CHICAGO – Jason Garrett wasnt 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 Mondays 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, the Cowboys coach said. 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. Thats really what were focused on. Well let everyone else figure out what the history of the world is.
Weve 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.
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 wasnt in a reflective mood, its easy to see why.
The Bears (6-6) would just as soon not look back, either.
Theyve dropped six of nine after a demoralizing 23-20 overtime loss at Minnesota that fueled questions about coach Marc Trestmans 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 Minnesotas 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.
Here are more things to look for in this game:
Who’ll stop the run
How badly have the Bears struggled against the run? They rank 32nd in that category, but that only tells part of the story. Theyve allowed 199 yards rushing or more in four of the past six games and have given up 1,843 on the season, eclipsing last seasons total (1,627). The 5.0 yards per carry theyre giving up ranks as the third-highest average in club history.
Before returning to practice on Thursday, the Cowboys had 10 out of 21 days off because of their bye and a Thanksgiving game.
It feels like a new season all over again, said Jason Hatcher, the team leader with a career-high nine sacks. We just got to approach it that way and keep doing what we doing.
The Bears intercepted Tony Romo five times in last years win at Dallas. He hasnt been so generous this year.
Romo has just seven interceptions and has thrown more than one in a game only once this season.
Mike Ditka is finally getting his No. 89 retired. The Bears will honor the Hall of Fame tight end and championship coach at halftime, paying tribute to the only person in the NFLs modern era to win a title with the same team as a player (1963) and coach (1985).