The Dallas Cowboys came into the house of the defending champion New York Giants and beat them 24-17 to open up the 2012 NFL season with a win and avenge the final game of the 2011 season in which the Giants beat Dallas to clinch the NFC East.
Tony Romo was phenomenal, competing 21 of 29 passes for three touchdowns and an interception, and third wide receiver Kevin Ogletree had a breakout performance, grabbing 8 balls for 114 yards and two touchdowns.
Running back DeMarco Murray looked in mid-season form, amassing 131 yards on the ground on 20 carries and tiring out the Giants with his power running and relentless effort.
The defense showed signs of a complete turnaround from last season, holding Eli Manning to only 213 passing yards, sacking him three times and never letting him get comfortable in the pocket.
With the win, the Cowboys broke a streak of eight straight teams opening up the season at home as defending Super Bowl champs and winning.
Both teams started the game going three and out on consecutive drives, with the Giants getting an early sack on Romo thanks to a blown assignment by guard Mackenzy Bernadeau. On the Giants second drive, they were inside the 30-yard line of Dallas before linebacker Sean Lee forced a fumble on running back David Wilson to give the ball to Dallas. The Cowboys were then driving thanks to some good catches by Ogletree, but were stuffed on a fourth down when fullback Lawrence Vickers couldn’t get any push to pick up yardage. Neither team started particularly crisp on offense and it was clear that both squads were looking for that one play that got them into rhythm.
End of quarter: Cowboys 0, Giants 0.
Dallas started the second quarter with a sack on Eli Manning on a bull rush by linebacker DeMarcus Ware, but on the next drive, Romo was pressured on a 3rd and 12 and threw an interception that the Giants returned to the two-yard line. However, the Dallas defense stiffened and held New York to a field goal, the first points of the game scored by either team. On the next Cowboys drive, Tony Romo drove the team down the field –despite more false start penalties– and connected on a beautiful floating pass to Ogletree with a minute left in the half to give Dallas the lead and the first touchdown of the 2012 NFL season. In keeping the Giants from the end zone, the Cowboys streak of not allowing a first-half touchdown dating back to preseason week 1 is still intact.
End of quarter: Cowboys 7, Giants 3.
First Half Observations
*The defense looked a lot more aggressive, Lee and Ware had nine tackles between the two of them in the half. Ware collected two sacks, looking like his usual self .
*Laurent Robinson who? Kevin Ogletree was targeted often by Romo in the half and had five catches for 47 yards.
*Dez Bryant is fine. Bryant had three catches for 69 yards, including a big 38-yard catch on an stop-and-go route that got the Cowboys offense into the red zone and resulted in the touchdown.
*Penalties are still a nagging problem for this team, especially the offensive line. Tackle Tyron Smith was called for multiple false start infractions and as a group, the o-line looked like a work in progress–which is what we expected.
*The defense held the Giants to 85 total yards in the first half. Any time you hold a team under 100 in a half, it is a big deal.
Dallas came out on fire in the third quarter, going down the field quickly and using a good mix of run and pass to keep the Giants off balance. Romo hit Ogletree on a 40-yard touchdown pass on the sideline to give Dallas an 11-point lead. The Giants responded quickly. Manning showed why he is a two-time Super Bowl MVP by methodically dissecting Dallas’ secondary before getting rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne to bite on a double move on a third and 5, hitting Domenik Hixon for 39 yards and setting New York up with a first and goal. The very next play, running back Ahmad Bradshaw ran it 10 yards into the end zone to pull the Giants within three points. Again, on the next drive, Dallas responded. DeMarco Murray took a simple run to the right and bounced off would-be tacklers before bouncing out to the sideline and running it 48 yards, deep into Giants territory. Dallas couldn’t punch it into the end zone, though, but settled for a field goal to go up by a touchdown again.
End of quarter: Cowboys 17, Giants 10.
Dallas opened the quarter hot again, continuing to test the Giants defense through the air and on the ground. Murray racked up the yards and Romo finally got receiver Miles Austin involved, hitting him on multiple passes throughout the drive, the memorable one being on a 1st and 30 from the Giants 34. Romo threw a jump ball to Austin, who leaped higher than two defenders to pull it down and cruised into the end zone to give Dallas their biggest lead of the game at 14 points. The Giants then had to run a little bit of a hurry-up offense as the clock was ticking down, and with 2:36 left, Manning hit ex-Cowboy tight end Martellus Bennett for a nine-yard touchdown to close the deficit to a touchdown. The Giants then opted to kick it deep instead of onsides and left it up to Romo and the Cowboys offense to ice the game, and ice it they did. After a holding penalty on Jason Witten that negated a first down run by Murray, it was third and 12. Romo hit Ogletree for 15 yards and a first down. All that was left was any quarterbacks favorite play, the kneel-down. Dallas ran out the clock and with the win, exorcised some demons from last season.
End of game: Cowboys 24, Giants 17.
The Cowboys will have ten days of rest before their next game, which will be next Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks at Qwest Field.
Side note: WAY too many penalties in this game, 13 for 86 yards. Luckily, Romo kept them from hurting Dallas in the long run, but the team has to tighten those up if they expect to be an elite team.