The defense has been dominant. Quarterback Tony Romo has been playing the best football of his career. Felix Jones is a threat every time he touches the ball.
It seems like all the facets of the Cowboys’ game are clicking right at the most important time.
Just like the New York Giants did in 2007.
Think about it.
Both coaches were on the hot seat heading into their respective seasons. Tom Coughlin was drawing a lot of fire heading into 2007. His response? A Super Bowl ring. Wade Phillips found himself under similar circumstances heading into this season. He’s been coaching well in December, had his team prepared tonight and made a great challenge on what looked like a Tony Romo interception that may have saved his career in Dallas.
Romo has been playing good, (nearly) mistake-free football through the month of December and into the first round of the playoffs, much like Eli Manning did in 2007. In the playoff run, Manning threw for six touchdowns and only one interception. He even stepped up his game for the playoffs, raising his completion percentage from 56.1 to 60.5 and raising his yards per attempt from 6.3 to 7.2. He didn’t have as big a role in the offense as Romo does so far, but in that season, Manning hit his stride. It looks like Romo is set to do the same.
Romo has a receiver that he can bank on in Miles Austin, who had seven receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Eagles last night. Roy Williams even chipped in with five catches for 57 yards. The Giants’ top two receivers came up big through the playoffs-Plaxico Burress had 18 grabs for 221 yards and a score, Amani Toomer had 21 catches for 280 yards and three scores-and helped Manning look good down the stretch.
Both teams had strong backfields that featured multiple runners. For the Cowboys, it’s Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice. The Giants had Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants rode whoever was hot in the playoffs-Bradshaw was the leading rusher against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their Wild Card game, Jacobs led the rush attack in the NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers-with efficiency. The Cowboys did the same last night, with Jones shouldering most of the load. Look for the Cowboys to switch their backs according to the tendencies of opposing defenses.
The two defenses are eerily similar and draw the best comparisons.
The ’07 Giants defense surrendered 296 total rush yards through the playoff run. That’s just 74 yards per game. The Cowboys are just under that pace, as they allowed 56 yards against the Eagles last night. Both defenses took the run game out of the equation for their competition. The Cowboys will have to do the same against the Minnesota Vikings and Adrian Peterson next weekend, which may be a tall order.
The Giants’ front seven were outstanding in the playoffs, with strong inside play from Justin Tuck and good outside pressure from Osi Umeniyora and Michael Strahan. With these players, the Giants put pressure on opposing quarterbacks while still shutting down opposing run games as the defense put up nine sacks and recovered four fumbles. The Cowboys are following that basic plan with Jay Ratliff clogging up the middle and DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer coming off the edge. These players helped the Cowboys to four sacks and three fumble recoveries against the Eagles.
The secondaries are strong, too. The Giants allowed 5.8 yards per pass play in the playoffs last year. The Cowboys allowed 6.6 yards in this category, with a big outlier in Michael Vick’s 76-yard completion to Jeremy Maclin. For the rest of the game, the Cowboys were very strong against the pass. Interceptions came easy for the Giants, too. They forced five in their playoff run. Tonight, the Cowboys had only one from Michael Jenkins, who promptly coughed the ball back up. This turnover was the lone giveaway from the Cowboys last night.
With all the similarities between the two teams, a Super Bowl run is certainly a possibility for the Cowboys. Like the Giants in 2007, the Cowboys will have to face Brett Favre. He’s playing even better than he was in 2007.
The Cowboys probably won’t be favored in the second round of the playoffs.
But neither were the 2007 Giants, and we all know how that turned out.