The Dallas Cowboys not only kept their winning streak alive while notching the first divisional win of the season against the New York Giants, they continue to look more and more complete as a team. And when you are trying to figure out someone to designate for a game ball, it is very difficult to choose. Of course, we will take that kind of problem for another twelve games if we can get it.
Defensively, Tyrone Crawford, Terrell McClain, and Justin Durant probably jumped out the most. Crawford was making plays from the first defensive play. It is nice to now have to specify whether we mean Rolando or Terrell McClain when talking about great hits. (A pity his best play of the game, the takeaway that never happened, was totally, completely, and unambiguously screwed up beyond all recognition by the referees.) Durant was in on both fumbles that the referees did deign to notice, pouncing on one and causing the other.
On special teams, Dan Bailey showed he could take a licking and keep on kicking after he took a shot to the shin.
However, it was on offense that the real standout performances came. DeMarco Murray, of course, set an NFL record. Jason Witten became second on the list for tight end receiving yards. Tony Romo went 9 for 9 in the second half. Dez Bryant was catching everything thrown his way (when he could keep his feet). Gavin Escobar suddenly looks like a damn good use of a draft pick with three receptions and two touchdowns. Terrance Williams has quietly become the leading scorer among receivers.
But I want to honor someone else with this ball. This season is not about the stars or record performances. That is not the kind of team Jason Garrett has built. It is about every single player striving every day, in meeting rooms, practices, and on the field, to be the best player he can be. It is about everyone doing everything he can to not let the side down, no matter what his job. It is about the role players and backups being just as ready and motivated as Dez and Rolando. It is about the next man up.
So this game ball goes to the next man up who had a major role in the game, Jermey Parnell. The reserve tackle stepped in for the injured Doug Free on the right side. When Free went out in the Seattle Seahawks game, there was some concern. After all, Parnell seemed to have never quite broken through despite the time and money Dallas had invested in him. It was somewhat reassuring that the Cowboys ran the next play right behind him, and Murray scored on it, but that was very different from having to come in against a division rival with a pretty good defense for a whole game.
As it turns out, it was no big deal for Parnell. He didn't have any real problems. As a matter of fact, Pro Football Focus graded him with a +1.7, behind only Zack Martin's +2.2 on the line. (Just as a side note, Martin is now being talked about by some pretty good analysts as the best player on the offensive line, which is an amazing thing when you consider it.) Parnell was not just adequate, he was an asset, although he does not expect to keep Free out of the lineup when he recovers.
"Doug is our leader in our room. I am sorry he's going to be out for a little while. But as a backup it's my job to come in and fill a role."
This is what it is all about. The team above all. Everyone doing their job to the best of their ability. In defeating the Giants and putting an Eli struggle face on John Mara, all the players who took the field played a part. And Parnell represented the attitude and work ethic perfectly. For that, he gets this game ball. (Sorry, I am not going to tear up like Jason Garrett.)