IRVING, Texas – Last week’s emotionally jarring defeat is made more manageable when there’s a chance at redemption against the Redskins and moving to 2-0 in the division.
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten admitted the days following the loss to the Denver Broncos were tough. But now five days removed, having a division rival on the slate that swept the regular season series last year makes shifting the focus easier to handle.
Witten said he continued to rewind missed opportunities from last Sunday’s game back in his head the first few days of this week, especially because it felt offensively like they’d score every time. But he knows he’s the last person that can afford to reminisce.
“There were so many big plays in the game on both ends, so it took a while (to get over),” Witten said. “But you don’t have a choice. I think as leaders on this team, people are looking around to see how you handle yourself, so you’ve obviously got to come in and move on. Really, to get to a division game, you don’t have a choice.”
The focus is now entirely on a Redskins team that confused the Cowboys with blitzes and ran down the throat of the Dallas defense, winning the first matchup last season, 38-33, and the season finale, 28-18. Tony Romo threw for 441 yards in the first loss, but he compiled just 218 passing yards in the second game and threw a combined five interceptions between the two games.
DeMarco Murray could do nothing but watch the first defeat as he nursed a foot injury. He was able to play in the finale and average 4.5 yards per carry.
“We know how important these division games are,” Murray said. “We really don’t look at records and those things, but each division game is important, and we’ve got to make most of them count.”
Witten said frustration can set in when he looks back at those losses, the latter of which forced the Cowboys out of playoff contention. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett sent various blitzes that brought Romo down twice in the finale and forced him to throw three picks.
“They outplayed us,” Witten said. “They brought a lot of pressure against us and got there different ways. It felt like we were on our heels the entire game. We turned the ball over, did all the things you hope not to in those big games like that. It’s a tough tape to go back and watch and learn, and I’m sure we’re going to expect Jim Haslett to do the same kind of stuff. Hopefully, we’ll have some better answers this year.”
Owner/general manager Jerry Jones admitted after Sunday’s loss to the Broncos that the defeat would be tough to swallow for a few days for the Dallas Cowboys, who have a 24-hour rule to put everything behind them. Head coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week that rule can be a tough challenge, but the Cowboys need to shake off whatever success or adversity they had from the previous week.
That challenge can be even tougher for a quarterback who threw for five touchdowns and more than 500 yards, yet still lost after throwing his first interception with two minutes left. Witten has no doubt Tony Romo will bounce back this week.
He commends Romo for how he handles himself after those situations, and Witten said the offense goes as Romo goes.
“I think that’s one of the greatest traits he has as a player – he’s as composed as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Witten said. “He just has great mental toughness and composure to move forward. A lot of times as professional athletes, you think some of the most mentally tough people you know, I think he exemplifies it every time he goes out there every day.”
The Cowboys will need a resilient Romo this week against a Redskins team that’s had their number in the last two matchups with Robert Griffin III at the helm. Witten said these games are what teams play for, and the Cowboys need to find a way to get to stay undefeated in the division.
Cornerback Brandon Carr knows the defense will have to put the team in better shape to make that happen after allowing 51 points last week.
“Another high-powered offense that can get the ball down the field,” Carr said. “We have our hands full, but we better get the job done. When the ball’s in the air, you’ve got to take it away.”