It wasn't pretty at times, but then at other times - it was glorious. The Dallas Cowboys took the fancy-pants route, but the destination was still the same, 1-0 and sole possession of first place in NFC East. How did they pull it off? Well, by doing a lot of weird stuff, actually. But in between all that weird stuff was some pretty good football.
Here are five observations from the Giants game:
1. The running back game
Not to be confused with "the running game." Last season the Cowboys running backs produced an average of 184 yards a game with 143 of them being on the ground. Against the Giants, the Cowboys fell far short of their rushing average with only 81 yards, however all three of the backs made good plays in the passing game that gave them another 131 yards. This gave the backs a total of 212 total yards from scrimmage.
So however you dial it up, the running backs made a big contribution in this game.
When Scott Linehan got the offensive coordinator gig last year, people were concerned the Cowboys would be a pass happy team. But history showed that Linehan can game plan a very effective running attack. The simple truth is - whether it is running or passing, Linehan makes use of whatever tools he had at his disposal.
Lance Dunbar is a tool. Okay, that didn't come out right. What I mean is that Dunbar is an effective pass catching back who can play a key role in this offense. He came in handy last season when he pulled down 48 receiving yards against a run-stingy Seattle Seahawks defense, including some key third and long conversions. Dunbar came up large for the Cowboys Sunday night with eight catches for 70 yards. Most importantly, he flew down the field from the Dallas 28 to the New York 32 in just two plays on the team's final drive. Just like that, the Cowboys were in position to pull of the come from behind victory.
And then, there's this...
In fact, Joseph Randle had more rushing yards (65) than all Eagles RB's combined (63). https://t.co/UATCsFDqw3— Jordan Ross (@TheJordanRoss) September 15, 2015
2. The pass rush was outstanding
One sack. That's it. How's that for your revamped pass rush?
Eli Manning didn't throw a single interception. Eli always throws pick, so how did that happen?
Well, Eli kept himself upright and didn't turn it over once, but it came with a price. That price was having to get the ball out of his hands quickly with some conservative pass plays. DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory did a great job getting after Manning. Several passes from Eli were rushed and off target. And the ones he did complete were for short gains, which leads me to...
3. The cornerbacks did not give up the big play
Last season, the Cowboys gave up a 20 yard pass play in every single game. There were 36 different receivers that had at least one reception of 20 yards or more against the Cowboys in 2014.
Sunday night - zero.
The Cowboys corners made it clear that there would be no Odell Beckham, Jr. super-catch sequel.
Brandon Carr (six targets) allowed three receptions for 13 yards (QB rating 56.3)
Morris Claiborne (five targets) allowed three receptions for 33 yards (QB rating 79.6)
Tyler Patmon (seven targets) allowed three receptions for 32 yards (QB rating 56.8)
It wasn't just good coverage, but outstanding tackling to minimize the gains. These three corners combined for 10 tackles and only had one missed tackle.
4. The offense executed well
Okay, so clearly dropping passes and putting the ball on the ground doesn't qualify as good execution, but these bad plays were scattered throughout a great deal of good ones.
Let's break down the Cowboys drives.
Drive 1: 79 yards, great drive that used up 10:27 of the first quarter, but they had to settle for a FG when Tony Romo overthrew Dez Bryant in the end zone.
Drive 2: Started at their own 10-yard line, gained 30 yards, but drive stalled after Terrence Williams let a third down pass go through his hands.
Drive 3: A nine play, 49 yard drive, but they had to settle for a FG when Dez Bryant dropped a pass at the New York 10-yard line that would have been a first and goal.
Drive 4: Five plays, moved the ball 44 yards into Giants territory on a Cole Beasley catch and run, but he was stripped and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie ran it back for a New York touchdown.
Drive 5: Ended quickly as the very next play from scrimmage Tony Romo threw behind Jason Witten and it was tipped right into the arms of Uani Unga.
Drive 6: Nine play, 80 yard touchdown drive.
Drive 7: Six play, 19 yard drive. Great tackle by Prince Amukamara on Dez Bryant keeping him short of the first down.
Drive 8: Three plays, interception ran back to the one-yard line.
Drive 9: Six play, 76 yard touchdown drive.
Drive 10: Six play, 72 yard touchdown drive.
The Cowboys never went three and out. In the middle of all these costly miscues was a lot of great offense. The Cowboys were moving the chains. The drops and turnovers are not something that is going to follow the team week in and week out so the scoreboard won't normally be so doctored with all that craziness.
5. Tyron Smith is awesome.
The offensive line played well. Tony Romo was never sacked and the Giants rarely ever got any pressure on him. The line's best player had a great game. He was great in the running game and he was great in the passing game.
Here is Tyron leveling a tiny little linebacker.
This is Tyron blocking on a bubble screen. Notice it is second down and eight so Smith is blocking eight yards down field.
These are my observations. What did you see that stood out in the game?