,” safety Abram Elam said. “We just got to continue to go out and play well and we’ve done it a few weeks this season and we have to be consistent.”
The inability to manage the clock in the closing seconds of the Arizona loss was the focal point of Jason Garrett’s news conference Monday. He took 21 consecutive questions from reporters about his decision to let the clock run down without running the ball to attempt a shorter field goal try at the end of regulation.
With the Cowboys eventually losing in overtime, the loss at Arizona might have profound impact on the playoff picture.
“It’s frustrating to lose,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “It’s one of those things where you can’t concentrate on the playoff picture or any other situation. You have to concentrate game-to-game.”
As the final month of the season begins, the Cowboys have no choice but to move ahead. That’s what they know.
After the Jets loss, they beat San Francisco on the road in overtime while Romo played with a fractured rib and punctured lung. Following consecutive losses to Detroit and New England, the Cowboys defeated St. Louis, 34-7, led by Murray’s franchise-record 253-yard effort.
Still, things were not easy. A loss in Philadelphia raised issues about the talent level between the two teams. But the Cowboys put together a run of four consecutive wins before losing in the desert Sunday afternoon.
“We’re staying focused, write us off, whatever,” nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. “It was easy to get rid of success too because we can’t dwell on that either because there’s another game coming up.”
Having a short memory is important in the NFL.
During his 20-minute news conference, Garrett, while talking about the late-game blunders, mentioned moving on to the Giants game several times.
It’s the best thing for the Cowboys to do.
“We will move on,” defensive end Marcus Spears said.
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