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Dallas Cowboys: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly After Beating New York

Defense with Most Impressive Performance in Years on Sunday Night

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | What a night.

90,000-plus fans packed AT&T Stadium on Sunday Night to see the Dallas Cowboys finally defeat the New York Giants in Jerry World for the first time.

Have you ever seen 40,000 people, or so, do a happy dance after the game? Imagine that.

Thanks to six forced turnovers - two of them resulting in touchdowns - the Cowboys are 1-0 and have a division win under their belt. But as the story went last year, getting an Opening Day win against the Giants means nothing at the end of the year.

But six turnovers? Regardless of how they came, let that sink in for a moment.

There was a lot of good, some bad and some ugly on Sunday Night, and as Dallas welcomes a dark-horse Kansas City team to town next week, the bad needs to be corrected fast.


1) The defense

Of course, the No. 1 item on top of this list. The game started with an interception on the first play of the game by DeMarcus Ware, and Brandon Carr sealed it with a 49-yard interception return for a touchdown.

Only fitting, right?

Dallas didn't have one game last year where it forced at least three turnovers a game. The Cowboys had three in less than five minutes to begin the game.

The Cowboys' defense forced two David Wilson fumbles - one in the red zone and one in Giants territory - and Barry Church was in the fray on both of them. He forced the first one, while he scooped the second one and returned it for a touchdown to give Dallas a 20-10 lead.

Defensive end George Selvie, who got his first career start on Sunday in place of Anthony Spencer, recovered Wilson's first fumble and got his first sack of the year. He was the one who was in Eli Manning's face all day, forcing him to throw three interceptions.

2) Miles Austin

"Hey, remember me? I'm still here."

After Austin's 10-catch, 72-yard day on Sunday, that was the overall consensus on offense. With Dallas rookie Terrance Williams struggling and Dez Bryant seeing a lot of double teams, Austin was Tony Romo's favorite target on Sunday.

This is the benefit to having more than one dynamic playmaker. Austin is facing a lot of pressure this year, having to ensure he's still a better receiver than the third-round pick Williams. This was Austin's first double-digit catch game since having back-to-back 10-catch games to open the 2010 season.

Four of those catches resulted in first downs, and he was targeted a total of 12 times.

That's production at its finest. And if Miles wants to stay for the long term, he'll need to keep performing like that.

3) Tony Romo

He had his share of bad throws, and even his lone interception wasn't his fault. But overall, despite throwing the ball a staggering 49 times, Romo played well.

Even with getting the wind knocked out of him late in the second quarter, Romo completed 36-of-49 passes and found Jason Witten twice in the end zone. He didn't force the issue by throwing the ball into tight coverage like he's accustomed to.

If you average 5.4 yards per completion and throw only 13 incompletions, that's a quality game throwing the football. Romo didn't force the ball into coverage. He let the plays develop, found his receivers and let them make plays.

With defenses keeping a closer tab on Bryant, it'll be up to Romo to make the necessary smart throws to his other receivers. So far, he's off to a great start.

Honorary Mention) Nick Hayden


He was the one who forced that second Wilson fumble that resulted in a touchdown, and made a couple of great tackles at defensive tackle. He didn't even have a job last year, and he looks like a complimentary fit for the injured Jay Ratliff.

Get used to his name.


1) Terrance Williams

It's not fair to give a rookie a bad grade in only his first game.

But Williams now knows that he can't drop passes like he did last night if he wants to be considered a viable option in the offense.

Again: Dez Bryant was held to four catches for 22 yards. Defenses are going to bring as many double and triple teams his way. If that's the case, Williams is the closest physical threat to Bryant in this offense, and he'll need to make plays.

Williams wasn't on the same page with Romo on his interception in the first quarter. He was supposed to run a slant, not a slant-and-go, resulting in Ryan Mundy returning the pick to the 1-yard line.

Growing pains will come. But Williams has yet to find a groove with Romo throwing him the ball. It may be a bit before we see that connection flourish.

2) The balance in playcalling

Bill Callahan calling the plays was supposed to mean a more-balanced playcalling. Romo threw 49 passes and the Cowboys only ran the ball a total of 23 times, 20 from DeMarco Murray.

Murray did finish with over four yards per carry and had a productive second half running the ball. But with the Giants having a banged up front seven, Dallas should've been more aggressive in running the ball. Having Romo throw 49 times a week isn't going to get it done.

The majority of that blame goes on the offensive line, who failed to get a lot of push at the point of attack, especially on the right side with Doug Free and Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Brian Waters will be here soon, friends.

3) Inability to put the ball in the end zone, or score points in general

Dallas only scored three points after forcing three turnovers. It took the Giants one to put points up on the board.

That's all you need to know about that.


1) The secondary

The only choice for 'The Ugly' this week. The defense was great as a whole, but Eli Manning threw for 450 yards on 42 attempts. That wasn't even the worst part.

How about New York's three receivers - Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Rueben Randle - each tallying over 100 yards receiving on the day? And the two corners that were attacked the most? Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick.

Brandon Carr did well for the most part, but the bulk of that yardage was given up by Dallas' other two corners, Claiborne especially.

Claiborne left the game in the third quarter with a shoulder stinger, but came back later in the game to finish it off. He didn't look his best early on, especially giving up that 57-yard pass to Nicks on the first play of New York's second drive of the game.

Against a suspect Kansas City receiving corps next week, Claiborne will have a lot of eyes on him.

Overall, the Cowboys earned a solid B+ after the first game, just by forcing six turnovers and getting a win. Those are all that matters in the NFL.

What are you thoughts from the Cowboys starting the year 1-0? Is there something there with this team, or do you need to see more? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Danny Webster is a featured columnist for the Dallas Cowboys. Contact him on Twitter @DannyWebster21.

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