The playoffs got underway this weekend and, as you're surely aware, the Cowboys weren't a part of them.
If they'd like to be a part of them next year, it's not the worst idea to look at some of the things that went down over the weekend to see what changes will increase the likelihood of a return to the postseason in 2013. The most glaringly obvious lesson is one that you probably already gleaned from the regular season.
The Cowboys simply need to be better on defense. Everyone loves to talk about Tony Romo because we live in a quarterback-driven world, but the lesson in three of the four games this weekend is that the surest way to get into the mix for a Super Bowl is to have a defense that can win a game for you when the offense sputters.
Cincinnati didn't beat Houston on Saturday, but they had a chance because their defense limited the Texans to 19 points and scored seven of their own on a day when their offense couldn't do a thing. What's more, the Bengals offense didn't do a thing in the final month of the season but they still made it to the playoffs because their defense got them wins.
On Sunday, the Colts got blown out by a Ravens offense that was playing so well that they fired their offensive coordinator in December. Having Andrew Luck didn't mean much of anything, although the game might have been a smidge closer if they had anyone capable of routinely catching his passes.
In Washington, meanwhile, the Redskins led going into the fourth quarter despite Robert Griffin III's clearly diminshed state because their defense didn't let the Seahawks run off with the game. And let's just say that the Seahawks' work against an injured RG3 didn't say too much positive about the job Rob Ryan's unit did in the season finale.
That was the biggest lesson, but it wasn't the only one.
Have a good backup quarterback - Joe Webb might not have thrown a pass all season, but it's hard to believe that's the only reason he looked like he'd never even played the position during Minnesota's loss to Green Bay. Kyle Orton was a good signing simply because he can throw the ball to receivers without a bounce in between.
Don't be afraid to play the backup - The handling of RG3's injury is being hotly discussed. We can't know what the knee felt like, but we did see that Griffin clearly wasn't able to play at the level the Redskins needed. Kirk Cousins should have been on the field and the whole "there's a difference between being hurt and injured" coachspeak should be benched forever.
Don't be afraid to be bold, either - Drafting Russell Wilson wasn't as bold as people like to make it out to be. Handing him the offense to start the season over the guy you signed as a free agent? That's bold and it shows the Seahawks are committed to playing the best players regardless of circumstances. We watched enough of Marion Barber, Roy Williams and Terence Newman over the years to know the Cowboys don't always subscribe to that theory.