What a fantastic start to the 2013 season for the Dallas Cowboys! Any win in the NFL is hard enough to get. The Sunday night tilt against the Giants wasn’t a perfect game by any means, but we’ll take it and the NFC East division lead that comes with it. Let’s break it down in the popular green light, yellow light, red light analysis.
> A home win against the Giants – first ever in Cowboys/AT&T Stadium! No more will we have to hear that the Giants have never lost in “Jerry’s World”, aka MetLife South as many a Giant fan has been known to call it. The curse is dead as may be the season for the mistake-prone Giants who now have to host the Denver Broncos. Yes, those Denver Broncos who behind brother Peyton’s arm lit up the defending Super Bowl champion Ravens supposedly improved defense for 7 passing touchdowns. Peyton will have more than football on his phone against a weak linebacking corps and a depleted secondary.
> Dwayne Harris’ work on special teams. Basically replaced by Terrance Williams as the #3 receiver despite having a pretty productive back half of last season, Harris didn’t pout but showed up big on special teams making tackle after tackle consistently beating double teams and being the first man down on punt coverage. It was Harris who alertly jumped on the fumbled Giants punt in the 3rd quarter knocking it away from Jayron Hosley who was set to recover it allowing Devonte Holloman to fall on it for Dallas.
> Turnovers. Dallas had a total of 16 turnovers all last season – an average of one per game. They had 6 takeaways on Sunday night alone. And, several of these were not giveaways by the Giants. The ball was ripped out by Cowboys defenders. It is great to see the new aggressive style Marinelli and Kiffin have brought to that side of the ball and it paid off in this game.
> I was admittedly worried about our thin defensive front. I was very pleased with the game that George Selvie, Nick Hayden, and Landen Cohen were able to bring. They held their own which is all we could ask of them. This week we could get Anthony Spencer back which would be a huge addition as we have to face the likes of Jamaal Charles. He will once again test this defensive line but they passed their first test with flying colors. Most importantly, they came out of the game injury free. We simply could not have sustained any more personnel losses at that position.
Dec 16, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys guard Nate Livings (71) on the sidelines against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
> The offensive line was noticeably better than what we were used to seeing last season. Romo was hurried several times but was not sacked until two consecutive plays with just over 7 minutes left in the game. But, he also almost ended his season with broken ribs on one play near the end of the first half when Doug Free was tossed aside like a rag doll and Romo was sandwiched between 3 Giants players. And, despite okay stats the running game was pretty spotty with a lot of short, ineffective, poorly blocked plays. It will be very interesting to see what improvement if any Brian Waters can bring when he’s ready. Let’s hope it is this week against a pretty decent Chiefs team. Yes, it was the Jaguars, but despite a safety given up by the offense the Chief’s essentially shut the Jags and MJD out. That’s hard to do in the NFL. I thought Doug Free after a good preseason had a fairly rough game. I’m still concerned about him.
> At one point, I thought maybe Bill Callahan had hit his head and Jason Garrett was back calling plays. With a lead, this team should be able to run the ball, but we ran three straight pass plays at one point and then punted when we should be trying to run time off the clock. I also was a little mystified to not see the Cowboys exploit the weak Giants linebackers more with seam routes to the tight ends or wheel routes to the running backs. Jason Witten did end up catching two touchdown passes but both were great plays on a contested catch. We also threw almost no deep passes. If we are going to insert Terrance Williams whose specialty in college was catching the deep balls, we ought to try throwing one or two to him. It’s situational so maybe the right situation never presented itself but that suprised me a little. Dez was blanketed with double coverage all night which should have created some favorable matchups. Miles Austin had a lot of catches but nothing very deep.
>Any time you get 6 turnovers in a game, you should win going away. Erase the last second garbage-time score when the Cowboys were pretty much in prevent mode and the Cowboys win by 12 points. But, even that is too close on a night when you are +5 in turnovers. This offense still doesn’t seem to have a killer instinct or the ability to generate the big play. It’s early in the season of course so maybe that develops over time this year, but if we are going to generate more turnovers defensively we have to make the other team pay. Field goals after a turnover are letting them off easy. And, we can’t count on two defensive scores every game. Praying the Cowboys recovered the onside kick as it was bouncing around on the turf with 11 seconds left in the game is not how a game like that should finish.
> I like Brandon Carr, Mo Claiborne, and Orlando Scandrick and I thought Will Allen and Barry Church were solid overall in this game, but I still think our secondary is a step slow and soft at times. When Claiborne went out with a shoulder injury and B.W. Webb came in to play the slot corner position, he looked lost. He’s a rookie and he looked like one. Lots of room for improvement there. I feel like we contest a lot of throws but are almost always making a tackle after a completion. Yes, we intercepted Manning 3 times, but let’s be honest with ourselves. On the first play of the game, Manning threw it right into Ware’s hands. The last interception was set like a volleyball spike right to Brandon Carr. We made the plays, but we also gave up nearly 500 yards passing. That can’t continue.
> Just one point here – with time running down, the Cowboys were leading by 6 points against Eli Manning. I look down on the lower bowl area of AT&T Stadium and most of what I see are empty seats. Are you kidding me? I know the rich and famous who can afford the outrageous ticket prices in that lower bowl hate traffic, but what kind of fans would bail on a game like this at that point in time? I give a giant red light to any fan that short of a medical emergency left that game early. That is just shameful.
So, not a lot to hate about this game. A win helps you overlook a lot of potential issues. Looking ahead to the Chiefs game, Arrowhead Stadium can be a pretty unfriendly environment. This is a classic trap game in that most people had this game down as a win. We will have to earn it if we can even get it. Our offense still has not found its rhythm in any phase and the defense, while opportunistic, is still giving up too many big plays and too much yardage. If we can tighten those things up, we should win. But, we’ve been expecting that to happen for a couple of seasons now. Let’s enjoy a very big win for this franchise and hope for the best this weekend in KC. Go Cowboys!