Something awesome happened Sunday night at New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey: The Dallas Cowboys were victorious for only the second time this year, beating the New York Giants 33-20. That’s not something fans of the Cowboys (2-7, 1-2 in NFC East) usually want to hear when they’re 10 weeks into the season.
But after losing your starting quarterback, giving up the fourth most points in the league and having your head coach fired mid-season for the first time in franchise history, any win is worth celebrating.
The team that took the field Sunday afternoon played like the team everyone thought they’d be at the beginning of the season, not the team that was off to its worst start since 1989 (The year Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys). “It certainly is a way to turn things around,” said Jones to ESPN after the game, “I am proud, I really am proud to give our fans something to look forward to.”
The team really did give fans something to feel positive about. Jon Kitna, who replaced Tony Romo halfway through the Cowboys last game against the Giants on October 25th, looked like he couldn’t be stopped throwing for 327 yards, three touchdowns and averaged 14.9 yards on 13 completions.
The Cowboys started with a 13 yard touchdown strike to rookie Dez Bryant, who had three catches for 104 yards and the score. After the PAT was tipped, the Cowboys went up 6-3 on the Giants and never looked back, scoring 27 more points on touchdown passes to Miles Austin and a 70 yard catch and run score from Felix Jones.
The defense also chipped in, contributing a touchdown off a 101 yard pick six by corner Bryan McCann. McCann had replaced Terence Newman on the field after he had left with a minor injury. The 101 yard return is the longest in franchise history and the longest return any team has ever had against the Giants.
The win was also the first for new head coach Jason Garrett. The former backup quarter back to Troy Aikman and offensive coordinator since 2007 was named the interim head coach after Wade Phillips was let go following a 45-7 blow out loss against the Packers last Sunday night.
Garrett can’t be named the official head coach thanks to the NFL’s Rooney rule that requires teams to interview minority candidates for the position. So this game and the remaining seven will be Garrett’s chance to prove that he’s the right man to lead America’s Team.
The Giants, who came into the game 14 point favorites, went to half time down 19 – 6 and tried to drive back but only got as close as 13 behind twice. Their comeback hopes died when Eli Manning, 33/48, 373 yards, 2 TD and 2 Int, threw an interception deep in Cowboys territory with 2:45 left in the game. The interception was caught by Alan Ball, giving him his first career pick.
I’m not going to pretend that this win will completely rescue Cowboys season and be the starting point for a miraculous run at the playoffs. Do I want it to be? With out a doubt. But it did a lot for the spirit of a team that hasn’t played near the expectations this team had before the season started.
I had no beef against Wade Phillips, the coach who led us to two NFC East championships in three years, one 13-3 season and brought the franchise its first playoff win in 13 years. But after getting off to the kind of start they did this year, not even winning a game at home, something had to give.
Will Garrett be the right man to lead the Cowboys next season? We’ll find out over the course of the next seven games, which starts with the 2-7 (0-5) Detroit Lions next Sunday at noon on FOX. The stretch also includes our last three division games against the Redskins and Eagles and matchups against the two Super Bowl teams from last year, the Saints and the Colts.
Nobody should be dreaming of the playoffs, but at least we can start entertaining the possibility of being a .500 team.