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Cowboys at crossroads: With chance to be 1st host team in Super Bowl, Dallas off to 0-2 start

Put a hold on that talk about the Dallas Cowboys being the first team to play in a Super Bowl at home.

They need to at least win a game first.

"It's real frustrating. I think it's too much hype around here," safety Gerald Sensabaugh said Monday. "Everybody's talking about the Cowboys in the Super Bowl. We ain't won a damn game yet. I don't even want to hear nobody talking about the Super Bowl. Really, can we just talk about the next game?"

Dallas is already at a crossroads in the season after losing its first two games, an unexpected development with so much at stake and big expectations from owner Jerry Jones. Especially with most of the starters back from a division-winning team that won a playoff game last season.

Receiver Roy Williams describes the mood as "frustrated but not panicking."

The Cowboys lost 27-20 on Sunday to the Chicago Bears in their home opener at the site of the next Super Bowl. That came a week after a 13-7 loss at Washington, where a fumble at end of the first half was returned for a touchdown and a score was wiped out by a game-ending holding penalty.

"Bring us back to Earth, it's going to help us stay levelheaded," Williams said. "Hopefully this is a lesson well-learned for this team."

Next is a trip to undefeated Houston (2-0) before the Cowboys have their early open date.

Houston beat Dallas in a preseason game last month. More embarrassing for the Cowboys was their last trip to Houston for a regular season game, in 2002 when they lost in the Texans' first NFL game.

The Cowboys certainly can't afford another loss. Imagine going into the open date and the end of September without a victory.

Their odds of getting into the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl, have already gotten extremely long with only two losses.

Since the NFL playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990 until last year, 169 teams started 0-2. Only 22 of them — or 13 percent — made it to the playoffs, according to STATS LLC. Only four teams rebounded from 0-2 to make it to the Super Bowl, including the 1993 Cowboys after Emmitt Smith ended his contract holdout.

In the locker room Sunday, cornerback Terence Newman, the longest-tenured defensive player for Dallas, indicated the need for a players-only meeting. Coach Wade Phillips said that meeting happened Monday afternoon.

"We're close, but we're too far away. That's our problem right now," a testy Phillips said. "We did some things well, but not enough to win the game. ... It's a 16-round fight, and we've been knocked down twice. We've got to come back fighting."

And this was supposed to be the easy part of the schedule for the Cowboys.

Consecutive games against last year's Super Bowl teams, New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day and then at Indianapolis, start a closing six-game stretch against five opponents that won at least 10 games and went to the playoffs last season. The other team in that span is Washington, which has already beaten the Cowboys this season.

Tony Romo was 34 of 51 passing for 374 yards and a touchdown against the Bears, Miles Austin caught 10 passes for 142 yards and rookie Dez Bryant returned a punt 62 yards for a TD.

But the Cowboys sacked turnover-prone Jay Cutler only once, on the second play of the game, and didn't have an interception. That's zero forced turnovers in two games, plus David Buehler has missed field goals in both games, hooking a 44-yarder in the fourth quarter Sunday that would tied the game.

"Definitely, I'm shocked. We wanted to be better than that and we're going to be better, and we're going to execute better and it's going to be a lot more fun ahead," Igor Olshansky said. "We could win every game from now on and none of these games would matter. And we have that ability that we can do that. I think we're going to win a lot of games. I know we are."

With many of the same players, Dallas overcame a 2-2 start last season for an 11-5 mark that won the NFC East.

While the Cowboys are the only 0-2 team in the NFC East right now, the other three division teams are all 1-1.

Newman also brought up the possibility of there being a lack of intensity in practice. He said players had to "crack down" and change that, though Phillips said he didn't consider that a widespread problem.

Phillips acknowledged, however, that he was looking at personnel and evaluating what the Cowboys was doing because they "need to change the track we're on." The coach would never get specific about what changes might be made.

"When you're 0-2, you start looking for all the answers. Rightfully so," tight end Jason Witten said. "You have to look at each other. You have to find out why you're not executing, why you're not playing well enough to win. ... I don't think it can be a wakeup call. It's bigger than that. We have to play our best football. "