With the last game already four days in the past, the news is (almost) all about looking forward for the Dallas Cowboys.
This has to be the top priority for the Cowboys going into the game against the Chicago Bears. Up until the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys had started to develop an image as a tougher, more resilient team than in the past few years. Now, they have to prove that they really are. The head coach believes they have what it takes.
"I think we have the right kind of guys in our locker room and on our coaching staff, first and foremost," coach Jason Garrett said. "When you have good character guys with the right makeup, you're going to be able to do that. But you also have to be mature. That's part of this league. Other teams are going to have success on a given play, series or a quarter of a game, and you have to keep coming back. You have to handle the adversity just like you have to handle the success -- put it behind you and move on to the next challenge. That happens within games, it happens from week to week, the best teams are able to do that."
As the quarterback, Tony Romo takes far too much blame for losses, and too much credit for wins. However, he does acknowledge how important the quarterback's play is to success in the NFL, and that he as well as the team has to play a good game to win. There is also a certain correlation between the quality of his outing and the success rate of the Cowboys.
Romo has thrown fewer than 30 passes in five consecutive games, the longest streak of his career. Since he's not throwing the ball as frequently, Romo must make the most of his opportunities, which he has done much of this season.
Study this season and the truth is easy to see. The Cowboys lost each of Romo's three bad performances, which occurred against San Francisco, Washington and Philadelphia.
The Cowboys have won his other eight starts. Sometimes, things aren't complicated.
I have to admit, Linehan's answer to the question of whether Romo would bounce back does rather fall under the category of "Well, what the heck did you expect him to say?"
"100 percent confident," Linehan said. "Quarterbacks aren't going to have A-games every week. You're going to have a couple games that aren't as good as others. I love his experience and the fact that he's been through that. He's had a really good season for us and we as an offense, we as a team, didn't have one of our better days last week."
In his weekly look at the offense, Sturm focuses in on what he sees as the biggest dropoff since the six-game winning streak: The drop in 3rd down conversions from 57% to 34% - despite actually having a shorter distance to convert in the last five games than in the first seven.
That has to be the top concern in the offensive meetings right now, right? What were the Cowboys doing then that they are not doing now? The best explanations that can really be seen is that the Cowboys are going through the ebbs and flows of a long season. When they are red-hot and "in the zone", they can't be beaten. They win in Seattle with 10 different 3rd Down conversions (including a 3rd and 20 for the ages). But, against Philadelphia, they only convert 4 3rd Downs and the punter gets too much work.
On the season, they are still on pace for a fantastic year, but it has to be incredibly disconcerting that the best 7 3rd Down games on an individual basis this year are the first 7: 1) NYG-H, 2) Seattle, 3) Tenn, 4) NO, 5) Houston, 6) SF, and 7) St Louis. While the bottom 5 are each of the last 5: 12) Ari, 11) NYG-A, 10) Phil, 9) Jacksonville, and 8) Washington.
That can't be a coincidence.
It is not only the offense that has experienced problems with slow starts.
While the 464 yards of total offense allowed, the inability to stop the Eagles on third down were both key factors to the loss, maybe the most alarming is how they start the games. Rod Marinelli's unit has allowed seven scoring drives in their opponent's first possession of the game. Five of those possessions have gone for touchdowns. No team in the NFL has allowed more.
Another issue plaguing the Cowboys has been slow starts. While the team has come from behind several times, it is certainly easier to win a game when you jump out in front at the very beginning.
The best way to eliminate any doubts that crept in with the loss to Philadelphia and to avoid what happened when the Cowboys traveled to the shores of Lake Michigan this time last year is to get off to a fast start.
Look, no one said the Nobel Prize committee was going to recognize this theory for original thought. But this is something the Cowboys must do for their emotional and strategic well-being as they enter an arduous December stretch.
"It's critical," Garrett said. "It's critical to start fast and to make stops."
Want to know why Dallas can't be too confident going into Chicago, despite the Bears' 5-7 record? Remember the trip last year?
The Bears scored on their first eight possessions. The only time they didn't score was to take a knee on the last play of the game. Josh McCown threw four touchdown passes and completed 27 of 36 passes for 348 yards. Brandon Marshall had six catches for 100 yards. Alshon Jeffery had five catches for 84 yards. Matt Forte ran for 102 yards.
The Bears had 490 yards and 33 first downs.
Mike Fisher drops a little news about some moves Rod Marinelli is making up front, including progress for Josh Brent.
Sources tell me that Brent, on scout team for each of the last two weeks and therefore scratched from each of the last two games, is being elevated to second-team 1-tech defensive tackle this week behind Nick Hayden. But that doesn't jump him over incumbent second-teamer Terrell McClain; McClain is getting snaps at the 3-tech this week behind starter Tyrone Crawford.
And where does that leave former Bears defensive tackle Henry Melton, a Pro Bowler during his time in Chicago? He's getting a lot of snaps, I'm told, at defensive end - all of this a part of Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli (himself a former Bears assistant) trying to put assorted D-linemen in positions to succeed.
I am glad he plays well on the road, given that the Cowboys have only one more home game. But about that word choice . . .
Murray is averaging 120.6 yards per game this season on the road. The NFL's leading rusher says he embraces playing in hostile environments.
"For me, that turns me on a little bit to come into someone's house and hear the boos and all that," he said. "I think it's a great thing, and you've just got to focus and have more patience on the road, so I think we'll be fine."
There have been many mentions about Henry Melton getting to play his old team, but there are several players and coaches getting a chance to face off against their former franchise - most of them wearing Bears colors.
Melton's return to Chicago isn't the only reunion. Dallas defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was with the Bears from 2009-12. The Bears have four players (Jeremiah Ratliff, Danny McCray, Terrance Mitchell and Dante Rosario) and four coaches (Joe DeCamillis, Reggie Herring, Paul Pasqualoni and Skip Peete) with ties to the Cowboys.
After seeming like a wasted draft pick for Dallas, Martellus Bennett has become a top offensive weapon in Chicago, with 65 catches this season for 757 yards and five touchdowns so far this season. He explains how he sees it, and perhaps the authority he cites is indicative of why he didn't fit in Dallas.
"I didn't have room to be myself," Bennett reflected. "They always told me, ‘Do it like Witten. Be like Witten.' I think they had a guy who played tight end the right way and they wanted me to do it exactly like him. But really if you try to imitate someone else, you can never really be who you are.
"Being a young player coming out of college - turning 21 after the draft and trying to change everything up to be like someone else - that's just not the way to go in anything in life. Dr. Seuss said, ‘No one can be ‘youer' than you.'"