The Dallas Cowboys opened the 2023 season in ideal fashion. With plenty of questions on offense and defense, Dallas had the answer for most of them Sunday night. The defense shut out New York, special teams contributed with the first points of the season and Dak Prescott and the offense looked flawless all night.
What stands out the most is how well of a game head coach Mike McCarthy called on the road during a rainy night against a tough divisional opponent.
After parting ways with offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who helped guide Dallas' offense to two of their best seasons, McCarthy has taken the reins as the offensive play-caller. Despite the hire of Brian Schottenheimer, the offense is McCarthy's primary responsibility on gamedays.
It has been a few years since McCarthy called plays for Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. During his final season with the Packers, the team failed to make the playoffs at 6-9-1. McCarthy was fired and did not coach until Dallas hired him two years later.
However, Sunday night made it hard to tell he had not called plays in four seasons.
Cowboys' Mike McCarthy was great calling plays in Week 1 win
The first 13 of Dallas' 16 points were thanks to a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown by Noah Igbinoghene and pick-six by DaRon Bland, but the offense continued to keep the pressure on the Giants.
Moore might have had good outings calling plays, but some were highly questionable at times. Many times, he got greedy and put a lot on Prescott's shoulders. The Cowboys have had a solid running game since Ezekiel Elliott arrived, but so often veered away from it when it was working.
That was the complete opposite Sunday night. The Cowboys racked up 122 rushing yards, with Tony Pollard leading the way with 70 and two touchdowns. With the ground game running on all cylinders, McCarthy stuck to the run in the second half when trying to extend the lead. The defense also dominated all night, helping him make the decision easier.
He did not put pressure on Prescott to try and make the big plays to put the game away. In fact, Prescott only threw for 143 yards and no touchdowns. The last time that happened was last year against the Buccaneers on opening night, under a completely different set of circumstances.
Having a proven quarterback like Prescott is great, but football is a team game. Dak has shown that he needs the right pieces around him to help lead the team to success. He also needs the right coaching. With brining in new pieces like Brandin Cooks and McCarthy now calling the shots, Jerry Jones seems to get the message.
While one game should not define this team's season, McCarthy pushed all the right buttons at the control panel Sunday night. Many questioned if the move would work based on his last season calling plays in Green Bay and letting go of one of the hottest offensive coordinators in the league. Winning the opener 40-0 is pretty convincing when you are a team in transition in any regard.
The season has a long way to go, but week one showed McCarthy knows what it takes to help take Dak and the offense to the next level. If the offense can limit the mistakes they had last season, then this team will be better than last year.
Going against a good New York Jets defense next game will be more challenging, but if McCarthy calls another good game Dallas could start the season 2-0.