How do you award a game ball in such a complete win? Make no mistake, the Dallas Cowboys took names and kicked butt for almost the entire game in their 38-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints. There were big plays from almost everyone, starters and role players alike. With the exception of a few mistakes late, there is just not a lot of bad about the game for the Cowboys, and a whole heapin' helpin' of good.
The stars of the game were many. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, and Terrance Williams are the first names that come to mind on offense, but the entire offensive line was devastating. Jason Witten not only had some key receptions, but schooled a few Saints with his run blocking. And Dez Bryant deserves a lot of credit for not only being the dagger at the end of the game, but for drawing so much attention from Rob Ryan's defense.
The defense was a completely different animal from the unit that allowed the Saints to run up a record number of first downs in last year's debacle. While the team only managed two sacks, there was frequent pressure on Drew Brees, such as the hand to the shoulder by Nick Hayden to cause the incomplete pass that forced New Orleans to settle for a field goal coming out of halftime. Bruce Carter (who unfortunately strained a quad late in the game) and Justin Durant combined on an interception. The team took away two fumbles (and the second one should have led to a final score of 45-17 but for the refs getting a little too quick with the whistle). Jimmy Graham was largely neutralized until it was too late for the Saints. Rolando McClain and Henry Melton, both of whom were questionable coming into the game, had big nights, and Anthony Spencer returned to action and played well. Barry Church had a very unusual highlight, literally making one tackle by grabbing the toe of the ball carrier's shoe and hanging on. (Note to self: If ever getting a chance to shake his hand, don't try to demonstrate my manly grip. Losing is guaranteed.) Even the special teams were sharp, shutting down a fake punt play late.
When the contributions are so universal, it goes beyond the players. This was a win of game planning and play calling. Time after time, the Cowboys were running the right play, getting players into the right place.
That is coaching. So this game ball goes to the men who came up with the plan and called it on the field. This game ball is jointly awarded to Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan (he is in charge of the running game and offensive line), Rod Marinelli, and Rich Bisaccia.
They completely outcoached Sean Payton and Rob Ryan. The first half was a thing of beauty, one of the most dominating 30 minutes of football I have seen from the Cowboys ever. And that goes back to the 1960s. The Cowboys had five possessions in the first half, and scored on four of them. More importantly, they got three touchdowns and only called on the superbly reliable Dan Bailey once. Meanwhile the defense pitched a shutout that extended to the 11:10 mark of the third quarter, when the Saints finally got on the board with a field goal. Special teams were ineffective for New Orleans, with a missed field goal and that comical attempt at a fake punt, which Dallas apparently defended successfully with only nine players on the field.
Most importantly, the Dallas coaching staff stuck with things, even when things got a bit wobbly late. Dallas had 32 rushing attempts (not including the victory formations at the end of the game) and only 29 passing plays. And as the game wound down, they stayed aggressive to get the final touchdown by Bryant.
This is what Jason Garrett has been building towards. This is the staff he has finally been allowed to put together (I'm looking at you, Jerry Jones) to utilize the weapons the team has brought together. As he put it in his post game comments:
"We believe in what we do," Garrett said. "We're convicted about how we put this team together, how we build this team, the kind of guys we want on this team, the physical nature we want to play with. We have strong convictions about that. You just have to keep going about it the right way."
There is still a lot of season to go, but for this game, it all certainly worked about as well as it could. The credit goes to the coaches, especially the coordinators and that red haired guy who directs it all. This is their game ball, to be shared by them.
If you see it differently, let us know in the comments.