Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cowboys cautious in Bear country

Can't afford to look past Chicago in NFC East race

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CHICAGO -- Jason Garrett wasn't interested in a history lesson.

The way he sees it, the shortfalls in recent seasons have no bearing on the playoff push the Dallas Cowboys are trying to sustain heading into the final stretch.

They head into Monday's game against the fading Chicago Bears with back-to-back wins and a share of the NFC East lead.

"A lot of people step back and say, 'This team won eight in a row and won the Super Bowl. This team lost their last three,"' said the Cowboys coach. "It has nothing to do with us. What has to do with us is today and our preparation for Chicago. We want to play one good ballgame. That's really what we're focused on. We'll let everyone else figure out what the history of the world is.

"We've got to focus on us right now," he continued. "This football team has very little to do with the 2012, '11, '10, 1966 team -- it has nothing to do with it. So we need to focus on us and what we need to do to get ourselves ready to play one ballgame."

For the third time in three full seasons under Garrett, the Cowboys (7-5) go into December with a chance to make the playoffs. Now, they'd like to clinch a spot.

They won three straight to go to 8-6 last season, only to lose to New Orleans and Washington. The Redskins game was the second straight playoffs-or-bust finale, so if Garrett wasn't in a reflective mood, it's not hard to see why.

The Bears (6-6) would just as soon not look back, either.

They've dropped six of nine after a demoralizing 23-20 overtime loss at Minnesota that fueled questions about coach Marc Trestman's decisions and reduced their playoff hopes to a long shot.

Trestman found himself facing questions for having Robbie Gould attempt a 47-yard field goal on a second down in overtime rather than try to shorten the distance as the Bears were moving the ball well enough.

Gould, operating on little sleep after the birth of his son, missed wide right, and Minnesota's Blair Walsh answered with a 34-yarder.

That sent the Bears to their sixth loss in nine games, a serious blow to their playoff hopes.

They trail Detroit by a game in the NFC North, with the Lions holding the head-to-head sweep, and their shot at the wild-card is just about out of range.

The Bears would have been facing an uphill climb even if Jay Cutler and Lance Briggs returned from injuries, and Trestman said they will not play this week.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 8, 2013 B12

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