The strongest teams in football at any level are the ones who are able to impose their will in the fourth quarter, That is something that Jason Garrett has taught his squad ever since he took over for Wade Phillips in the middle of the 2010 season. The Rooster fully believes that is where teams exert their dominance over the rest of the league.
"We certainly talk to our team a lot about what wins in the NFL. We talk about turnovers -- that's the only statistic we emphasize because of its correlation to winning, but we also talk about the importance of efficient and executing in the fourth quarter because that's what correlates to winning." - Jason Garrett
The Dallas Cowboys put Garrett's philosophy to full use during the Wild Card match up against the Detroit Lions. The team dug itself a serious hole in the first quarter and spent the rest of the game putting up a fight to get where they wanted to be. Last season's Cowboys might, most likely would, have panicked and went into a full-fledged aerial attack behind Tony Romo's right arm. Not these Cowboys. They remained steadfast in their resolve and continued to play football.
That is not to say that Dallas did not make adjustments. Good football teams always do. They just stayed within what they do well. More importantly they remained true to what the coach expects of his players.
"It's a mentality and a mindset. You hear me emphasize it a lot. When you're ahead in the game, you have to go after it. You have to go finish the job the right way. Any kind of relaxing is not good for anybody.
"The idea is that this matters. This play matters. This series matters. Don't look at the scoreboard -- play this play to the best of your ability. That goes a long way in instilling that killer instinct that you want."
At the end of the game it was a collection of individual "this matters" efforts that took their toll on a Detroit Lions team that started the game on fire. By the time the game wound down, the Cowboys efforts on offense paid off with ten critical points. On the other side of the ball, the defense mustered the will to hold Matthew Stafford and his cohorts scoreless. Once more this season, the Dallas Cowboys owned the game's final period and it made the difference between the Cowboys watching next week's game on TV and their making a flight to northern Wisconsin to take part in the contest.
Winning in the fourth quarter: it too is the Way Of The Rooster.