They are feeling that pressure. Their losses are by 6, 7, 7 and 3 points. The prevalent notion that they are simply beating themselves is too simplistic. They have built a combination of karma and style around them that is defeating. They have already managed two two-game losing streaks and are 0-3 in NFC games.
It does not have to continue this way for the Cowboys.
Here is a remedy, starting when the Giants visit Cowboys Stadium on Monday night:
Clean It Up
Dallas ranks third in penalties with 49 for 404 yards, right behind Detroit and Oakland. The Cowboys are ranked third in total offense and fourth in total defense -- an enviable balance by any measure. Yet, they are 16th in points scored and 21st in points allowed. They are minus-5 in turnovers, compared with the Jets' league-best plus-10.
This is a matter of practice parlayed into game performance. It is about mindset and paying attention to detail. It is about discipline and this has been coach Wade Phillips and his staff's practice focus and message this week.
Playing clean football, especially at home where crowd noise is managed, is a Cowboys priority versus the Giants. It is a big step that should be expected, but the key will be how Dallas retains and then builds upon improvement. And the answer is that the same emphasis and time spent in this week's preparation becomes the team's standard.
End the Kickoff Follies
Dallas has returned 20 kickoffs. Its opponents have returned 16. Yet, Dallas' opponents have gained 120 more yards on kickoff returns than the Cowboys' 406.
The Cowboys' average drive starts at their 20.3-yard line, as opposed to the 32.9-yard line for their opponents. Dallas has a long kickoff return of 40 yards. Its opponents have a long one of 90. There have been no kickoff return touchdowns for Dallas, but one for its opponents.
Two weeks ago the Titans returned a kickoff 73 yards to set up the winning score. Last week the Vikings returned the second-half kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown in Dallas' 3-point loss.
When you get kicked like that in kickoffs, you are initiating failure. The answer is simple: Put more starters on the return teams until you find the right blend. And teaching and stressing discipline -- there's that word again.
Start Felix Jones
The Cowboys can look across the field on Monday night and learn something pivotal from the Giants. The best players start. The best players play. Cut the nonsense.
When the Giants opened the season by moving running back Ahmad Bradshaw to starter over Brandon Jacobs, a minor furor erupted, mostly from Jacobs. Bradshaw is the more dangerous back. He is the one who keeps defensive coordinators and defenses on edge. Jacobs still has a role as a power back. But the Giants offense is faster and more explosive with Bradshaw.
The Cowboys should have done this long ago with Felix Jones over Marion Barber. Jones should have been getting the ball, at least, at a 2-to-1 ratio over Barber.
Barber has 52 carries. Jones has 51. Barber has rushed for 175 yards and averaged 3.4 yards per carry. Jones -- 229 rushing yards and 4.5 yards per carry. Jones is doing more with less. Jones should be doing more with more. He is the back, like Bradshaw, that makes defenses think twice, who strikes fear. Make the switch. Make it permanent. And then ...
Run, Run, Run
I know the Cowboys have built their franchise with quarterback Tony Romo as the chief cornerstone. I know that recent Dallas drafts and moves have been made with Romo as the centerpiece. The Dallas mantra: Build it around Romo. Give him the weapons. Invest in that arm.
But the Cowboys ask Romo to do too much. Here is a case where less could mean much more. Dallas has thrown the ball 207 times and ran it only 120 this season. Dallas is averaging 41.4 pass attempts per game (third-most in the league) but only 24.0 rushing attempts per game (24th in the league). They need to make an unwavering commitment to Jones and an unwavering commitment to run the football to give Romo the help he most needs.
The teams beating them are doing that.
Their opponents have out-rushed them, 504 yards to 475 yards, with a long run of 42 yards to Dallas' 34 yards. The Cowboys' 95 rushing yards per game average ranks 23rd in the league. They have one rushing touchdown this season and that ranks 30th in the league.
If the Cowboys run it more than they throw it against the Giants or at least return to some semblance of balance and do it with Jones featured, expect a turnaround.
Did you know that the Cowboys pass defense has allowed the fewest yards (903) in the league? Probably not, because Dallas has only two interceptions to show for it. Their opponents have seven. And three teams in the league (Atlanta, Tampa Bay and Tennessee) have pass defenses that have amassed double-digits in picks.
What is the problem when you have prickly cornerbacks like Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins and playmakers overall in the secondary and at linebacker? This is a matter of meeting opportunity. The Dallas defenders need to prioritize even more the importance of getting their hands on footballs and catching them.
This matchup against the Giants on Monday night will be played in the stadium where Super Bowl XLV will occur. Dallas has designs on being in it. But here they are in Week 7 trying to prevent their season from becoming a wrap. This blueprint can help Dallas avoid that.
We will know all about the Cowboys heart and hustle, desire and fortitude after this Giants visit. The Giants beat them 33-31 last season in the christening of Cowboys Stadium. Then the Giants won 31-24 at home in December to complete the season sweep. Thus, the 11-5, NFC East champion Cowboys from a season ago saw two of their five regular-season losses dispensed by the Giants.
Dallas has havoc and a rival at the door.
That is plenty of incentive.
They should wrap themselves in it.
Below, LeCharles Bentley and Pat McManamon examine the dysfunctional Cowboys.