Jason Garrett played on defending Super Bowl championship teams three times.
He remembers how every game in 1993, ’94 and ’96, seasons after titles, the Cowboys had a bull’s-eye on their jerseys. Opponents used games against them as a measuring stick.
“After you have won a championship, there is no question about that, and that is just the nature of it,” said Garrett, who joined the Cowboys as a backup quarterback in 1993 after they won the 1992 Super Bowl. “As a team, you probably develop a hardness about you to get ready for those challenges, and that is a good thing for you because you know you have to be at your best every week. I know that was the case in the ’90s with the Cowboys, and you probably raise your level as a result of that.”
The Cowboys will be on the other side of that Sunday in Seattle. They will use the defending champion Seahawks as a measuring stick.
“I think we certainly know who these guys are, and they earned the right to be champions,” Garrett said. “I don’t know if there’s been a more impressive playoff and Super Bowl run than they had last year. They were awfully good. They’re off to a good start this year. They look like the same kind of team, so we understand the challenges. You just have to put the tape on, and they’ll get your attention. Whatever motivation you need beyond that, that’s up to you. But just watch the tape.”
Despite the Cowboys’ 4-1 start, questions remain about just how good they are. Their four victories came against teams that are a combined 7-12.
The Cowboys can make a big statement by beating the Seahawks in Seattle, though.
The Seahawks have won 17 of their past 18 home games, outscoring opponents 538-241. They beat the Cowboys 27-7 in Seattle in 2012 in Russell Wilson’s first career victory in his second career start.
“You go up there, and if we could have a win and come out of Seattle when no one is expecting it, then that would be a real [bonus],” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said after Sunday’s 20-17 overtime victory over the Texans. “You look for those. You try to find those, how you can basically build this thing. That’ll give us an opportunity to do that.”
The Cowboys’ Super Bowl odds are decreasing by the win, as their confidence rises. The Cowboys have never finished worse than 9-7 after starting 4-1, though they did miss the playoffs in 1984 and 2008 despite finishing 9-7 those seasons.
The Cowboys rank sixth in total offense, including first in rushing, and 21st in total defense before Monday night’s game factors into the rankings.
“I think our team is confident,” Garrett said. “We have a long way to go in every area of our team, and that’s the big thing we emphasize as coaches is you have to take the result out of it and go back and watch the tape unemotionally and find out how we can get better. I think our team has done that, and we’ve done that every week this season. It started with the loss we had against San Francisco in Week 1, and I thought we handled that well.
“What were the issues in that game? How can we improve upon those things? How can we build on the good things? I think we’ve done that in each of the subsequent weeks. That’s what you have to do. The teams that get better are the teams that are around late in the year, and that’s certainly a mantra for us. Our players feel that from us as coaches, and we have to continue to do that.”
The Dallas Cowboys lead the all-time series against the Seattle Seahawks 9-6, but are 3-4 in Seattle and haven’t won there in 10 years:
1976 Dallas 28, Seattle 13
1983 Dallas 35, Seattle 10
2001 Seattle 29, Dallas 3
2004 Dallas 43, Seattle 39
2005 Seattle 13, Dallas 10
*2007 Seattle 21, Dallas 20
2012 Seattle 27, Dallas 7
*Wild-card playoff game