ARLINGTON, Texas - The DallasCowboys.com staff of David Helman, Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman give their initial thoughts on the season-opening win over the Giants.
I've got to say, I feel pretty good about how my prognostication held up in Week 1. Of course, nobody could have predicted six Cowboys takeaways, but they still managed to outlast the Giants in a high-scoring, unpredictable affair. Give the Cowboys' defensive line plenty of credit for helping force three interceptions by Eli Manning. Dallas sacked Manning three times and managed five quarterback hits on the night. The Cowboys' offensive line didn't dominate by any means, but it held the nasty New York pass rush to two sacks and it paved the way for 87 rushing yards, compared to the Giants' 50.
It wasn't the early shootout I thought it'd be, but by the end of the game the teams still combined for 67 points and the Cowboys' defense provided more firepower than anyone could have imagined. I thought the new-look defense would create pressure and turnovers, but the amount they were able to couldn't have been predicted. The one thing that could be correctly predicted is that regardless of the circumstances, this one would end in a close score. Despite the turnover advantage, that's exactly what happened with the Cowboys holding on, relying on a ball-hawking group of defenders.
I had a strong feeling that the team that did a better job of protecting its quarterback would have an outstanding chance of winning this football game. At times the line play for both teams was a problem, but I thought the Cowboys did a better job overall in keeping their quarterback clean. There were times when Tony Romo did face pressure from the inside, but for the most part, he was able to look down the field and deliver the ball. I knew going into this matchup that it wasn't going to be about the sacks, but rather the pressure on Eli Manning. The Giants didn't do a good enough job of handling that pressure and it resulted in several turnovers, which was the difference in the game. [embedded_ad]
Will Allen? I meant Brandon Carr, right? Well I guess we've just seen enough of these Cowboys-Giants games over the years. And yes, I did say Dez Bryant would be a huge difference maker and that wasn't really the case with his four catches for 22 yards. Then again, don't think for a second Miles Austin working the underneath routes for 10 catches isn't a byproduct of the respect the Giants gave Dez. Still, it looked like a "here-we-go-again" moment and the Cowboys were able to come up with the big play. That's the impressive part to me. Who knows if that will be a trend. But it was a good start.
Here were the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner, posted on Saturday.
Maybe it's because I wasn't around for the disappointment of 2011 and 2012, but I feel pretty optimistic about this game and this season. The Cowboys' depth on the defensive line is definitely concerning, but we've seen such impressive play from DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher this preseason, I still think they find a way to make plays – especially with the Giants' offensive line dealing with so many issues of its own. The offensive line won't have Brian Waters, but I still think it can hold up well enough, even if Jason Pierre-Paul winds up playing. Then there's this stat: the 41 combined points in last year's opener between the two was the lowest point total in this series in five years. So I'm betting it's going to be a shootout, and I like the Cowboys' odds in that situation.
The absence of Jay Ratliff and the likely absence of Anthony Spencer will hurt the defensive line's pressure. But a healthy Sean Lee, a healthy Bruce Carter, a healthy Barry Church and, most vitally for the pass rush, a healthy DeMarcus Ware should still help create pressure on this new-look defense against a battered Giants offensive line. There've been some shootouts recently when these teams meet in Dallas, and I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen again. But one thing I do see changing is the Cowboys' recent woes at home against the Giants.
I really want to look at this game and factor in what I've seen in the past. I want to say the Giants just have the Cowboys' number here and that Eli knows how to get it done. And while this is a huge game for both teams, the Giants usually find a way to win it…. That's what I know because that's what I've seen. But my gut feeling says the Cowboys have Dez Bryant. And this guy, right now, is just too good to let them lose. And I think DeMarcus Ware is going to play out of his mind as well. I do think it goes down to the wire and Eli will have the ball in his hands for a late drive, but I just visualize a guy like Will Allen saving the day.
All week long on DallasCowboys.com, I have tried to break this matchup against the Giants down and give you an idea in what direction this game might go. Both the Cowboys and the Giants have had their issues with injuries along the offensive line and neither Jason Garrett nor Tom Coughlin have a real good feel how well their respected groups might play. With rookie starters on both sides and players lining up in spots they normally don't play, it's a big unknown. For all of my studying, this game boils down to one simple thought, and mark this down, the team that plays the best on the offensive line, will win this game.