There’s only one word to describe the Dallas Cowboys‘ 36-31 win over the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football: bizarre. The G-Men turned the ball over six times — the most by an NFL team in the past quarter-century — and still only lost by five. There are both positive and negatives for both the Giants and Cowboys from that statement, but Dallas gets the win. However, fans of America’s Team shouldn’t be celebrating like it’s 1993.
Sure, the Cowboys defense and special teams generating six turnovers in a game against a division rival is an incredible improvement from past seasons. Heck, the Cowboys are on pace to match their turnover total from 2012 by Week 3. But Dallas still gave up 450 passing yards to Eli Manning and 31 points to the Giants’ offense. So take the Cowboys’ Week 1 defensive performance with a grain of salt.
Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks torched Dallas’ secondary just like they have the past couple of years and everyone was to blame: Orlando Scandrick, Morris Claiborne, Brandon Carr and Will Allen were all beat on various plays, which means the secondary is still a concern in Dallas.
On the flip side, the Cowboys’ offense hasn’t changed a bit. Even with Bill Callahan calling the plays, Dallas was as predictable and clubfooted as ever with the ball, which is the opposite of what we saw in the preseason. Five different times on third down, Tony Romo threw a pass that was completed well short of the marker and three of those times, the Cowboys were forced to punt on the next play. Another third-down catastrophe occurred in the fourth quarter with Dallas up by six: the Giants recorded a consecutive sack of Romo while only rushing three. Those aren’t the types of plays a “changed” offense suffers in a big game like this.
One positive in this game was the fact DeMarco Murray received 20 carries. The Cowboys are now 9-0 in games during which Murray runs the ball at least that many times, which suggests Callahan may have realized the formula. But then again, Phillip Tanner was the only other Dallas player to run the ball (one carry) and Romo still threw 49 passes; the Cowboys are now 2-14 in games during which Romo drops back at least 40 times.
The biggest positive by far for Dallas in the win was the play of the offensive line. Tyron Smith was absolutely dominant while holding off Jason Pierre-Paul in pass protection, which is no easy task, and his performance was a drastic improvement over his recent outings against the Giants. Ronald Leary and Travis Frederick both held their own against New York’s incredible pass rush as well, so that’s a huge plus for Dallas considering both players are first-year starters. As expected, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free gave up the only two sacks on Romo in the game, but even those two under-achievers played considerably for most of the game. Who would have thought the Cowboys’ greatest takeaway from a game against the Giants would be their offensive line play?
So to recap, there are a few positives from this win — including the big one on the o-line — but mostly negatives. That doesn’t mean Cowboys fans shouldn’t be excited about the win because moments like DeMarcus Ware‘s interception on the first play of the game were awesome. But then the fact Ware didn’t record a single tackle for the first time in three years tempers that excitement a little bit. Again, enjoy the win, Cowboys fans, but don’t start planning a February trip to New Jersey yet.