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Rusty Cowboys Limping Into Showdown With Giants

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(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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IRVING, Texas (AP) — Standing before his highly paid, highly promoted, highly underachieving team, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones let ‘em have it this week.

He unleashed all kinds of support and encouragement.

That’s right: the owner-general manager patted them on the back instead of kicking them in the rear, hoping positive reinforcement can help snap the Cowboys (1-4) out of their funk.

He didn’t berate the offensive players for penalties and turnovers, the defensive guys for penalties and a lack of turnovers or the special teamers for trouble stopping kickoff returns.

No, he gave them a pep talk about still being able to win the division and reaching their goals — like becoming the first team to play in the Super Bowl in their home stadium.

“I think it was important,” coach Wade Phillips said Wednesday. “I mean, it was positive but it was also his feelings. I think the message was really good. I think the players will respond to it.”

Jones delivered his upbeat message at team headquarters Monday. The day before, in Minnesota, still stinging from the latest loss, Jones said he saw no reason for optimism and that time was running out.

The about-face was interesting.

Instead of being the proverbial bad cop to Phillips’ good cop persona, Jones showed unity with his coach. It also enhanced his oft-repeated stance that he’s not going to change coaches this season.

“People are saying this and that about your team and all those things, I think it’s important that they feel like everybody is on the same page,” Phillips said. “Everybody realizes where we are, but everybody also is going to work hard to get better.”

The speech also smacks of desperation — as in, what else can they try? They’ve already had players-only meeting and the division-leading New York Giants (4-2) are coming to Cowboys Stadium on Monday night. Dallas is 0-2 at home and lost to the Giants in the debut of their $1.2 billion stadium last year.

Then again, maybe Jones is sincere. He continued singing his happy tune on his radio show Tuesday.

“Our team is doing some very good things,” he said. “We’re being dominant in our fronts in many cases. Dominant. And you win the game usually when you are playing that well.

“We took the tape apart yesterday and looked at the play of every player, looked at his effort, looked at the things that we’re doing and those usually win ballgames,” Jones continued. “I believe in these guys, I believe in the coaching staff, I believe in Wade Phillips. I believe we can turn things around. While the odds are against us, we can make all the things happen that we wanted to do this year.”

Where’s the disgust? Where’s the outrage? Strictly among fans, apparently.

Nobody’s been cut or traded. As for demotions, don’t even mention such a harsh word. Right guard Leonard Davis was benched during the first half two games ago, then returned in the second half when his backup was injured; Phillips later insisted he was looking to get his starter back in anyway. Felix Jones replaced Marion Barber as the primary running back the past two weeks, but the older, higher-paid Barber continues to start.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it,” Phillips said. “I don’t think it bothers anybody.”

Phillips gets more ruffled when talking about penalties. But only to a point.

While he acknowledges they are a problem, he also likes to point out that the team with the fewest penalties doesn’t always win. He defuses their 49 penalties by noting they are spread among 24 guys; so what if four teams have 23 penalties or fewer (and three of them have winning records).

No wonder Phillips is so beloved in the locker room. And, it’s important to note, players are giving him their all. They’ve been in every game to the end, even after falling behind 17-3 in the second quarter against Tennessee.

“Yeah, it’s appreciated,” safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. “I mean, we have a good team. We believe in each other. We’ve got a good team. We’re just making simple mistakes that we need to correct.”

So maybe a chewing-out session wouldn’t solve anything. It could even backfire considering how out of character that would be for Phillips — who on Monday talked about “some outstanding things that we’ve done,” like gaining the third-most yards and allowing the fourth-fewest.

“We’ve got a team that is playing well,” Jones said. “This isn’t a rationalization, but we’re actually better each week.”

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

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