Nick Eatman is the recent published author of: *“If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys" a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*
ARLINGTON, Texas– It's one thing to just be better than your opponent. That happens around the league a lot, and we've seen several games in which the Cowboys have entered the day as the more talented team. For the most part, the Cowboys take care of those teams.
But something else is starting to develop here with this club. And it was more than evident Sunday afternoon against a longtime division rival.
The Cowboys weren't just better than the Giants here on Sunday. They were simply tougher and more physically dominant than a team that has traditionally been one of the more physical units in the NFL.
And I'm not saying the Giants have softened up. They're still a pretty tough, hard-hitting team that brought the wood here to the Cowboys on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
Their problem was the Cowboys brought it right back and did it with a much bigger stick.
You can find a lot of reasons why Dallas is 6-1 after an impressive 31-21 win over the Giants.
For starters, Dez Bryant was just a man among boys. He was my player of the game without a doubt, and mainly for the plays he made in the third quarter when things were looking bleak. He was a stud and the Giants had no answer for him.
Tony Romo was pretty amazing, too. That interception he threw, which certainly wasn't his fault because Dez and the defender got tangled up, was really his only negative play. In fact, I asked a Cowboys public relations assistant to figure what Romo's passer rating might have been without the pick and it came back 157.7. That's less than a point lower than a perfect rating of 158.3. Who knows what happens if that pick isn't thrown, but still, it shows just how great Romo played.
DeMarco Murray? Yeah, he was his usual 2014 self. On Friday, I thought he might have even more rushing yards, but 128 was still plenty. You can credit the offensive line for a lot of that, but late in the game he made some plays on his own.
Those offensive studs were great. But personally, it wasn't just what they did, but how they did it.
Quick, what's the word we keep using to describe Murray these days? What's the word we use for Dez when he gets hot like he was on Sunday? And it's also the same word we use for Rolando McClain on the other side of the ball?
You know the word … it's beastly. Or just beast. Or maybe, he's in beast-mode.
Either way, anything beastly stems from being some type of badass … and that's what is happening all over the field.
Go back to the first Giants' possession. Tyrone Crawford was sticking people in the hole. Nick Hayden followed and then Crawford had another swarming tackle. That pretty much set the tone for the entire game.
Yeah, the Giants got their yards. Eli Manning had a pretty solid game and by no means am I suggesting the Cowboys defense was in complete lockdown. But when it was time to lay the wood, they did that.
Even from our rather lofty press-box view, you can see the hits. You can see when a guy like McClain stops a player in his tracks. Oh, I'm sorry I was referring to Rolando. After Sunday, I must specify, considering Terrell McClain was back there a few times and nearly forced a fumble. Well, he did force the fumble, it just wasn't called correctly by the officials. That play bothered me because the officials are so quick to say the runner's forward progress had stopped, but I'm not sure why the Cowboys couldn't have challenged a straight-up fumble on contact.
It's a physical presence that we haven't seen around here in a while.
Either way, both McClains were physical, and it's pretty contagious all the way around. The secondary delivered some big hits, too. And more than just hitting, these guys are stripping.
Barry Church got the football loose that led to a touchdown. Justin Durant got the ball loose that closed out the game. And if we're keeping score, in three of the six wins this year, the defense has come up with a key turnover when the opposing team was driving. Morris Claiborne (remember him?) picked off a pass to seal the win against the Rams. Rolando McClain had the pick against Seattle last week and then Durant and Henry Melton combined for a fumble recovery Sunday.
In fact, in two of the other wins, the defense came up with a turnover on downs while holding a two-score lead. That occurred in Tennessee and then against New Orleans. So when push comes to shove, the defense is standing tall.
That comes with simply being a physical, determined team who doesn't get pushed around.
Here's a stat that suggests the Cowboys are as physical as they've ever been. With Seattle's loss Sunday to the Rams, Cowboys' opponents are 1-5 in the weeks following their game with Dallas.
Coincidence? Could be. Let's see how that stat plays out the rest of the year. But for now, it shows the Cowboys are having a lasting effect on the teams they play.
Whether the Cowboys are just beating teams or actually beating them up, it's a physical presence that we haven't seen around here in a while.
What they did Sunday to the Giants is what we've seen the last six weeks. The Cowboys are playing the role of the beast. And that, has been a thing of beauty.