Perhaps it’s because of the way head coach Jason Garrett steadfastly rejects all questions that stray from the weekly process mindset.
Or maybe it’s because the Cowboys have fought through multiple losing streaks over the last few seasons and gone from missing the playoffs in 2017 to winning the NFC East in this campaign.
Whatever the answer, it’s not a group that sits back and indulges the narrative of fans or the media.
“Outside the locker room and inside the locker room have been two completely different messages all year long,” quarterback Dak Prescott said following the Cowboys’ 36-35 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday.
“People outside the locker room think one way and we think a different way.”
At first glance, Dallas was sending mixed messages in New York on Sunday. Garrett said healthy players were going to play against the Giants, but then running back Ezekiel Elliott and starting offensive linemen Tyron Smith and Zack Martin were inactive for the contest.
Elliott’s absence seemed like a signal that the regular-season finale was not being approached as a must-win. And why should it be? The Cowboys were going to host a wild-card round playoff game and then, if they win, go on the road the next week regardless of what happened in East Rutherford, N.J.
But then the active Cowboys played as if their careers were on the line the entire day versus the Giants.
Prescott, who even the television announcers kept guessing would take a seat at any moment, went the entire way and passed for 387 yards with four touchdowns. He made the play of the game when he converted a fourth-and-15 by hitting Cole Beasley for a 32-yard touchdown.
Prescott followed that by tossing to Michael Gallup for the game-winning two-point conversion.
That sends the Cowboys quarterback into the playoffs looking like one of the most dangerous weapons of any team in the tournament.
“Sometimes people get down. Hey, [Prescott] takes sacks but one thing you have to understand when you have a mobile quarterback like that, there’s a lot of good plays he makes too,” Garrett said in response to Prescott’s heroics at the end of the Giants game. “Certainly, that was as good a play as I’ve ever seen him make and ‘Beas’ made a big-time catch on the other end of it.”
Now the Cowboys will focus on a home playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday evening at AT&T Stadium.
Elliott will be back on the field and it’s a good bet that Smith and Martin will join him. On his Monday conference call, Garrett said everyone except defensive lineman David Irving will be practicing this week. Presumably, that includes defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford, who was carted off the field on a stretcher a little over a week ago. Tests on Crawford’s neck revealed no structural damage, though he did sit out practice last week.
The Cowboys players strutted out of the locker room on Sunday, satisfied that they had defied critics by posting double-digit wins in the regular season.
But if Dallas can’t grasp a playoff victory at home over Seattle, it will give voice to its critics outside the locker room.