But Phillips is nothing if not patient. He knows it's a four-month season and doesn't own a panic button. Jenkins won the starting gig and is now the closest thing to a shut-down corner the Cowboys have enjoyed since Sanders. Spencer finally got his first sack after mid-season and is suddenly a consistent havoc-wreaker. Keith Brooking has become the emotional leader. And, of course, Pro Bowlers Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware are elite, game-changing players.

The Cowboys won't shut out the Eagles. Philadelphia, remember, dropped a pass at Dallas' 25, overthrew a sure touchdown and carelessly fumbled a snap inside the 20 last week. But at this point we also know they won't score more than 21 points. Only the Giants have done that to this Cowboys defense, and the second occurrence came with the help of a punt return.

Superbly stingy defense is a luxury, a security blanket that allows Romo to take a sack or not force a pass because he knows his team doesn't have to put up 30 points to win a game in January.

"The defense is taking a lot of pressure off," he said.

This core group of Cowboys has been here before. In '07 they were 13-3, sporting 13 Pro Bowlers and boasting home-field advantage throughout the playoffs when the Giants–whom Dallas had swept in the regular season–waltzed into Texas Stadium and won, 21-17, on their way to a Super Bowl.

Offensively these Cowboys aren't better. Not even close. But they will win Saturday and, who knows, maybe even the following Sunday at the Vikings.

"We've got a better, more experienced quarterback now," Jones said. "And we're playing much better defense."

The Cowboys have failed to do it with quarterbacks named Tony Banks and Quincy Carter and Anthony Wright and Ryan Leaf and Clint Stoerner and Chad Hutchinson and Vinny Testaverde and Drew Henson and Drew Bledsoe. Coaches Chan Gailey and Dave Campo and Bill Parcells couldn't do it.

It didn't get done in Irving or Charlotte or Minneapolis or Seattle. But—with Romo and Phillips and the Eagles in Arlington—it's finally going to happen again.

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