Sunday, September 20, 2009

Opening Night: Dal 31, NYG 33

If only the Cowboys could have played to the level that their new home truly deserved.

Then again, to play that well, it might have taken the combined efforts of all the former Cowboys legends who were on hand to help commemorate the evening. Dallas opened its new $1.12 billion Cowboys Stadium in front of NFL record 105,121 screaming fans falling 33-31 to the New York Giants on the final play of the game.

The Cowboys rallied from behind several times throughout the game, and the defense was able to bend but not break in holding New York to field goals on drives early in the game, but with just over 3 minutes to play, the Giants comfortably drove down the field and Lawrence Tynes kicked the game winning field goal as time expired.

If this new stadium is the Death Star, one of many nicknames in the local D/FW area, then Tynes fired torpedos into the ventilation shaft that blew the thing up. Cue the triumphant music and hand out medals.

(A special look at the new Cowboys Stadium coming tomorrow)

For the second straight week, the Cowboys defense could not bring down the opposing quarterback and failed to take the ball away. It didn't help that the Cowboys suffered through four turnovers and a handful of bad bounces. That is all, however, part of the game. An interception went off a shoe, and New York scored on a bobbled catch in the end zone. It happens every week (Brandon Stokley's tipped TD for Denver in week 1). And Dallas will get a few of those bounces during the course of the season. Tonight wasn't the night.

Going -4 in the turnover battle is an impossible formula to win a football game. The fact that the Cowboys even had the lead with under four minutes to go shows how well certain elements of the game were working for them. Dallas was able to gash the Giants for 251 rushing yards, and the run defense that struggled against Tampa Bay in week 1 held New York under 97 yards. But the Giants deserve credit for taking what the Cowboys gave them. Eli Manning aired it out to the tune of 330 yards and a pair of TDs. Two NYG receivers - Mario Manningham and Steve Smith - put up over 130 yards receiving.

On the other side of things, Cowboys QB Tony Romo was average at best and Jake Delhomme at worst. One week after a monster game of over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns, the quarterback went 13 for 29 with a mere 127 yards passing and three interceptions. Sure one pick was off a heel, but the other two were bad, bad throws. Heck, one of them was practically a punt - without the fear of hitting the video board of course. Romo essentially threw a jump ball to the safety on a deep pass to Sam Hurd, and he had several other throws where he missed his targets (targets that were often times double covered).

Dallas got a lot to love out of Marion Barber and Felix Jones, who combined for 220 yards on 25 carries with a touchdown each. The duo of running backs displayed what the Cowboys are capable of in the running game. Even Tashard Choice worked effectively as a third down back early in the game. Jones did have a costly fumble on a kickoff return in the first half setting up more easy points for New York.

The Cowboys secondary looked weary as defensive backs lagged behind receivers all evening. Manning had too much time and too many options. There were open receivers on every key play, and Manning was more than able to find them. On one play, he even spun 360 degrees to evade a Dallas defender and flung the ball to his safety value to keep moving the Giants down the field.

Sadly this performance was eerily similar of the Cowboys failure to give Texas Stadium a proper swan song last December, and that's exactly what the Cowboys couldn't afford to do. With a win or a loss tonight, the Cowboys season still requires taking the field 14 more times, but it hurts beginning the year with such a blemish at home against a team that the Cowboys will need to beat at some point this season if they plan on advancing in the playoffs.

The season will go on, and the Cowboys have a favorable schedule in the early parts of the season. The next five games are against Carolina, at Denver, at Kansas City, Atlanta and Seattle, which are a combined 5-5 on the young season. All of those games the Cowboys are better than on paper, but that has to translate to the field.

Jerry Jones put together a truly magnificent opening night at his new playground, but in the end New York put a Giants blemish on the night.

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