What a night. The Cowboys and Giants always put on a show, and last night was no exception. As I described in my pre-game articles, winning the first contest is a bigger deal than you think. Taking down the Giants at their place makes it even sweeter.
After a live watch and single re-watch of the game, here are my initial thoughts on the Cowboys’ 24-17 Week 1 win over the Giants. . .
Tony Romo won this game for the Cowboys. He was wonderful all night, but the drive coming out of halftime that put the ‘Boys up 14-3 was a masterpiece. Once Dallas crossed midfield, Romo issued three straight “Kill” calls to put the Cowboys in the best possible plays. The results were a five-yard draw, a slant for a first down, and the big 40-yard stop-and-go to Kevin Ogletree.
Speaking of Ogletree, he had one heck of a night. He had some plays downfield, but that was made possible because he won his battles at the line-of-scrimmage. One of Ogletree’s biggest strengths is getting into his route cleanly, using his superior quickness to beat cornerbacks off of the snap.
Tyron Smith struggled. Primarily matched up against Jason Pierre-Paul, Smith won’t face a pass-rusher as dominant for the rest of the season. Smith was utilizing poor technique, lunging after JPP multiple times, and got flagged three times for a false start. Both are signs that he was overmatched, so I hope the game doesn’t take a toll on Smith’s confidence.
On the inside, I saw some good things. Mackenzy Bernadeau was the weak link, often getting beat by Rocky Bernard and Linval Joseph. Whether it was a bull rush or a swim move, Bernadeau never looked comfortable. Nate Livings and newly-acquired Ryan Cook, however, looked outstanding at guard and center. Livings was solid at the point-of-attack and the Cowboys’ top interior lineman in pass protection. Meanwhile, Cook filled in admirably for an injured Phil Costa after almost no practice time.
Anyone else sick of dive plays from tight formations in short-yardage situations? It rarely works for the Cowboys, but Jason Garrett keeps dialing them up. Although I thought Garrett had a great night of play-calling, I’d really like to see the Cowboys spread teams out on 3rd and 4th and short (as they did successfully later in the contest).
DeMarco Murray is pretty good, huh? It isn’t until you see Felix Jones come into the game that you realize just how explosive and talented Murray is as compared to the soon-to-be free agent.
It was a gutty performance from Jason Witten. I thought he should have sat to save his long-term health, but his presence showed exactly what type of leader Witten is for the Cowboys.
A few months ago, I wrote about DeMarcus Ware’s chances of breaking the sack record. Yeah, that might really happen. The Giants motioned Martellus Bennett to Ware almost every play early in the contest. It didn’t matter.
I was very impressed with both cornerbacks. The rookie Morris Claiborne held up very well against Hakeem Nicks, as I thought he might. Claiborne excels against larger receivers on whom he can get his hands. Meanwhile, Carr was sensational. The first quarter toss to Victor Cruz over Carr’s head wasn’t Carr’s fault—he was playing another receiver and came off of him when he saw Orlando Scandrick get beat. Other than that play, Scandrick had a nice game as well. Cruz helped the Cowboys with a few drops, but Scandrick stilled turned in his best-ever performance against the Giants.
Both Bruce Carter and Sean Lee were lights out inside. Everyone knows the secondary has been upgraded in Big D, but the jump in talent from Keith Brooking and Bradie James to Lee and Carter is even more profound. Both players were around the ball all night, and I have a feeling the duo is going to be something special inside for a few years to come.
Barry Church played a great game. Most importantly, he kept everything in front of him, disallowing the big play. He was right near a couple of Eli Manning passes, including one that he looked like he might take for six. Chruch was also his usual self as a tackler.
After I review and break down the film in greater detail, I’ll post my Cowboys’ individual player grades.