NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This should feel familiar by now. The Cowboys are back at .500 after a big road win against the Titans on Sunday. The win keeps the Cowboys out of a dreaded 0-2 hole with another road trip looming next week.
Here are the initial reactions from the staff of DallasCowboys.com -- writers Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus and David Helman.
David Helman:This might be as close as I've ever come to nailing a Cowboys game prediction. I said the running game would be impressive, and I said Tony Romo would make fewer mistakes. He wasn't fantastic, but he made plays when he needed to and answered a Titans rally in the third quarter. DeMarco Murray and a surprisingly good defense did the rest of the work. I said I thought the defense would force Jake Locker into one mistake, but they far exceeded those expectations. My only mistake was in saying this would be a close win – Dallas actually dominated. I'm not going to overreact, because I don't think this win ultimately means that much. No one is confusing the Titans with a Super Bowl contender. But my main takeaway is that a comfortable win on the road is about as good as you can ask for in the NFL.
Bryan Broaddus:I had a feeling the Cowboys would struggle on third down offensively against the Titans. But that wasn't the case at all. The Cowboys offensively managed to convert over 56 percent on third down, while the Titans were the ones that struggled at 20 percent.
Though it looked bad early with some breakdowns with physical protections, their ability to hammer away at this Titans front seven by running the ball allowed them to be in some manageable down and distance situations. Tony Romo was able to find Jason Witten and Dez Bryant on some key receptions, which allowed this offense to settle down and find some much-needed rhythm.
Rowan Kavner: A smash-mouth running game and a stout defense. This isn't Seattle here, it's the Cowboys in Tennessee. I thought this Week 2 game would look a lot more like the Kansas City Week 2 one last year – a tough, low-scoring affair the home team pulls out in the final minutes. This one was basically decided at halftime the other way. I said this needed to be a game Dez Bryant takes over. He played a huge part in the win with 10 catches, 103 yards and a crucial touchdown, but it ended up the DeMarco Murray takeover. The back was a force and helped keep the defense fresh. That heavily criticized defense has answered the call early in 2014. Tony Romo wasn't particularly crisp again, and that'll cost them later if he remains that way. But the way the Cowboys were able to run, it didn't matter Sunday.
Nick Eatman: From an overall standpoint, I guess I wasn't surprised with the Cowboys getting a win here in Tennessee. But the surprising part was winning as convincingly as they did. This team rammed the ball right now the Titans' defense all day, setting the tone. Defensively, this is the best we've seen the Cowboys play in a while. Rolando McClain proved again he can be a difference maker in the middle and it's not just the interception, which was amazing, but his ability to run sideline to sideline takes this defense to another level. As for the Witten and Harris predictions, I was way off. But I'll bet most Cowboys fans are happy with the one prediction that was accurate. Good win for this team that needed a bounce back.
Here were the gut feelings for the first road game of the season from Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, Bryan Broaddus, and David Helman.
David Helman:We always think we know so much after Week 1, but how well do we actually know any team in the NFL? Are the Cowboys as horrendous as their four-turnover performance against San Francisco looked? Are the Titans as dominant as they appeared in their dismantling of Kansas City? The answer to both questions is "probably not." I've been leaning toward the Titans for the majority of the week, but I have to remind myself not to make snap judgments after one game. With an impressive running game and fewer mistakes from Tony Romo, I think the Cowboys can go on the road and get a win against a team that hasn't been to the playoffs since 2008. If they can't, it's going to be a long season. The offense will look better, the defense will force one crucial mistake out of Jake Locker and the Cowboys will escape with a win – something like 28-24.
Bryan Broaddus: It is very early in the season but a stat that I like to hang my hat on is third down percentage. It doesn't matter whether it's on the offensive or defensive side of the ball, if you are sustaining drives, it is likely that you are putting yourself in position to score points. On the flip side, if you are getting off the field on third downs, it's the exact opposite. The Titans are ranked first in the NFL when it comes to playing third down defense, while the Cowboys are ranked fourth when it comes to converting on third down. My gut feeling is that this Titans defense will hold the Cowboys offense under 35 percent and in doing so prevent them from sustaining the ball long enough to finish drives. The Titans' pressure and secondary play at home will be just too much, and they will win this game.
Rowan Kavner:We should get a better idea of what this Cowboys team is really like this week after an unorthodox opener. It's hard to take much from that loss, considering it was 21-3 before many fans tuned in. [embedded_ad]
It should be easier to draw some conclusions on both sides of the ball against a young and talented Tennessee team. This needs to be a game Dez Bryant takes over. He's the guy the Cowboys have to feed off of after a quiet week. He can help Tony Romo, he can open up room for DeMarco Murray and he can fire up the defense. Bryant bounces back, but it's not quite enough as both teams score in the low 20s and a late Titans field goal leads to a three-point loss.
Nick Eatman: Just like last week, this is a tough game to call because beating Tennessee on the road seems like a difficult task. But we haven't seen this team go to 0-2 in a while and I definitely see the Cowboys bouncing back with a better performance. Maybe it would be a good idea if the Cowboys can get their nine-time Pro Bowl tight end involved a little more. Instead of seeing what the defense gives you, how about going on the attack with Jason Witten and forcing the Titans to use a safety to cover him. That will open up the outside passing game and should open up more running lanes. I see Dwayne Harris having a big play, probably in the return game, but maybe on offense. But he's going to have a game-changing play. It won't be easy but just like the Cowboys have been a mediocre franchise, so have the Titans. So it would seem logical they both get to 1-1 this week.