There was a role reversal Sunday night in the new Cowboys Stadium. A Giants team expected to ride its rushing game instead relied on Eli Manning and his kiddie receiving corps, especially the emerging Mario Manningham.
The Cowboys were the bludgeon ball team, rushing for a massive 251 yards on the ground.
In the end, it was four turnovers which tipped the game, handing New York several short fields and a touchdown off a pass interception as New York took a 33-31 decision on a Lawrence Tynes' field goal at the final gun.
The Cowboys saw some flukey bounces go away from them. An errant Tony Romo pass just before the half bounced off Jason WItten's heel and caromed into Kenny Phillips' hands, giving the Giants a 28 yard field they traversed for a second quarter touchdown.
They can blame nobody but themselves for two other huge mistakes which robbed them of momentum and surrendered game-tipping points. Felix Jones looked slow and uncertain on several of his kickoff returns and his fumble of a kickoff staggered Dallas. The play came one play after an overthrown Romo pass had been returned for a touchdown, giving New York a 10-7 lead. The defense held but Romo and his mates had to wait before taking the field.
An even bigger miscue came late in the 3rd. Dallas had just ripped up the field and taken a 24-20 lead on several brusing runs by Felix Jones and Marion Barber. The New York line was tiring and the Dallas defense had forced a punt. After gaining a quick first down, Dallas was in first and ten just across midfield.
Jason Garrett called a play action bomb to Sam Hurd, hoping to catch the New York safeties cheating up to support the front seven. The gambit failed, as New York kept Phillips in deep middle and he was sitting over the top on Hurd's route.
The play would have been forgettable had Romo thrown the pass away. For some inexplicable reason, he attempted to squeeze the pass into coverage. It was badly overthrown and was picked off by Phillips at the five. This is the type of pass Romo was supposed to eliminate this season, but the play only showed that he still needs to deliver on the promise.
New York mounted its lone, long touchdown drive of the evening on the subsequent drive. Eli Manning and Kevin Gilbride added insult to Romo's mistake by perfectly executing an almost identical play to open their drive. Gilbride called for max protection and Manning floated a perfect pass to Manningham, who got behind Orlando Scandrick on a post.
By lacking patience, Romo threw momentum away and passed up a golden chance to push his team two scores ahead. Instead, New York scored the next ten points, and while Dallas rammed home one more touchdown on their runner's legs, their lead was only 31-30 on a night when it was clear that least team with possession would take the game.
That team was New York, and they didn't miss.
-- Hey, Jerry, I though the objective was to win the game. I have to take issue with the decision to open the roof. Yes, it allowed for more blimp shots of the stadium, and helped shoe horn more people into the stands,so Jerry could get his record. It also meant the players had to toil in extreme humidity on an 87 degree night instead of the climate-controlled 71 degrees when the roof was closed.
I can't say this cost Dallas the game, because both teams had to play in the elements, but did this give the paying fans the best experience? Did you spend $1.2 billion to build simply build a bigger version of the Texas Stadium sweatbox? Did it give the players the best conditions in which to play?
-- Hey, Demarcus Ware, isn't this your salary drive season? Number 94 has a lot of ground to recover if he's going to make a run at the sack record.
-- Hey, Orlando Scandrick. If you don't make another tackle soon, the one you made tonight in front of the first down marker is going to die of loneliness.
Scandrick's first game as a starter was a howler. Mario Manningham schooled him on three early smoke routes where Scandrick came racing forward out of control and whiffed on tackles. Later, Manningham burned him on the key bomb after Romo's pick. New York closed the drive when Steve Smith left Scandrick eating rubber pellets in the middle of the field.
-- It as a horrible game for all the Dallas corners. The linebackers improved their run defense considerably, but the starting corners were sieves. All that strong play in camp looks like a mirage. Time to get to work, Dave Campo.
-- Give the kid credit; Manningham was a big reason the corners looked bad. The second year receiver from Michigan can make nasty cuts at speed and none of the Dallas corners could match him when he hit the accelerator. Manning already trusts him.
-- Bottom line: Dallas showed its offense has two dimensions. The Giants beat up secondary played a lot of two deep with its safeties, so Dallas hammered them on the ground. The team also proved that it can't defy the rules of football. It lost the turnover battle 4-0. It's a testament to its power that it had a 31-30 lead late, but when you play like zombies ate your brains, you're going to lose, no matter how much firepower you possess.