Planted firmly in last place of the NFC East after two straight losses and on the verge of their first three-game losing streak since 2010, the 2-3 Dallas Cowboys are not panicking.
Head coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones know the team needs a win after Dallas’ 31-29 loss at the Baltimore Ravens, but there were many positives to draw from the game, especially on offense.
The Cowboys compiled 481 yards, were 8-for-15 on third down and 2-for-2 on fourth down, with 30 first downs and tied a team record with 79 plays from scrimmage.
"There were a lot of things to feel good about," Garrett said. "There are no moral victories as we know. But there were some positive things we can build on and there were certainly a lot to correct as well."
Dallas also had its best rushing game of the season, gathering 227 yards, and did so with starting running back DeMarco Murray on the sidelines in the second half with a sprained foot.
Felix Jones took over for Murray, and put on his best display as a Cowboy in nearly a year, with 92 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jones will start in Murray’s place Sunday against Carolina.
The biggest drawback was Dallas' mismanagement of the final :30 seconds, when they let the clock rundown far too long and set up kicker Dan Bailey to fail with a 51-yard field goal. Bailey had never attempted a kick further than 39 yards.
Dallas nearly had their second huge road win of the season against one of the NFL’s top teams, and Jones said he sees potential for the Cowboys to not only bounce back, but form into a champion this season.
"We know that we've played one division game and won it,” Jones said. “We've got those guys, the Giants, coming back in here. We know that's going to be a big game for us.
“All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into, if you look at this plusses (Sunday), evolving into a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year."
Jones' championship talk comes at a huge juncture for Dallas, who have the most daunting part of their schedule coming up.
After the 1-4 Panthers Sunday, in three consecutive weeks Dallas will host the first place New York Giants, and then travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia.
If Dallas can continue to run the ball like they did against Baltimore, it will make that stretch much less daunting. Carolina is 23rd against the rush, and the undefeated Falcons are 27th, while the Giants and Eagles are a middling 16th and 15th against the run, respectively.