While satisfying, the victory over the Giants definitely came with some indigestion. Winning 36 - 31 over your division rival in the opening game of the season should never be dismissed or even taken lightly, but if you break it down, the Cowboys, to some extent, got lucky on Sunday night. There are two sides to every coin.
Let's not go into detail about a couple of the good points because we've already covered them. The turnovers created by the defense is one of those good points and the number one reason Dallas won the game, but I doubt we can count on a +5 turnover margin every week. The other good was Tony Romo, who gutted it out for a victory that was accomplished in an unconventional way.
Okay, now that we've dispensed with those two, let's move on to some of the other good.
1. The offensive line. For most of the game, Tony Romo had plenty of time to throw the ball. While he was hit quite a few times, some of those where the result of Romo holding the ball until the last possible moment. He was only sacked twice in the game. Thinking back on the game, at no time was it a case where the prevailing sentiment was "If only Romo had some time to throw". And don't look now, but the Cowboys actually had a semblance of a running game. It wasn't great but it was enough. Which leads us to point two...
2. The running game. It wasn't dynamic, it wasn't scary, but it was enough to keep the offense somewhat balanced. Enough to keep Romo from having to drop back to pass on every play and risk further injury. It was just enough to say we will run the ball. DeMarco Murray carried the ball 20 times for 86 yards, an average of 4.3 yards per carry. Not bad, and Murray ran with determination. Also, Bill Callahan refused to give up on the running game, he's trying to build on it. This wasn't a great rushing attack, but coming from where we were last year, it's at least a good start.
3. Defensive line. With all the injuries coming into the game, this unit could have been a disaster. But they weren't. They shut down the Giants run game (50 yards total), they were part of the turnover parade (INTs, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries) , they had three sacks and a bunch of pressures/hits on Eli Manning. Great job from a supposedly weak position group.
1. Converting turnovers into points. Dallas's offense bogged down in the redzone and left a ton of points on the field and off the scoreboard. DeMarcus Ware intercepts the Giants on the first offensive play at the 15-yard line. Dallas settles for three. A Will Allen interception sets Dallas up at the 48-yard line, after driving to the Giants 13, the Cowboys turn it over. No points. This pattern was repeated a couple of other times. Thankfully the defense decided to start scoring touchdowns on their turnovers and saving the offense the trouble. The Cowboys offense has to be sharper in the redzone and get the full points off of turnover-created opportunities.
1. Pass defense. Throw away the interceptions and the pass defense was atrocious. The Giants absolutely abused the middle of the field on slants and crossing patterns. They also caught the Cowboys in a blown coverage for a 70-yard score. Victor Cruz (3 TDs), Hakeem Nicks and Rueben Randle all had 100+ yard games. Tight end Brett Myers had 66 yards and a touchdown. The pass defense got torched for 450 yards on just 27 completions (16.7 yards per catch). Many of these completions were uncontested. Will Allen had a couple of big mistakes and Morris Claiborne didn't look to be in game shape yet. Dallas will have to go back to the drawing board here.