IRVING, TX - JANUARY 13: Wide receiver Terrell Owens #81 of the Dallas Cowboys kneels on the sidelines during the final moments of the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New York Giants at Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas. The Giants defeated the Cowboys 21-17. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Most of the Dallas Cowboys, from Jerry to Wade to the players, have spent the past week or so toeing the company line concerning questions of the team's recent late-season struggles, dismissing the upcoming match-up with the Giants at the Meadowlands as 'just another game;' an important game, granted, but only insofar as it is the next game on the schedule.
For some, new faces around Valley Ranch, it may be.
But for those veterans, like Bradie James, that have been around a while, that remember the 2007 playoff loss to these Giants and the year of futility and scrutiny that followed it, Sunday represents an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past; of losing Decembers, and bitter losses at the hands of New York--one, in particular, to end a season that began with Super Bowl aspirations and ended with a shocked and silent Texas Stadium.
Most players would not go so far in their comments, which might, as a rule, be a good thing; regardless, James's blunt assessment today rang refreshing in its pointedness.
"We've developed this rivalry since I've been here. They've beaten us, we've beaten them. They've beaten us and gone on to win the Super Bowl and there's no way I could forget that," James said on Wednesday. "The only way we can get past that is we've got to go, and just beat these guys."
The momentousness of a win, at the risk of over-dramatizing a single game, would be twofold for Dallas: First, the December question would lose some steam with a solid road victory. Secondly, possibly more importantly, the win would separate this team from those underachievers of the past to some degree--much in the style of the 2004 Red Sox overcoming the Yankees and then, as if someone threw a switch, rolling over the Cardinals in the World Series.
Ah, but all this retrospective analysis is better left, for the most part, outside of the locker room. For the Cowboys themselves, the source of motivation matters little as long as it's there--whether due to this game being the next on the schedule or against the Giants, or in December, etc. The fact remains, in the context of this season--with Dallas in first place, in control of their own destiny--and the team's recent past, this one seems like anything but 'just another game' from the outside looking in.
"[There's] no way of getting around how much we need to win," James said. "There's no need to say, 'oh, we'll get 'em next time' or 'we have more games,' because if you look at it in that way, we'll never turn the corner. This team needs to win. We're in a good position, we're number one in our division and the only way we can stay number one is we have to beat the teams in our division. We have to play three teams in our division again. We need to win, that's it.
"No excuses, we need to get the job done."