Those familiar with the heated Cowboys-Giants rivalry are well aware the word “ímprobable” tends to lack the same doom and gloom foreshadowing as with other venues. New stars seem to pop up in the blink of an eye when these two familiar foes duke it out for bragging rights within the NFC East. On an energetic opening night in New York, improbable stars stole the show early and often.
To the shock and delight of Cowboys fans, team warrior Jason Witten was declared good-to-go during pregame activities. Shortly after he was shown snagging warm-up fastballs from Tony Romo down on the Giants field.
The iron man with the lacerated spleen stepped up huge for his teammates. In a valiant effort few thought was likely, Jason put his teammates, the fans, and the rest of the league on alert that this Cowboys edition will not hide behind excuses.
I might add Witten was lacking the typical minimum healing time needed for such an injury, and absent of almost any full speed contact for weeks prior to kickoff. His boost to his ballclub goes way beyond the two catches he added for ten yards total. Witten was far from a decoy, visibly seen effectively locked up with Giant’s defenders on several running plays.
The list certainly goes on from there. We all knew dominating force Jay Ratliff would be missing from the middle of the defensive line. Which was a real concern from a strategic perspective.
If the Giants had exposed the middle of the line and consistently gained chunks of rushing yards, it would have been a long night for the Rob Ryan defense. Providing Eli Manning unpredictability would have loosened the defense significantly.
Thanks to Josh Brent and the aggressive front seven, this nightmare never came to fruition. Brent was no less than solid in the middle, especially manned up against the run. For the times I locked in watching him closely, there was little to no ground given by the developing, big man.
Aside from a gashing 33 yard gain by Ahmad Bradshaw when the down linemen were double-teamed and the rest of the defense rolled back, Brent and his Cowboy colleagues limited the Giant’s other 18 rushing attempts to a paltry 49 total yards. With Ratliff on the way back soon, Brent firmly proved his mettle to relieve Jay with little concern for drop-off.
I’ll get to Phil Costa a little later (chomping at the bit). Ryan Cook was recently acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins just days before opening night. He received his Ipad Playbook last Friday and had his first practice at center on Saturday, merely four days before kickoff.
Let’s not forget, only a few of those practices were full-contact. To arrive in Dallas last week, practice four days with a brand new playbook, and hold his own for almost an entire fierce battle against one of the most fearsome front lines in football…just wow.
Now it wasn’t pretty by any means from the timing side of things. There were several false starts mixed in with delay of game penalties. Unacceptable any other day, understandable when seeing this daunting situation for what it’s really worth. However, timing aside Ryan Cook played an excellent game for an improbable contributor. How can we be sure? Dallas ran the ball very effectively at times, even in obvious running situations.
Furthermore, the Giants pass rush up the middle was far from over-bearing. Not to mention I even saw Cook making excellent blocking switches during the course of pass plays, sliding from one defender to another. Ryan Cook came to block someone if called upon, and blocking well was no stretch of the imagination while saving Phil Costa’s under-cooked bacon.
Masked in a Hollywood quality Laurent Robinson costume, Kevin Ogletree showed every bit of skill that made his predecessor a household name in Dallas. I’ll go one step further and say Kevin made Laurent a distant memory.
His routes were crisp and precise as could be. His hands were glued to every Romo bullet fired his way. Just as Robinson distinguished himself last season, Ogletree displayed the same tremendous skill of quickly adjusting to find the exact open zone of the defense when the play broke down and extended.
The Cowboys couldn’t have asked for anything more from Kevin Ogletree than his sterling 8 catch night for 114 yards. Two big touchdowns led the show, and one huge first down catch closed the curtain on the dejected Giants.
Dez Bryant was a force, Miles Austin came on strong late, but this night belonged to Kevin Ogletree in the Cowboys receiving corps. One thing is for sure, the dangerous trio looks mighty stout heading into Week Two against Seattle.
HATS OFF TO…
Tony Romo. Brilliant night racking up 307 yards and 3 TD’s under the heat of a scorching pass rush. Romo looks to be playing with a new poise and confidence we’ve yet to see fully develop prior to now. The Romo I saw tonight was no less than elite. Marriage and a baby have served you well, Papa Romo.
Jason Garrett. It started off as vintage Garrett with a lackluster 4th down hand-off to the slow hitting fullback. No knock on Lawrence Vickers as he played well, just not the right back for that call. Yet Garrett turned it around abruptly, often attacking the weakest points with tenacity. He wisely continued to dial up aggressive calls and expose the lack of depth in the Giants hampered secondary.
DeMarco Murray. I had a legitimate Emmitt Smith flashback on his multi tackle-breaking, direction changing, 48-yard run eventually down the sideline. 20 carries, 131 yards, 6.6 ypc average…elite back type stats. Murray has the complete package…speed, quickness, change of direction, balance, vision, receiving ability…this kid is special.
Cowboys Defense. Running game neutralized…82 yards…check. New secondary harassing Giant’s receivers and holding up deep…213 yards, only TD was to TE…check. Pressure Manning effectively…3 sacks…check. Holding Giants to less points than Cowboys…24-17…CHECK.
Ryan Cook. If Phil Costa has a job Thursday morning it will be a huge disappointment. I could not preach enough that even if Costa made it back and played to his known average abilities, his back would never hold up. Costa bowed out in a flash and left his team’s only hope hanging on an unlikely hero. Ryan Cook, without you and your strong effort, this game was no less than a forfeit in the first quarter. Welcome.
Kevin Ogletree. Game Ball, enough said!