More than the six turnovers generated by the Kiffin/Marinelli defensive scheme, or the fact that the Dallas offense failed to capitalize on those takeaways, what kept playing in my mind after the Giants game was the fact that the Cowboys fans were able to disrupt Eli Manning and the Giants. The fans at AT&T Stadium had stepped up and made themselves a factor in the football game. The Cowboys were given a true home field advantage and that thought is something that has been sorely missed in recent years. On Sunday night the crowd of over 85,000 screaming fans turned in a game ball performance.
To the uninitiated fan it may seen strange that, given the long and successful history of the Dallas Cowboys and the passion for football that exists in Texas, the fans who attend Cowboys home games are not generally a serious factor for the visiting team. Last season, Cowboys Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman called out the Dallas faithful during an appearance on KTCK-AM. In part, he stated that Dallas fans are not the type of fan who goes to sporting events to cheer on the home team; for them, it is more of a social event. Troy went on to add that during his playing career, the other three teams in the NFC East had a much greater home field advantage than did the Cowboys. While some have been quick to claim that the team had lost the advantage with the opening of their new home in Arlington; Aikman, who played his entire career in Texas Stadium, is quick to dispute that statement. His view is that a lot of the people who attend any sporting event in Dallas are there "because it's kind of just a place to be seen."
In stark contrast to Aikman's observations, during the opener against the Giants, the House the Jerry Built was rocking on Sunday night. During the game it seemed that the fans realized that they too have a role to play. They stepped up and did just that. During the post game press conferences, quarterback Tony Romo finished his session with an unsolicited statement about the fans and their role in the victory over an NFC East rival.
"The crowd was exceptional. They were outstanding from the moment it started to the end of the football game." -Tony Romo
Tony went on to add that, as long as the fans keep bringing the noise and energy level that was present on Sunday night, AT&T Stadium is going to transform itself into a tough place for opposing teams to play. In Romo's own words "It was awesome."
The Cowboys quarterback was not alone in his observation of the crowd's impact on the football game. Safety Barry Church, who had both a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on the night, wanted to talk about the fans as well.
"You could tell they were rattling the Giants a little bit out there. That's what we need each and every week." -Barry Church
Defensive captain and signal-caller Sean Lee added a few words to the press as well.
"As a defensive signal-caller, when you have trouble making calls; that's fun. That's good, because it means the crowd's going." -Sean Lee
Somehow, I doubt that Eli Manning found the experience as enjoyable as did Lee. At one point the noise level forced Manning to waste a time out due to the communications issue. Coming out of that break, the fans escalated their efforts and forced the Giants to commit a critical pre-snap penalty. Even DeMarco Murray got into the act. He informed the media that, during his three years in Dallas, Sunday night's crowd noise was by far the loudest he had ever experienced.
It's not very often that I feel compelled to comment on activity outside the playing field, but in response to Sunday night, I feel compelled to point out the efforts of the Dallas faithful. At one point late in the game, when the defense was exhausted and standing around with their hands on their hips, the crowd provided a lift. Kiffin's men responded to the crowd with a critical three and out effort. The fans elevated their game against New York and for their efforts, the players responded with both their efforts and their praise. All that remains is for the Cowboys fans to follow a Jason Garrett mantra and keep stacking one good performance on top of another.
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