Nobody who bleeds blue and silver should be happy with the outcome of the most recent game played in MetLife Stadium against the division leading New York Giants. Losing should never sit well with any football team or fan base. Still there were things that developed during the game that do bode well for the organization.
The one effort that seemed to come out of nowhere was the performance of Darren McFadden. He was once again the back who set records at the University of Arkansas, at least on this most recent Sunday. Until the contest in New York many were wondering what it was that the Dallas Cowboys saw in the former Raiders first-round draft pick that led them to keep him around. Through five games he was averaging about seven carries and less than 25 yards per contest, but when Joseph Randle went down McFadden awoke with a vengeance.
Against the Giants he exploded for 152 yards on 29 carries. That is the type of performance fans expected from DeMarco Murray last season and an effort that had been missing since the former Dallas running back departed to Philadelphia in the off-season. McFadden benefited from an offensive line that finally seemed to be getting its act together, but he also got a lot of the dirty yardage on his own. The combination of improved offensive line play and a back getting loose delivered the kind of ground game that the Cowboys need to regain last season's form.
McFadden was not the only Cowboy to earn his star against the Giants. Much has been expected of second-year pro Devin Street, but until Matt Cassel took over the offense on Sunday there were few opportunities for him to prove what the coaching staff says they see in him. Cassel only looked his way one time, but it was at a critical point and the young wide receiver delivered. The Dallas passer put the football in the only place he could, counting on the receiver to make a play. Street delivered. He scored his first career touchdown by making a highlight film catch where he was able to get both feet down in the endzone while grabbing a ball that was out of bounds.
Fellow receiver Lucky Whitehead also delivered a few key efforts for the Cowboys. Making his second appearance of his young career, he got into the action in a way that not many anticipated. Lucky may not have caught a pass, but offensive coordinator Scott Linehan found a new wrinkle to get him the ball. Whitehead carried the rock four times for 35 yards against the Giants. With his speed and his receiving ability you have to wonder if the coaches might get the idea of using Lucky in a similar fashion to how they were working Lance Dunbar into the game before his injury.
On the defensive side of the ball Byron Jones looked the best that I have seen him look all season long. The rookie first-round draft pick out of Connecticut seems more and more like the guy we hoped he was when the Cowboys called his name during the draft. Byron had his first career interception taken away when an Eli Manning pass had the bad taste to actually graze the ground before entering Jones' hands on Sunday. In addition to that play, which did not count, Jones recorded seven tackles and two passes defensed in the losing effort. Couple that with his effort against Gronk last week, and the kid is becoming the star of the show in the defensive backfield.
There are still many things to lament over the next few days, the play of the kick coverage unit that allowed Dwayne Harris to go 100 yards for a touchdown, the interceptions that not only killed drives but also put points on the board, and the muffed punt by Cole Beasley that put the final nail in the Cowboys coffin. There are also positives that the Cowboys can take with them as they look to move forward. The team is without a doubt in desperation mode right now but they do have some things to build on. It will be interesting to watch to see if they can do just that while also working to eliminate the weak parts of their game.