The New York Giants know what they must do tonight in the season opener against the Dallas Cowboys. They hear the doubters. They see the lack of faith in their being able to make the playoffs again from almost every expert. All that doesn’t matter now. Kickoff is only a few hours away.
The Cowboys are entering this game without one of their major offensive weapons, tight end Jason Witten, who is listed as doubtful. To compound the problem, receiver Miles Austin has missed much of the preseason with a balky hamstring issue and receiver Dez Bryant has been diagnosed with patellar tendinitis in his right knee. Bryant also dealt with some hamstring issues in camp.
If Austin and Bryant can’t go 100 percent for the whole game, there will be a lot of pressure placed on the shoulders of quarterback Tony Romo and running back DeMarco Murray. The Giants must not allow those two to beat them.
Stopping the run is crucial in any NFL game. It is made even more so tonight by the unreliability of the Cowboys’ passing attack. Murray might be the key to this game because he has the ability to dominate on the ground. He had 253 yards rushing against the St. Louis Rams last year on only 25 carries. That is a 10.1 yard per carry average, if you were wondering.
If you thought that was an anomaly, consider the fact that he piled up 139 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and 135 yards against the Buffalo Bills, two very good defenses. He also averaged five yards per carry against the Giants on five carries before breaking his ankle in that game.
The ability is there. Murray is poised to become one of the top running backs in the NFL. The Cowboys’ game plan tonight should be to extend drives and keep Eli Manning and the Giants offense off the field for as long as possible. That won’t be easy.
Losing Witten will certainly hurt the Cowboys. Having a 100 percent healthy Austin and Bryant would lift some of the pressure from Romo’s shoulders, but that is not the case. Sure, Austin and Bryant will make some plays. However, the key will be how many and how often? How much can the Cowboys depend on two guys who had trouble staying on the field this preseason?
By giving the ball to Murray, who can also be a major threat catching the ball out of the backfield, the Cowboys will run their offense through their best offensive player aside from Romo and Witten.
The key for the Giants lies solely in the backfield. Stop Murray and get to Romo. It is a simple game plan, but one that I think will give the Giants a big win tonight.