KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 11: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys warms-up prior to the start of the game against the Kansas City Chiefs on October 11, 2009 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Keith Brooking slept in, enjoyed the final few hours of a visit by his brother, then went to Dallas Cowboys headquarters during the afternoon of his "Victory Monday," an extra day off players received as a reward for beating the Atlanta Falcons.
Brooking grabbed a copy of the game film but had trouble finding a place to watch it. The first three or four rooms he went into were being used by teammates watching their own copies. Then he went to work out and there were about 20 guys in the gym.
That's when it hit him. Nearly everyone showed up to work even though they didn't have to be there.
"I was actually impressed," Brooking said. "I was walking around here smiling about the amount of guys who were here. It was good to see."
As he retold this story, Brooking, in his 12th NFL season, but first in Dallas, interrupted himself and said, "Why is everybody asking me about this?"
Well, Keith, a good turnout on a Victory Monday might not be a big deal on many clubs. But for the Cowboys, it is an encouraging sign.
Rather than stretching their legs and patting themselves on the back following their best performance of the season -- a reaction coach Wade Phillips sort of endorsed by giving them this treat right after their bye week -- the fact that the majority of players came in anyway sends the message they're truly committed to winning.
If Phillips meant it as a test, players passed. No matter how much guys talk about accountability and dedication, this showed it. That bodes well for the Cowboys' chances of avoiding a letdown against the scuffling Seattle Seahawks on Sunday when they'll try stretching their modest winning streak to three in a row.
"Just because we beat a very good football team, we haven't arrived," Brooking said. "We're not there yet -- you're never there. You've got to keep working and striving to get better every day."
Dallas (4-2) has won three of its last four games and two straight at its new $1.2 billion stadium. Suddenly, going down to the wire in losses to the division-leading New York Giants and unbeaten Denver Broncos sounds less like a cop-out and more like a reason to believe the Cowboys could be NFC contenders.
The next few weeks should be a good test. After showing whether they can handle prosperity against Seattle (2-4), the Cowboys go to Philadelphia and Green Bay. A win Sunday guarantees a winning record when they return home for their final two games of November.
"For right now, it's good to be in a good position," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "But at the end of the day, you've got to put more wins together and be a solid team throughout the whole season in order to be what you want to be."
The Seahawks have no idea what they are: the team that beat Jacksonville 41-0 or the team that didn't convert a third down in a 27-3 loss to Arizona.
"It's amazing how one week can change the way you think, isn't it?" Seattle coach Jim Mora.
The weird thing is, those huge swings didn't come in random games among the first six. They are the last two the Seahawks played, followed by a bye.
During the time off, they ended any hope of Walter Jones returning to stop the spinning turnstile at left tackle. He went on injured reserve and Seattle brought in a fifth option: Damion McIntosh, who'd been unemployed since Kansas City cut him in training camp and wasn't even invited back when the lowly Chiefs needed a lineman.
With problems all over the offensive line, it's no surprise quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is hurting. His broken ribs aren't totally healed (five sacks vs. the Cardinals certainly didn't help), so he missed several practices this week. Still, Mora insists he's sticking with Hasselbeck as the Seahawks try salvaging their season.
"We've just got to develop a consistency of execution and the only way we're going to do that, given our situation, is time and some patience while you push through it," Mora said. "Our guys have stayed focused and I know they're going to compete their best."
Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant will make his season debut, just in time to cover the NFL's new wideout sensation, Miles Austin.
Austin has 16 catches for 421 yards and four touchdowns, and that's merely in the two games since he joined the starting lineup. Having him a deep threat changes everything for Dallas, opening up the running game and intermediate routes for tight end Jason Witten.
That is, unless teams continue to dare the fourth-year guy to prove he hasn't merely had a couple of lucky games.
Mora doesn't seem to think so, noting Austin's speed and his ability to win the "50-50" battles for passes that could be caught by the receiver or defensive back. Mora also has gotten some insight from running back Julius Jones, who was on the Cowboys when Austin arrived as an undrafted signee from Monmouth University.
The first time he saw Austin run, Jones said, "Who is this cat?" Austin was primarily a kick returner during Jones' tenure.
"He's still running with that smile on his face," Jones said. "He's an unbelievable athlete. All you have to do is give him the ball. ... He's (showing) what you should do with an opportunity."