It's time to hand out game balls for the Cowboys' home victory against the We've got one for a player from each unit: offense, defense, special teams, as well as one for the coaching staff.
Miles Austin -It all began on the first offensive series, man-on-man against one of the best CBs in the game. stepped up in the pocket and hit Austin crossing the field as he burned en route to a 49-yard gain. This was the trend for much of the day as Austin gobbled up the middle of the field and made the most of his opportunities, catching six passes for 130 yards and a TD in the first half.
Often, it's those little plays, those extra efforts that bring out the best in everybody. In the second quarter, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-11 deep in their own territory. Austin sat in the middle of the zone to catch just a five-yarder from Romo. He then turned, broke two tackles, and picked up the extra yardage needed for the first down. Two plays later he beat CB Chris Johnson for a 27-yard catch and run across the middle. That gain would not have happened had he not broken those two tackles on the 3rd-and-11. Do you know what else would not have happened?' 46-yard TD run to finish the drive.
Austin's domination of the Raiders' secondary also helped open things up forin the second half.
Being at the game myself, it was quite evident that Austin has quickly become a fan favorite. Girls were screaming all around me when he kept standing up off the bench and raising his hands after his replay-reversed score just before the half. He pumped up the crowd again after officially grabbing back his TD after an impressive, side-stepping screen play. When he's smiling, all seems right with the Cowboys' offense.
Honorable Mention: Tony Romo, Jason Witten
Make the jump to see who else gets a BTB game ball.
Keith Brooking - Against a poor Oakland passing team (45 yards in the first half), it was important for the Cowboys to stop the run. Brooking made his presence known from the Raiders' first possession. In successive plays, he tackled Justin Fargas for just a four-yard gain and then pressured Bruce Gradkowski into throwing an incomplete pass. On the next possession, there he was knifing through the line on a run blitz to drop Fargas for a loss (though there was an accepted holding penalty against Oakland on the play).
All day, he andterrorized the middle of the field. The Raiders' backs did manage to pop some runs loose to the outside, but Brooking always seemed to be around the ball. If he was not making the tackle himself, he was around the pile - sometimes trying to punch at the ball. He was everywhere. I even saw him cover , who split out wide and ran a deep route. Not even 's long, sweaty hair could block Brooking from getting to the ball carrier.
He ended up leading the team (again) with nine total tackles, six of which were solos.
It's his face on the videoboard that pumps up the crowd at Cowboys Stadium. "80,000 Fans..." his image points to them when the defense is looking for a key stop..."Remember What I Said".
Honorable Mention: Jay Ratliff, DeMarcus Ware
- Absolutely amazing day for the Cowboys' punter. While Oakland's punter kicked for more than 400 yards, McBriar responded with deadly accuracy. He averaged only 40.2 yards on six punts, but many of those were pooch kicks from around midfield - four of which landed inside the 20.
In the first quarter, a punt can't get much better than what McB did from the Oakland 41. With a little english, he pooched it to the two. He didn't even give his cover guys a chance to make a play on it because it spun and bounced out of bounds at the six. In other similar situations, he pinned the Raiders at the 11, the 13, and the 5.
When the Cowboys were pinned back, themselves, at around their 10, he blasted a 56-yarder all the way to the Oakland 35. This Aussie can do it all!
Honorable Mention: David Buehler,
Jason Garrett - This game goes down as one of the best I've seen Garrett coach this season. On a shortened work week, he had the Raiders' defense figured out from the tee. That unit had done enough damage against the' and ' offenses to pull out victories, but Garrett would not let that happen to the Cowboys.
He ignored the fact that Nnamdi Asomugha is one of the best CBs in the game because he knew that his guys (most notably, Austin and Witten) would match up well against man coverage. And did they ever! Then, when it looked like the Raiders would blitz with their DBs locked in man, he made them pay with a 66-yard Razorback run from. When they had to adjust to that, he hit them up the middle with Witten. With the CBs in man and the LBs in zone, there was wide open for a 42-yard catch and run.
The best thing about Garrett's day is the way he created passing lanes for Romo. Once Austin became the Raiders' focus, they could not stop the bleeding. LB Sam Williams could not cover Witten. And the 2TE-formation that flanked Barber in the backfield on the Roy Williams' TD was just cruel. The Raiders' defenders were utterly confused after much of the offense looked to move left, leaving noone inside to help on the post route.
Garrett did what you need to do when you face a weaker opponent: keep hitting them big to confuse them, then Felix and Barber them down until the clock reads 0:00.
Honorable Mention: Skip Peete, Todd Grantham
This was a game I had the privilege of seeing in person. Unfortunately, I happened to sit in the end zone opposite to all of the touchdowns. Still, they were great seats and it was a such a blast being there. During the TV timeouts, the Jerrytron kept the crowd entertained with fun videos. The funniest was of the offensive linemen racing go-carts.
My favorite was a Dallas Cowboys rendition of the Black Eyed Peas' song "I Gotta Feeling". The video featured every level of the team's employees from the event staff to the players. Each clip portrayed them singing the lyrics, jumping up and down, and bobbin' their heads..."Tonight's gonna be a good night...tonight's gonna be a real goood niiight!" Marion Barber, ... and Jay Ratliff...they were all feeling it - as was the crowd, especially since the video ran as soon as we got the feeling that the game was in hand. Indeed, it was a good night.
Before we focus our full attention on the, who gets your Thanksgiving Day game balls?