In a wild game last night the Cowboys came away (finally) with a home victory over the New York Giants. The new defensive scheme, with its emphasis on taking the ball away, came up big with five turnovers, along with a takeaway from the Giants by the Cowboys special teams for a grand (indeed) total of six.
In was certainly exciting on the Giants first offensive play to see several Cowboys defenders running Manning down. It forced him to throw quickly to avoid a sack, with the ball going right into the arms of Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware. Before the game, I was hoping the Cowboys would start on defense and they did exactly what I hoped they would do when that became a reality. Although they had to settle for a field goal on this possession, it was a trend that would continue.
The Cowboys would eventually turn a fumble by Giants running back David Wilson into a defensive touchdown by safety Barry Church. This was Wilson’s second fumble, so it resulted in the play being his last appearance in the game. Another takeaway led to a defensive score as cornerback Brandon Carr picked a tipped ball and took it in for a Cowboys score. It sealed the game, as it created a cushion that prevented the Giants next touchdown from affecting the outcome.
Although it was another possession that ended in a Cowboys punt, the Wilson fumble with the Giants in scoring position impacted the outcome of this game as well. What the new defensive coaching staff has been preaching about taking the ball away was apparent as the replay showed Church prying the ball out as the runner was going down.
Even though there appears to be more work for them to do for needed improvement, the Cowboys defense would get a game ball from me, because without their hard work and without the points they scored, the Cowboys lose this game.
With Jay Ratliff out for at least five more weeks and Anthony Spencer still not ready to go, the Cowboys defense went into the game short-handed, but the backups comported themselves well with a valiant effort. George Selvie, in for Spencer, was able to put pressure on Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Nick Hayden, in for Ratliff, was in on several plays as well. Selvie will be a more than adequate backup once Spencer returns, same with Hayden after the return of Ratliff. But they’re all the Cowboys have for now and it certainly could be much worse.
It appears the biggest issue the defense needs to work on though is pass coverage. There were missed assignments that led to a long Giants touchdown pass to Victor Cruz. And there were times that it looked way too easy for Manning to drive the ball downfield pass after pass, although I know they were purposely playing soft on pass coverage towards the end of the game. But this scheme is still new and I am positive we will see continued improvement in this area as the season progresses. The pass rush looks good and the run stopping even better, so there isn’t a lot to complain about.
It really is apparent that linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter will be playmakers for the Cowboys defense and with Ware and soon (I hope) Spencer there will be no shortage of players that can help to win games on defense. And once the defensive backs are more comfortable with the scheme, talented players such as Carr and Morris Claiborne will be putting their stamp on wins, as Carr already did last night.
Last night’s game was a real treat. And when it comes to treats, make mine a turnover.
This defense has shown the ability to give the ball back to the offense. Now the offense needs to show they know what to do with it when that happens.
As evidenced by the stats, Tony Romo threw a lot of short passes. In that kind of game it would have been very helpful for Cole Beasley to be active. I think he would have had a big game.
The offensive line played pretty well in pass protection and had its moments blocking for the run. I think they will be better at both once Brian Waters is ready to play.
If the Cowboys are planning for receiver Terrance Williams to make route adjustments based on signals from Romo at the line, they should plan on more interceptions caused by him being at the wrong place.
Either the Giants defense played better than I expected, or the Cowboys offense played worse than expected. Either way, it was a surprise to me that they could take Dez Bryant out of the game so effectively.