As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to play the New York Giants on New Year’s Day, many fans are no doubt thinking that this is the most important game they have played since that forgettable loss to Minnesota in the 2009 playoffs.
As Mark pointed out earlier this week, it would be foolish to try to put too much stock into last week’s game against the Eagles. Mark was the first (to my knowledge) to point out that the Philly game seemed more like a pre-season game than a real game (take that ESPN and NFL.com!). Every reviewer since then has made the comparison to a pre-season game . That being said, I think there are a few things worthy of being noted from that game.
Click on the link to read about the things from the Eagles game that should give you hope.
Reasons for hope:
- Dwayne Harris looked like he could provide a spark to the return game. He averaged over 40 yards a return; he had one return to the 34 and another one to almost mid-field. Having a genuine threat on kickoffs is something this team has been lacking for a long time. The game against the Giants will likely be a close one; the battle for field position will be of the utmost importance. If nothing else, good kickoff returns ensure that the Giants will have to go 70-90 yards for a TD. This defense can not afford to be forced to defend short fields.
- Jesse Holley had one punt return for 15 yards.
- Marty B, for the second week in a row, managed to catch every ball thrown to him. Martellus is an excellent blocker; he is one of the best blocking TE’s in the league. His blocking is vastly superior to Jason Witten’s. If he can continue to catch 2 or 3 balls a game, he could make some big plays that would help this offense.
- Mat McBriar looks like he is finally over the injury that nagged him for the past couple weeks. By my unofficial count, he put 5 punts inside the 20, including a very impressive 3 punts inside the 12. Field position will be key in the Giants game. I think that McBriar may be the most underrated and under-appreciated player on this team. In close games where field position is important, his leg is a weapon.
- They only had 6 penalties for 47 yards. Against the Buc’s the week before they also had 6 penalties for 46 yards. This is a significant improvement from the previous game against the Giants in week 14 when they had 10 penalties. Hopefully the last two games are a sign of things to come, not an aberration.
- Some rookie named Mana Silva is on the team, and he made a tackle!
- Stephen McGee looked okay. He showed that he can make plays with his feet and avoid taking sacks. Most of his throws that were off target had the same problem: they were behind the receiver. I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that he was just not accustomed to the speed of a real game. I am hopeful that this problem is something that can be corrected with more game experience. I am even more hopeful that McGee doesn’t have to take another snap in a real game for several years.
- Bruce Carter blocked a %$#@! punt! If my memory is accurate, Carter made a name for himself in college blocking kicks. It is very reassuring to see that he can do the same thing in the NFL. A blocked kick can be a game-changer, especially in close games.
- The defense held LeSean McCoy to 35 yards on 13 carries. He is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this season; the Cowboys limited him to 2.7. They will need to stop Bradshaw and Jacobs if they hope to beat the Giants.
Click on the link to read about some things that are cause for concern.