John Madden is fond of saying, "winning is a deodorant." Tonight, the Cowboys dabbed some industrial-strength cologne on their melodramatic week, abusing the New York Giants 20-8.
The Cowboys matched New York's muscle and exceeded it. Their defensive line, so badly abused in October at the Meadowlands, dominated the blue-chip New York line tonight. The Giants mustered 72 yards on the ground, 128 less than they did in the October game. The rush sacked Eli Manning eight times. LG Rich Seubert and RT Kareem McKenzie left the game with injuries.
The secondary smothered the Giants passing game. The corners showed that New York may indeed miss Plaxico Burress. New York's longest reception was 23 yards, by TE Kevin Boss. It's longest play of the night was a dubious pass interference penalty on Terence Newman in the first quarter.
While the defense meted out pain, the offensive stars endured theirs to put the Cowboys in the NFC's fifth seed heading into week sixteen. Tony Romo played the last 40 minutes with a bruised back, delivered by an intense first-half Giants rush. He made a classic Romo play for Dallas first touchdown, floating away from a Giants blitz before lofting a pass to Patrick Crayton, who had broken his route and gotten free up the right sideline.
Marion Barber did his best, though he gained only two yards on the ground. A fourteen-yard flare showed that he's far from healthy. He was wide open in the right flat but was quickly run down. Wade Phillips mentioned that Barber will be ready next week, but he looks far from the target.
Tashard Choice again showed he can handle the big stage. He topped 150 yards from scrimmage against Pittsburgh and put 143 on the Giants, gaining 91 yards rushing and 52 receiving. 79 of those 91 yards came in the 4th quarter, when Dallas put up 14 points, a reversal of their dismal end in Pittsburgh last week.
In the meantime, the Cowboys get an all-expenses paid trip to the trainers room. The Ravens are coming to town this Saturday, and they're mad.
Terence Newman wanted accountability from the coaches. Here 'ya go Terence. Oh, and you get a game ball too:
-- Jason Garrett. His offensive line kept setting him up and he kept overcoming. He stayed with his running game late, even though Dallas had 12 yards through three quarters. As the Cowboys did last year, they broke teams on the ground in the 4th. His draw to Tashard Choice went for 23 and set Dallas up for their second TD. He called a hot route to Jason Witten two plays later and set up the Cowboys at the one.
On Dallas final TD drive he overcame penalties that put Dallas in 1st and 20 and in 2nd and 19. Each time, he delivered.
-- The entire defensive front seven: 8 sacks gives them 30 in the last five games. I don't know what Todd Grantham and Reggie Herring have put in their player's Wheaties, but keep feeding it to them.
-- Terence Newman. The Eagles stopped the Giants cold by doubling Domenik Hixon. Dallas went one better, smothing him with Newman. Terence acted out midweek, in likely response to being called out by Wade Phillips in last Monday's presser. Tonight, he looked healthy. And when he's healthy, he's got the football equivalent of an electrostatic drive. He glides from 0 to 60 in two steps.
-- Hudson Houck: The Giants picked on Cory Proctor early, and broke down in Cowboys interior, as Leonard Davis had his worst pass blocking game of the season. He plugged the leaks. Romo took some hits later in the game, but he had time to throw. Dallas called more max protect schemes, as they did on Miles Austin's 23 yard reception late in the 3rd quarter. Romo missed some open WRs, likely because his back stiffened up, but he made the throws he needed to make.
Dave Campo: He had to juggle personnel on the fly. Keith Davis left the game in the second quarter, when he wrenched his knee. Tra Battle held the fort until he could return. Anthony Henry moved to safety for plays, and the kids, Alan Ball, Orlando Scandrick and Mike Jenkins, played superbly, as they have since the Tampa Bay game. Campo had his kids ready to play, at a very high level.
Wade Phillips: Let's give some love to the old defensive guru, who has his guys playing at the Steelers' level. 30 sacks since the bye. 13.8 points per game allowed since the bye. Their three best games have come in that span: 228 yards allowed in the Washington game; 238 versus Pittsburgh; 218 to New York tonight.
Tashard is the right choice. Marion Barber has guts to spare, but he's not healthy. He doesn't have his usual burst. He can't run his pet toss right play because he can't outrun guys to the corner.
Let him heal. Tashard can carry the load in the short term.
PR Award of the Week
There's an old journalism proverb that says, "never challenge a man who buys ink by the barrell." Never challenge a saavy player who understands PR. Terrell Owens used his time before the NBC microphones and in the post-game press conference to berate ESPN reporter Ed Werder, who broke the story of team turmoil mid-week. Owens characterized the reports as "lies" and questioned the reporter's professionalism.
Owens gets the final word -- this week at least. And he got the biggest reach. NBC reaches far more eyeballs on a pedestrian night than ESPN on their best.