If you listened to what was being said by the "experts", the Dallas Cowboys were on the verge of having their season come to an end. They were reeling after the embarrassing 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. The Tennessee Titans were heavy favorites to beat the Cowboys after they opened the season with a 26-10 thrashing of the Kansas City Chiefs. Almost everyone expected Dallas to be 0-2 to start the season, facing very slim chances of making the playoffs.
Instead, the Cowboys flipped the script, beating the Titans by the same 26-10 margin they hung on the Chiefs. The season may not really have been saved, but you can be certain the emotions about the Cowboys will be far more positive this week.
So it is time to award the game ball. Or, in this case, two game balls. Given the completeness of the win, it would not be hard to justify even more, but to avoid getting completely carried away, let's stick with two.
The first goes to the obvious star of the game, DeMarco Murray. He had one very bad moment early in the game when he ran up behind wide receiver Devin Street and somehow managed to knock the ball out of his own hands with Street's elbow, but other than that he was simply outstanding. He had 167 yards on 29 carries, and it was not one of those stat totals where a couple of long runs offset a bunch of two and three yard attempts. No, he was consistently getting four and five yards throughout the game. Scott Linehan and/or Jason Garrett made the decision they were going to run the ball right at the Titans, and Murray responded with what was not only one of his best statistical performances of his career, but one where he looked nearly unstoppable. Of course, he was benefiting from some pretty great holes being opened up by the offensive line, but he also was getting yards after contact and pushing defenders back. Murray will be one of the league leaders in rushing when all the numbers get added in. He now has opened the season with back to back 100 yard games. And the Cowboys may have found a formula for winning.
The other game ball is not for an individual. No, it is for a unit. It is to be shared by the entire Dallas Cowboys defense.
As you may recall, we were told prior to the season that the Cowboys had the absolute worst defense in all of pro football in 2013. Multiple sources agreed on this, and with the team having gotten tremendously worse with the loss of DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, and Sean Lee, the 2014 edition was going to be so bad that there was fear of a disruption of the entire space-time continuum in any stadium they played in.
Then, the defense looked passable against the 49ers. They held them scoreless for the second half. It was encouraging, but we would have to see more to be reassured that there was more going on than a team with an overwhelming lead taking it easy and just protecting the ball.
We got more, a tremendous amount more, in the first half against the Titans. The defense (aided a bit by the ball control offense) held the Titans to a scant 68 yards total offense before halftime. The game total of 314 yards was not bad, and reflected that the Titans did get three long drives done (although they could only muster 10 points). More importantly, the defense only allowed Tennessee to convert two third downs the entire game. Two.
While the defensive line is still struggling to get to the quarterback, the overall performance of the D was a very long ways from being the worst in the league (inform Starfleet they can stand down from the disaster alert). The defensive backs were all over the receivers for much of the game. The rushing game was consistently thwarted. And two players that the Cowboys picked up as a direct result of the personnel losses mentioned above combined on the most memorable defensive play of the day. Henry Melton went up and tipped a Jake Locker pass, and Rolando McClain put on a gymnastic display in keeping the ball off the turf and corralling it for what would have been a touchdown if the referees had let things play out. But considering how eye-popping the interception was, we'll cut them a little slack.
After all, it all ended well. Murray and the defense had major roles in that, and they each get a game ball for helping secure the victory.
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