Story One is Tony Romo, who was sublime on Sunday night:
Frank engages in some important meme-busting:
With Tony Romo, the bread seems stale. The narrative we have read regarding the Dallas Cowboys quarterback is one that’s about as worn out as the idea of a landline telephone. "He can’t win the big game," some say. Meanwhile, others have concluded that Romo falters when it counts the most. Like most narratives around the professional world, it’s up to a specific player to prove any falsehoods wrong.
Like he has done so many times in the past, Romo took said narrative and threw it so far out the window that the wind picked it up and took it to Antarctica — only to return the next time he, like all quarterbacks, inevitably fails in crunch time.
As per Phillips, Romo indicates that the cool, calm demeanor he exhibited late in Sunday night's win was forged in the 2012-13 seasons:
"A couple years ago we trailed in just about every single game," Romo said. "We were losing in the second half in about 15 or 16 of the games. That was kind of the normal par for the course. Either you’re going to be comfortable in these situations, or you’re going to lose a lot of them. You just have to execute under that feeling."
Romo was not the only guy on offense who made big plays. A couple of little guys proved to be hard to cover...
We might question Dunbar's role on the team when in truth, as Archer points out, it may be the most well-defined of all:
In the preseason, Dunbar had just one carry for 1 yard. He caught two passes for 3 yards. Some fans questioned the wisdom of keeping him on the 53-man roster, however, there was never a doubt Randle would have a role on the team. In fact, his role is the most set of all the running backs.
After reminding us that only 4% of teams win when they have a -3 turnover margin, Sturm shares some thoughts on Lance Dunbar:
Dunbar has been a player the Cowboys have been spending much of the last few years swearing up and down they had a role for him planned, but never actually showing that in his first 3 years in the league (with the exception being the win in Seattle in 2014). You would hear them compare him to Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles or another hybrid weapon that isn't really a running back but he also isn't really a wide receiver. What is he? A weapon that can cause a defense all sorts of stress because defending him is quite difficult, especially if he is lined up with other matchup problems to begin with. What team has enough defensive backs to stick with Bryant (when available), Witten, Williams, Beasely, and Dunbar? Very few.
Eatman looks at five key plays. Here's one:
3. Beasley’s Second-Effort Part 2 – Earlier in the game, Cole Beasley’s second effort and trying to fight for yards led to a fumble and a Giants touchdown. But with the Cowboys down by two scores late in the fourth quarter, Beasley didn’t hesitate to try and make more yards once again. This time, his hustle led to a quick touchdown for the Cowboys. At the Giants’ 17, Beasley caught a sideline route that appeared to go for about 8 yards, before he made two cutbacks and fought through tacklers to the 1-yard line. The Cowboys would score on the next play, but if Beasley doesn’t get extra yards there, it might’ve taken a few more plays and more time off the clock before the Cowboys would get the ball back.
The result of these heroics. Sit back and enjoy:
The victory was costly, as the Cowboys suffered a snootful of injuries. Obviously, the most significant is Dez Bryant's broken foot.
After it was initially reported Dez Bryant would undergo surgery to repair the fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot on Tuesday, it was revealed that he underwent surgery early Monday evening. Here's when the injury happened:
Bryant appeared to suffer the injury in the first minute of the fourth quarter after picking up a five-yard reception on a crossing pattern. The injury, commonly known as a Jones fracture, requires a screw be placed in the foot.
Fish consults medical experts about injuries to the fifth metatarsal, which have happened to several NBA players and other NFL receivers. The history isn't happy-making:
...one out of every three NBA players that required surgery to address a fifth metatarsal fracture suffered a second fracture or needed a follow-up surgery, including Durant, Glen "Big Baby" Davis, and Brook Lopez. NFL players, especially wide receivers are no stranger to the injury either, as Atlanta’s Julio Jones and former Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks have endured the injury in recent seasons. Every injury is different; but as Jeff Stotts guides us here, he notes, "Unfortunately the precedent set by these and other receivers doesn’t bode well for the Cowboys.''
With Number 88 out, some folks are gonna have to step up.
T-WIll tells it true:
"That's like a brother to me," Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams said. "I think not just me, but me, Cole [Beasley], [Jason Witten], [Devin] Street, we all have to chip in and continue to keep doing our job no matter what and keep doing our best when the best is needed.
The Goose crafts a piece on the Cowboys offensive fringe layers - you know, the guys who need to step it up in Bryant's absence:
I thought one of the major beneficiaries from the departure of Murray would be Dunbar, one of the few speed elements of the Dallas offense. I thought he could give the Cowboys the same big-play dimension that Darren Sproles, another undersized halfback, gave the San Diego Chargers when they had an annual top-10 offense from 2008-10.
A pass-down specialist, Sproles had touchdown catches of 81, 66 and 57 yards and also a handful 30-yard runs on draw plays. That's what I envisioned from Dunbar in 2014, except that Murray wouldn't come off the field on third downs.
Archer makes the point that the offense's immediate task - to win without Bryant in the lineup - is difficult but not insurmountable:
As coach Jason Garrett likes to say, when No. 88 breaks the huddle, opposing defenses know exactly where he is. With No. 88 no longer in the huddle for at least five games, that puts more pressure on Tony Romo, more pressure on the offensive line, more pressure on the running backs, more pressure on Jason Witten, more pressure on Terrance Williams and more pressure on the defense.
The loss of Bryant ratchets up the pressure on everybody with the Cowboys.
But it's not an impossible task.
Toddzilla points out that the Cowboys' running game was slowed more by circumstance than by the Giants' defense:
The Cowboys closed the first half in a two-minute situation and closed the game with 12 passes on their final two drives to overcome a 10-point deficit with 8:01 to play.
"I thought when we ran the ball it was efficient," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "We’d like to pop a few long runs, but I didn’t think that our running game was a concern at all. There were some things that were there. It was just a weird game."
Eatman makes a key point that must be remembered: our Beloved 'Boys were the better team on Sunday night.
But in no way was this game a fluke. No, the Cowboys didn’t steal a win from the Giants. If anything, they just became that kid who gave a Christmas present to his little brother – all wrapped up with a big bow on it – and then just decided to take it back and open it himself on Christmas Eve.
If the Giants gave this game away it was only after the Cowboys spent 58 minutes with the holiday spirit.
The Cowboys were clearly the better team Sunday night and probably should’ve won this game by 17 points.
The Duckster agrees with Eatman, I believe:
Make no mistake, The Dallas Cowboys looked like the better team in this game from start to finish. The Giants were out-gained 436 yards to 289 and had only 18 first downs to Dallas’ 27. The Cowboys kept their NFC East rivals in the game with costly turnovers
If the Cowboys can avoid flukey turnovers (or collect some themselves), they can steal a few wins while Bryant, Gregory, Hardy, McClain, et al. are out.
A strong case can be made that this game was won by a strong defensive effort.
Lealos doles out grades for Sunday's first test. The defense pretty well:
The defense is why the Dallas Cowboys won this game. Just line in 2014, the Cowboys defense played a game of bend, but don’t break. They gave up four field goals, meaning that they allowed the Giants to move down the field, but they wouldn’t let them in the end zone. The two Giants touchdowns came on a defensive fumble return for a score and an interception by Romo allowed the Giants to start from deep in the Cowboys’ territory and Rashad Jennings scored from one yard out. It was the Giants’ final scoring drive of the game that the Cowboys bent a lot but stopped them and forced a field goal, which gave the Giants a six point lead, and gave Romo the chance to work his magic.
The Broad One shares a dozen observations. Here's one that I think will continue to be important as the season progresses:
9) There was no doubt that the Giants offensively were worried about the Dallas pass rush and did all they could to protect their line. Don't be surprised in the future that you see more teams play this defense by using the quick game when it comes to throwing the ball. The Cowboys had some nice rushes on the night, but Manning also made sure that the ball got out of his hand quickly.
Broaddus's second set of 12 takes from the game. Here, he opines on the Cowboys first round draft pick:
Look for Byron Jones to continue in his role as a sub-package safety in this defense. Some of his best work against the Giants came when he was asked to match up against these large tight ends and carry them all over the field. What makes this assignment work for Jones is that he has the size and coverage skill to take these players and not allow them to overpower him. He is comfortable playing tight and being physical when he needs to where most cornerbacks would struggle with that. Jones also showed a nose for the ball and was not afraid to mix it up when he was working in that direction. It was a very solid start for a rookie that was asked to do plenty of things.
Helman serves up four mini-stories; the first one covers Wilcox's hit on Odell Beckham, Jr.:
"Safeties, that’s what you live for. That’s what you dream about, and all that good stuff," Wilcox said. "It wasn’t only me – it was the pass rush, it was the cornerbacks playing close on him. When I got an opportunity, I had to make it." Beckham wasn’t the only one who felt the effects of the collision. The hit broke Wilcox’s nose – not that it was enough to keep him off the field.
"I had it looked at, but I told them don’t mess with it – told them to leave it alone," he said.
Wilcox later said that Beckham told him it was the hardest he'd ever been hit.
On the other side of the Cowboys great comeback was a pretty significant series of errors on New York's part:
Archer writes that Tony Romo understood why the Giants did what they did on the fateful final series:
"It’s a good call, it really is," Romo said. "In hindsight we would all do things different but there is a high percentage shot they think that we think they are going to run the football there. So it was a heckuva a call by our defensive coordinator not to send an all-out blitz on that specific play. Anyone who has played football would obviously think that is a run situation."
Graziano, ESPN's Giants beat man, talks to the relevant parties about Rashad Jennings being told not to score after the Giants had engineered a first and goal inside the Cowboys five, then comes away with some real clock stuff that Giants will find difficult to stomach:
Had Jennings scored a touchdown on first down and Josh Brown hit the 33-yard extra point, the Giants would have led by 10 points with 1 minute, 50 seconds left. Had Jennings scored on second down, there would have been 1:43 left.
The point of view from the Giants' sideline in the fateful sequence at the end of their final drive. This all depends on a crucial misunderstanding: on the play where DeMarcus Lawrence was called offside, yet the Giants declined the penalty, they assumed the subsequent clock stoppage meant that Dallas had spent a time out:
On first down, believing all he had to do was not fumble but also not make it into the end zone, Jennings ran for two yards. The Cowboys called their second timeout; what the Giants thought was their third and final.
On second down, Jennings ran for one yard. To the Giants’ surprise, the referee announced that the Cowboys called their third and final timeout.
That’s when the Giants braintrust apparently panicked, realizing they wouldn’t be able to run the clock down to about 15 seconds by fourth down. So offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo called the fateful pass play, and neither he, nor Tom Coughlin, nor Eli Manning realized that if a receiver didn’t materialize, Manning should have taken the sack to keep the clock running. They had the full 40 seconds to figure this out and convey it to the QB; but no one thought of it.
When all is said and done, I'll let The Senator give us the definitive assessment of this game (it's only fair, seeing as how he had both fourth-quarter touchdowns):
"It was a wild game. Really ugly in a lot of ways."
The Cowboys, Rovell writes, are not only the most valuable franchise in the NFL for the ninth consecutive year, but the most valuable franchise in the world for the first time since 2007:
Jones bought the team in February 1989 from H.R. "Bum" Bright for $140 million. Factoring for inflation, the value of the Cowboys has jumped 1,382 percent based on Forbes' new valuation.
I'd say ol' Jerruh has gotten a pretty fair return on investment.