When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
It's an old saying and one that can come off pretty trite depending on what kind of lemons life decides to throw your way. In the case of the 2011 Cowboys, though, it should be the team's motto.
Every one of the major problems that the Cowboys have had to deal with through the first nine games of the season has wound up leading to something almost as delicious as a glass of cold lemonade on a hot summer day. The biggest of those lemons came in the form of Tony Romo's disastrous second half against Detroit in Week Four.
In the wake of that loss, people wondered just how the Cowboys were going to survive a season with a quarterback who struggled to identify teammates from defenders. Based on the way he played against the Jets earlier in the year it was a serious concern, but the immediate response might have wound up saving the year.
The Cowboys turned toward the ground game which, after another lemon in the form of Felix Jones' injury, led them to DeMarco Murray. It is a struggle not to get too far ahead of ourselves when it comes to Murray because four games is still just four games at the end of the day, but we can be sure that those four games don't happen without Romo messing the bed against the Lions.
And Romo never comes back from that disaster without someone else stepping up and taking the load off of him for a few weeks. Romo was in bad shape both physically and mentally after the two second half collapses and forcing him to keep trying to carry the team by himself wasn't going to work out well for the Cowboys. By the time they needed him to resume his lead role last week against Buffalo, Romo was healthy and clear-headed enough to turn in his best game of the year.
In that game, Romo completed passes to seven different receivers. Good luck defending an offense with that many options. That development also came about because of a roadblock thrown in Dallas' path this season.
Miles Austin's hamstring injury robbed the offense of its most reliable wideout, so, as with Murray, they were forced to adapt and find other ways to win games. Laurent Robinson, Jesse Holley and Kevin Ogletree might never become Austin, but teams can't take away any one player on the Cowboys offense without risking getting beaten by somebody else. A healthy Felix Jones is only going to make life more difficult for defensive coordinators, to say nothing of the moment Austin is ready to rejoin the team.
The Cowboys were forced out of their comfort zone early this season and they've responded by becoming a better, deeper team. That's as ideal an arc as you could hope to see through nine games of a season.