IRVING, Texas – A 1-2 record has never looked so good for the Dallas Cowboys.
It is certainly much better than the doomsday mood that could have engulfed the Cowboys for two weeks without that victory going into their bye weekend.
"Obviously we were off track, but I think it did give us some spark for us to win that game," offensive guard Leonard Davis said in a still-subdued locker room Monday, a day after winning 27-13 at Houston. "Yeah, there is some sense of relief."
The Cowboys avoided their first 0-3 start since 2001, and their first three-game losing streak under coach Wade Phillips, by finally Sunday looking like the team that went into this season expected to be one of the NFC's best.
Dallas had a turnover-free game on offense, with Tony Romo throwing two touchdown passes to oft-criticized receiver Roy Williams. The defense had four sacks and finally forced some turnovers for the first time this season, with two interceptions and a fumble recovery.
"It's a relief, it's excitement, it's all in one," safety Gerald Sensabaugh said. "It's great to see us our team play like that. We did great in all three phases. We put up a lot of points, had a lot of stops, played some sound football."
Last season, the Cowboys went into the bye week after a 26-20 overtime victory at then-winless Kansas City. That made Dallas 3-2 instead of 2-3 for an extra week. The Cowboys won five of their next six games after their break and went on to win the NFC East title.
This time, they avoided being winless for an extended period.
"Obviously you feel better going into a week after you get a win," Marcus Spears said. "At the end of the day, you're 1-2. That's not the prettiest record, but it's a step in the right direction."
Despite two losses, the Cowboys are within one game of NFC East-leading Philadelphia (2-1) while division foes Washington and the New York Giants are also 1-2. There are still 13 games left in the regular season.
The victory for the Cowboys came after some inspirational words the night before the game from special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, who is still recovering from the broken neck he sustained when the Cowboys' practice facility collapsed during a rookie minicamp in May 2009.
"I wasn't big on speeches last week, but Joe D was talking about when the facility collapsed and he was under the rubble and he had to make a decision whether he wanted to live or die. He didn't want to die. He basically had to do whatever he could to live," Sensabaugh said. "He made the game situation like that. We are 0-2, we are falling behind and if wanted to live we had to go out there and play like we wanted to. We had a lot of guys playing with a lot of fire. ... We were a totally different team ."
DeCamillis delivered his speech to special teams players, though coach Wade Phillips said that incorporates most everybody on the team.
All the players know what happened to DeCamillis, but his passionate words Saturday night were the first time many of them had heard it so personally from the coach.
"When he talked about it, it resonated because you knew his story, you knew what happened. He gave it to us real and just how he felt," Spears said. "You can relate it to something like football, because this game, a lot of it is like life, about perseverance, coming back from tough times, sticking together with teammates. ... It was amazing to here him say that."
Phillips said DeCamillis gets the players "riled up" every week and that sometimes even owner Jerry Jones sits in on those special teams meetings "just to get motivated."
Still, Phillips said this time was a bit different because it was so much more personal.
Something definitely got the Cowboys' attention.
"I guess we probably needed those two losses to have a reality check. The way we played (Sunday), that was our true identity," Sensabaugh said. "If we can play like that (every game), we can be what everyone thinks we are."