I’m not going to try and pretend that the Dallas Cowboys do not face a huge challenge in the rematch against the New York Giants on Sunday. They have to rediscover the kind of play that led them to a win over the Giants in the season opener with some very noticeable missing players. But the team certainly has not given up on this game, and to provide a little morale boost, at least for those who want it, I put together some of the more positive things that should be considered going into the contest.
First, while the absence of Sean Lee, DeMarco Murray, and Barry Church this week would be hard for any team to overcome, there is one player who looks to be much more effective, and that is tight end/Tony Romo security blanket Jason Witten. Although not fully recovered from a lacerated spleen, he considers his participation in that game, even with his limited production, a high point of his season so far.
"Even though it didn’t really show it in the stats, that was probably one of my more proud games just because of the mindset going into that," Witten said, "and being able to be an energy boost for your team in a situation to start the season off."
Now he is back to being the Senator we know and love, and is looking to be much more important statistically this Sunday.
The offense has to be more effective than in recent weeks, but as it works out, the line that will face the Giants is the same one that played all but the first series of downs on September fifth. They were able to provide adequate protection for Romo and keep the running game relevant. Having Murray out, and Felix Jones listed as questionable, is not going to help, but the passing game should be in good shape this week. Yes, I am betting on the players to step up and play with pride and focus.
Speaking of pride, Rob Ryan’s apparently got stung a little by some intimation that the Giants gave the first game away.
"The only reason we stopped them was their lack of execution," Ryan said sarcastically a couple of days before the rematch between NFC East rivals. "It had nothing to do with our players or our scheme.That’s been well documented. That was said. They give a lot of credit where credit is due, and it’s just because of their lack of execution."
It sounds like Rob is a bit peeved. I have sort of missed the swagger he likes to bring to games, and it may be back to a certain extent. One thing is certain, he figured out a way to contain Eli Manning and the rest of the Giants’ offense. There is a nice bit of analysis on this over at the Dallas Morning News, showing how the use of Cover 2 kept Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks in check for most of the game, as well as how things did not always work out. It’s worth a read, and is evidence that the Cowboys can manage things if they can figure out how to adjust to the personnel issues they face. And that is the big task facing Ryan. He had some interesting things to say about his team and how they plan to handle things.
"I tell you what it is, it’s a testament to the guys in that room that work their butts off and believe in each other," Ryan said. "They believe in the theory of next man up but they care for each other and they play their ass off for each other so that’s why we’re so fortunate. I’ve been to places where it’s not like that. When you lose a great player, the whole thing goes to crap, these guys have great character, they’re very talented and they believe in the system and they make our system better, our players do, and that’s why we’re a helluva group and that’s what we plan on doing this week. We plan on proving it."
It is an interesting statement, especially the contrast he made to "places" he’s been. It also shows that the team has some confidence in its ability to overcome the injury losses. Sure, it is more a feeling about things than anything concrete, but there is a potential for the Cowboys to make a statement about themselves this week.
Hardships can bring out the best in some. Jason Garrett has been making a concerted effort to put together a team composed of players with high character. This is shaping up to be a great chance for them to step up and prove it. Those next guys up who have to fill in for the injured stars have an opportunity to show they carry a little Star themselves.
It may not go the way we want it to. But there are some reasons to hope, not the least of which is that the Cowboys had the Giants’ number once already this year.