Stanzo’s editor’s note: I’m not mentally prepared to run this blog if this is how the Cowboys and Giants are going to look all year.
The day I’ve been waiting for since Mason Crosby inexplicably made two unreal field goals in Jerry World finally came, and it did not disappoint. Sunday night’s game was not the most exciting one to watch, but after what I saw, I’m even more excited for this season than I could have imagined a few weeks ago.
Let’s start with the center of everything: Dak Prescott. Dak’s stats in this game were not quite as good as his average game from last season. He definitely missed some throws, most notably when the Cowboys had 1st and Goal from the 3, and Dak went 0-3 (I didn’t like the play calls there, but the one’s that were called were still not executed). However, he didn’t make any turnovers, and his numbers were significantly better than the last time he went up against this defense. Weather played a major factor last matchup, but unlike last time, he did not let his bad play hurt him the rest of the way. The Cowboys controlling the clock even on drives that ended in punts was crucial to winning this game. Dak faced a very tough defensive test in Week 1, and I think facing a tough test early in the season and succeeding for the most part will be vital to avoiding any sort of sophomore slump. Jason Witten (GOAT) became the Cowboys’ all time leader in receiving yards, and the TD pass Dak threw him was an excellent connection.
Now onto the man everyone was talking about coming into the night, Ezekiel Elliott. There’s not too much to talk about from Zeke in this game other than he put up a very solid performance rushing for 104 yards. We did not see some of the flashy plays he put up last season, but he had many solid runs which kept the offense moving and helped the Cowboys control the clock for twice as long as the Giants did. Rushing for over 100 yards against a defense this elite and still leaving people feeling Zeke has better games to come is a great sign for #21.
Now onto Dez Bryant. There’s not too much to talk about him from this one, but anyone who does not think he’s any good anymore clearly don’t watch much of Cowboys games. His stats do not always reflect those of an elite receiver. Janoris Jenkins covered him well for most of the night, and he’s commonly double covered, which leads to plenty of opportunities for receivers like Witten, Cole Beasley, and Terrance Williams. Oh, and of course my boy Brice Butler.
But back to Dez, my main point is that despite not putting up huge numbers all the time, the plays he makes are ones that elite receivers make. He only had 2 catches last night, but had 43 yards, and he showed his strength as a receiver greatly in one of those receptions. Dak said Dez was the Cowboys most improved player in camp, and I’m expecting him to have some big games- and big plays this season.
Also, I can’t write this blog without giving a shoutout to the first one-handed catch ever made in a Sunday night matchup between the Cowboys and Giants
The Cowboys defense is constantly written off, and I think that Rod Marinelli and Co. feed off of that. The Cowboys defense is commonly credited for overachieving. I’ll admit I’m never surprised when they give up a lot of points, but they’ve held opponents to low scoring games or a low scoring half in the majority of their games last season, and of course Sunday night. The Giants clearly need Odell Beckham Jr.’s services if they want any chance to win games this year, but regardless, the Cowboys were not giving Eli Manning and the Giants run game many opportunities all night. At no point was I worried that the Giants were going to run down the field and score quickly. Their best drive, which only ended in a field goal, took nearly 10 minutes and was a huge detriment to any possibility of a comeback. The best story of the night was Jaylon Smith making 7 tackles and a forcing a fumble in his long awaited NFL debut. If his knee injury can be put behind him, he could be one of the greatest steals in NFL draft history, and add to the Cowboys incredible 2016 draft class. Also in that class was 5th rounder Anthony Brown, who continued to impress on opening night.
The Giants offensive problems were clear last night, but the Cowboys defense continues to fly under the radar. And if flying under the radar is going to be key to victory a lot this season, I have no problem with that.
The Cowboys will face very similar tests the next two weeks, the difference being both will be on the road. The Broncos have QB problems and with David Johnson going down, the Cardinals may face offensive problems as well. However, both of these teams have very strong defenses. Dak, Zeke, and the rest of this offense have tough tests early in the season, and it should better prepare them for the grind of the rest of the season.
Lets keep the wins, and the memes, rolling into Denver.