Yes, my gut feels like it just took a shoulder from Darrelle Revis. I am angry at the special teams breakdown and the two bad plays by Tony Romo. But there were some very good players wearing the Star in this game, and one really earned a game ball.
Frankly, despite the terrible events of the fourth quarter, some things stood out. If the Jets turn out to be one of the contenders this year, then the Cowboys have a chance to put up some wins this year based on how they did against them. I definitely think the team showed us it has gotten better in many areas. I won't dwell on the problems here, because this is a post to talk about the positives. Before I hand out the game ball, I want to mention several players who I considered picking, ones that deserved some recognition for their efforts.
First off, the new offensive line, the Yuglies, deserve some consideration. In reading what was being said about the Cowboys in the media, it was obvious that many people had very real doubts that the team would have anything but a disaster on their hands by gambling on these players. But the newbies, particularly Tyron Smith, stood up very well to the test. Tony got sacked four times, but this was against a Rex Ryan defense, and it looked to me that the line was getting stronger as the game progressed. Tyron in particular got some attention from the NBC announcers, who highlighted his work. The offensive line was perhaps not quite great, but I think as the season progresses, they are just going to get better.
More top performers after the jump...
Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and particularly Jason Witten all proved that the top three receiving threats on the Cowboys are dangerous. Dez was a beast until he started cramping up. I hope that is not an ongoing issue, because he showed just how potent a threat he is. He and Miles went toe to toe with Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and I think they came out on top, particularly on the sideline reception Dez pulled down over Revis and the touchdown Miles wrestled out of Cromatie's grasp. And Witten had another spectacular game, with 110 yards total and that 64 yard reception that came so close to putting the game away.
But for the gameball, let's look to the defense. Rob Ryan did a great job, showing that his scheme is effective. Even the depleted secondary, with Terence Newman out, Orlando Scandrick getting a sprained ankle, and Mike Jenkins going in and out of the game, managed to hold up for the most part. Alan Ball came very close to saving the game, just not having good hands when he almost picked off Mark Sanchez just before Nick Folk kicked the winning field goal. (Nick Folk. Winning field goal. Excuse me a moment while I go outside and scream.)
The front seven played a very good game. Sanchez was pressured all night, with four sacks. DeMarcus Ware got his season off to a great start with two of them, and in a very encouraging sign Anthony Spencer got his first sack of the year.
But the star of the defense wass very clear. Eleven tackles, one assist, and one interception that displayed some wicked open field moves on the runback. Sean Lee gets the first 2011 BTB Game Ball, with a special inscription, "Certified Stud".
I did not see a bad play by him all night. He was a large part of making sure the Jets did not get their running game going. His tackles were certain, and he played smart, fast, and aggressive. He was everything you want in an inside linebacker. Last year, a lot of people were wondering if the Cowboys had wasted a second-round pick as he struggled to get on the field due to injuries, but I think that argument is laid to rest by this performance.
He also is a sign that we are going to like the Big Robowski's tenure in Dallas, even if it may be a short one. He was just a part of a defensive performance that gave me a very good feeling. I was one of the people that was worried that it would take several games for this unit to jell, but they looked a lot further along than I had dared hope. If they can just get some cornerbacks healthy, I think they are going to be a lot of fun to watch. Especially if another second-round linebacker with injury issues plays anywhere close to how Sean Lee did on Sunday night.
And one thing should be remembered. Almost no one, outside of Dallas fans, really thought that this was a game that Dallas had any real chance of winning. They were not only competitive, but really fell victim to three bad plays. None of them, I might add, on defense. This is not a loss to make us despair, because the Jets may be one of the best teams the Cowboys face all year. Next week looks to be lot more winnable. This was only the first game, and as much as it pains us to have lost it, there are some good things that came out of it.
None were better than Sean Lee. He is fully deserving of this game ball. I would guess it won't be his last.