the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants
I actually threw up a little in my mouth when I typed that.
The last few years the NFL has pitted the two most recent Lombardi Trophy winners against one another on opening night. I have no idea why that changed this season, but I could not be happier with their decision. There is no better scenario I could imagine then to begin the season against---not only a bitter division rival---but the World Champions to boot. Nothing could possibly erase the memory of how things ended a few months back, but a victory over the G-men to jump-start the new season would make a nice dressing for that still-oozing wound.
I know opening night is nearly three months away and we have a lot to get through in that time, but let's face it, all eyes are focused on that date. As much as we relish training camp and learning of the progress of the rookies, free agent signings and returning veterans, nothing gets the juices flowing like the first game of the season. Sure, we get a charge from the exhibition games. As fans, it's the first chance to see the 'Boys take the field. It's the first crack of the pads. It's the first pass from Tony Romo and the first yard churned out by DeMarco Murray. It's the first catches by Dez, Miles and Witten. It's the first sack allowed by Phil Costa. It's the first sack tallied by DeMarcus Ware and the first thumping of the ground by Jay Ratliff. And, most importantly, it's the first chance to see our newcomers in actual action. We realize, in the grand scheme of things, the outcome of these games are meaningless. But still we watch. The passion is no less great and the expletives still fly with enthusiasm. Yet, despite the joy of seeing live football after a seven month hiatus, our attention remains focused on Week 1.
The anticipation rips at our guts like a midnight burrito. However, this off-season has been especially brutal. With the combination of how our season ended back in January and the positive strides we have taken since, it's a wonder we're all not popping Tums like Tic-Tacs. When it was announced the Cowboys would be opening against the G-men on national television for the entire world to see, all blood left my brain and the wife ran for cover. I don't think either of us has fully recovered yet. In the 35+ years I've been a fan, I can't remember wanting a season to start so badly. I'm not quite sure whether it's just the optimism of seeing Jason Garrett's efforts reach fruition or wanting another crack at Eli Manning and company. I don't know. Probably a little of both.
As I'm sure all of you are in the same state-of-mind as me, I may have a solution to our dilemma. I've been warned in the past to avoid using my powers to selfish ends and, on many occasions, have been scolded for doing just that. But since my BTB brothers and sisters are all experiencing the agony of withdrawal, ending that suffering would not qualify as a selfish act, but one of mercy and compassion. So, keeping that in mind, let me relieve your pain with a quick jaunt a few months into the future. I'll watch the game and bring back a comprehensive review of how our Dallas Cowboys faired against the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Nope, still can't type that without burping up a little bile.
Does anyone besides me think this is just a tad silly? Oh, well, makes no sense to turn back now. Let's see where it takes us...
Wow! All I have to say, is you guys are in for a hell of a game.
Let me begin by saying Stephen McGee played his heart out and, after his performance, has earned a place in Dallas Cowboys lore beside some all-time great back-up quarterbacks. It was kind of a round-about way for him to get behind the center, but McGee took advantage of the opportunity and made his mark. Tony Romo failed to make the trip to New York after a bizarre incident outside his home in Dallas. While pushing the stroller carrying his son, a mid-Texas wind-storm blew out of nowhere, catching a hatless Romo unaware. Unfortunately, the QB's ears caught the brunt of the gust. Tony was picked up and hurled thirty feet into a crop of Yucca bushes. As of game-time, they were still pulling needles out of various body parts. Needless to say, he was in no condition to make the journey.
Kyle Orton, as the #2, was up to the task. He vowed to do his best to lead the team and seemed to have the confidence of his teammates heading into the game. However, on the first offensive play for Dallas, Orton fumbled the snap. The ball was kicked around and picked up by Jason Tuck who returned it twenty-five yards for a touchdown. On the way back to the sidelines after the play, 250 pound fullback Lawrence Vickers grabbed Kyle by the shoulder pads, spun him around and kicked the unsuspecting QB square in the peanut pouch. Orton collapsed in a heap and was dragged to the sidelines by Vickers, who then demanded a quarterback without glass marbles. Enter Stephen McGee.
McGee started out tentatively but worked himself into a rhythm and, by the second half, was playing like a seasoned professional. He eventually ended up 22 of 30 for 296 yards and three scores. Included in those numbers was a brilliant drive late in the game, culminating in a perfect twenty-two yard strike to a double-covered Dez Bryant to give Dallas the lead with thirty seconds remaining.
I'm pleased to report that McGee wasn't the only Cowboy to shine. Dez Bryant had six catches for 128 yards and two scores. Along with the twenty-two yarder mentioned earlier, he had a spectacular one-handed grab and run for a sixty-eight yard touchdown that will surely make everyone's highlight reel for years to come. Jason Witten had six catches as well for 85 yards and a short, three yard TD reception. On the ground, DeMarco Murray, getting the bulk of the work, had 156 yards on 24 carries and a remarkable 12 yard TD run where he broke three tackles and two noses. Felix Jones added 88 yards on 12 carries and Lance Dunbar also contributed 49 yards on 6 carries to round out the impressive debut of the Cowboys' new three-headed ground attack. Throw in the 53 yards McGee tallied on 5 scrambles, and Dallas had 346 yards rushing in 45 attempts. The Giants simply had no answer.
The defense played well and also had their share of stand-out performances. Demarcus Ware recorded three sacks and Anthony Spencer added two of his own as the linebacking corp of Dallas served notice to the rest of the league. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were everywhere. Each had 14 solo tackles and were demons in pass coverage, snagging one interception a piece and basically causing mayhem from sideline to sideline. Matt Johnson took over for an injured Brodney Pool in the third quarter and broke up three passes in an impressive first game. Other rookies, Tyrone Crawford and Kyle Wilbur, both got valuable playing time and showed some flash, but failed to make the impact of the defense's best all-around performer---Mo Claiborne.
Claiborne began the game by picking off Eli Manning's first pass and never looked back. He held his receivers to one reception for eight yards and that was on a play where Mo slipped in a puddle of Victor Cruz's urine. Apparently Cruz lost control of his bladder when, on an end-around, he saw rookie LB Caleb McSurdy standing in his path with what looked like a bloody human arm clenched in his teeth. It was. Former Cowboy TE Martellus Bennett tried blocking the rookie and McSurdy bit off the appendage. I knew that kid was going to be an animal.
Despite over 600 yards of offense and a dominating show by the defense of the Cowboys, the World Champions managed to scrape together a few scores and kept the game close. Besides Tuck's fumble return, the G-men blocked a punt and had two impressive drives by the offense, all resulting in TDs. And held the lead 28-24 before Stephen McGee and Dez Bryant took it away with thirty seconds remaining.
The first play after Dan Bailey booted the ball into the endzone for a touchback, Mo Claiborne made a diving stab at a pass from Manning to Cruz and deflected it out of bounds. Unfortunately on the play, Mo tweeked his wrist and left the field in obvious pain. Mike Jenkins, relegated to nickel packages most of the night, stepped up to the line across from Victor Cruz. Eli saw the match-up he wanted and went to Cruz with a quick strike. The pass was badly thrown and should have been intercepted, but Jenkins was out of position and Victor made a great catch. The speedy wideout tucked the ball under his arm and bolted, untouched, down the sidelines for the score, a helpless Mike Jenkins in futile pursuit. The extra point made it 35-31 with ten seconds remaining.
On the Dallas bench, head coach Jason Garrett's face was as red as his hair. He approached CB Mike Jenkins who was non-chalantly sipping from a cup of Gatorade. The usually reserved coach began screaming and shaking his finger in Jenkins' face. "This is what happens when you miss OTAs!" he bellowed. "If you ever...!" In mid-sentence, Garrett's mouth stopped moving and without warning, his head exploded. The headless, synthetic body of Jason Garrett twitched once and fell to the ground, motionless. Jenkins looked down at the remains of his coach and shrugged. The indifferent CB then made a call to his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and informed him that he would probably be released in the next day or two and to start making inquiries.
Expert opinions have surmised that the emotion chip in Garrett's positronic brain malfunctioned again, causing a shutdown of all adjoining systems. This included the micro-generator that supplied coolant to the energy module located in the back of his head. In a nutshell, Garrett over-heated.
After several moments of silence for the loss of their android head coach, the referee decided the Cowboys had had enough time to mourn, and ordered the game to resume so the final ten seconds could be run off. Rob Ryan assumed the role vacated by Garrett and sent the return team onto the field. As expected, the Giants' kicker bounced a wobbler down the middle of the field to avoid sending it deep to Felix Jones and Dez Bryant who were waiting at the goalline. The ball ended up in the hands of rookie WR Danny Coale. With a gleam in his eye and a posse out in front, the wiry reciever darted and dodged his way through the entire Giants team and into the endzone for the winning touchdown as time expired. Dallas added the point after and won the gane 38-35.
I apologize to those of you who didn't want me to spoil the ending. But, alas, I got caught in the moment and was lost in a wave of euphoria over the victory. Please don't hold my enthusiasm against me. Despite knowing the outcome, you will thoroughly enjoy this game. Have I ever lied to you before?