Just a few quick notes and things I found interesting from a division rival’s perspective after watching last night’s Cowboys-Giants game in the NFL’s season opener:
- The Giants are mortal. I know it was proven in the regular season after an up-and-down, 9-7 campaign, but it was easy to forget after seeing the Giants reel off 6 straight wins over the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons, Packers, 49ers, and Patriots to win the Super Bowl last year. This team plays a few stinkers. It’s important not to overreact, though. The Giants lost to the Rex Grossman-led Redskins in Week 1 last year, and that turned out pretty well for them.
- The Cowboys new secondary looked good. Bolstered by new cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, the Cowboys defense held Hakeem Nicks (4 catches, 38 yards) and Victor Cruz (5 catches, 68 yards-though he helped them out with 3 drops of his own) relatively in check last night after each put up a 150 yard game against the Cowboys last season.
- A good pass rush alone won’t faze Tony Romo. Despite having pressure in his face all evening from an excellent Giants’ front 4, Romo continually was able to get outside the pocket and extend plays. More often than not, he was able to pick up positive yardage and keep drives alive. Both of Romo’s TD passes to Kevin Ogletree (more on him later) came after Romo used his Favre-ian ability to scramble behind the line of scrimmage to extend the play.
- The Cowboys’ offensive line may not be as big of a problem as we thought. Despite allowing pass rushers into the backfield often and struggling to open holes for Demarco Murray, the Cowboys offense still thrived. I already touched on Romo’s ability to evade pass rushers in the pocket, but Murray gained 131 yards on 20 carries (boosted by an incredible 48-yard run) despite the Cowboys’ offensive line not giving him a ton of running room.
- The Cowboys may have found their 3rd WR. Kevin Ogletree picked up right where Laurent Robinson left off last year, tallying 114 yards and 2 TDs on 8 catches (and 11 targets) last night as the Cowboys’ 3rd WR. Even if a team has two good CBs (hello, Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) who can shut down Dez Bryant and Miles Austin, Ogletree may yet be a force to contend with.
- Jason Witten isn’t 100% healthy yet. After a scary incident with his spleen early in the preseason, Witten shockingly suited up last night. He was clearly limited, however, and only had 2 catches for 10 yards. This should’t have too much of an impact on the Eagles, since he should be 100% by the time they play the Cowboys, but it’s still worth noting
- The Giants’ offensive line didn’t look so hot, either. They were decent in pass protection, but really struggled to open holes for Ahmad Bradshaw last night. He gained 78 yards on 17 carries, but that was greatly helped by a 33 yard scamper. His numbers of 16 carries for 55 yards are a lot more representative of how the night actually went.
- David Wilson might not be ready for primetime yet. The rookie RB fumbled early in the game, was benched, and was later shown wiping away tears, suggesting he was crying on the sideline. He did do a good job as the primary kick returner, however.
- The Giants’ CBs are an issue. With Terrell Thomas and Prince Amukamara already injured and Michael Coe exiting early last night, journeyman Justin Tryon was forced into action last night, and he didn’t rise to the occasion at all whatsoever.
- Replacement refs: not bad. They had one big missed call when they neglected to call defensive holding on Orlando Scandrick on 3rd and goal from the 5 and the Giants had to settle for a FG and a 3-0 lead. They also called a phantom clipping penalty when the call should have been a block in the back (or no call at all). However, they made a few good calls (a horse-collar tackle on Dallas LT Tyron Smith during Michael Boley’s long INT return, offensive holding on Jason Witten on a crucial 3rd-and-2 conversion for the Cowboys late in the game) and were not too shabby at all. Quite frankly, if I hadn’t known they were replacement referees, I might not have known at all.
I know it’s important to not overreact to one game, especially when it’s in Week 1 of the season, but these are just a few initial observations I took away from the Giants-Cowboys opener. We’ll see if any of them end up coming into play when the Eagles face the Giants and Cowboys both twice later in the season. The final observation is one that I’m sure we can all agree upon, though: I’m sure glad football is back.