Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys will play Eli Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants for the the season opener on September 5 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBC, per ESPN. Games between the Cowboys and the Giants need no primer. Still, Cowboys and Giants fans will spit vitriol more than almost any duel in recent memory.
The Cowboys have quite a few reasons to be jacked-up for this showdown. First, the Cowboys lost both meetings with the Giants last season, including the season finale, as they scuttled their division lead. Second, two Giants figures—Ahmad Bradshaw and Giants owner John Mara—have taken shots at the Cowboys during the offseason.
Then, there are the storylines for both teams. For the Cowboys, they'll be trying to give newcomers like Brandon Carr and Lawrence Vickers a good start. Also, Tony Romo will continue to try to prove himself to be a premier quarterback.
The Giants will be trying to make a strong start in their title defense. The Cowboys would surely want to ruin that.
Here's a breakdown of each storyline for the Cowboys:
Taking Back the Rivalry
The Cowboys surely have a bad taste in their collective mouth after the games against the Giants went down the way they did. In Week 14, the Cowboys blew a double-digit lead as they lost to the Giants 37-34. The Cowboys defense was ineffective as Manning threw for 400 yards and the Cowboys failed to sack him despite sending all-out blitzes for much of the second half.
The Cowboys nearly matched the Giants, but Jason Pierre-Paul blocked a Dan Bailey field-goal attempt in the waning seconds.
In a 31-14 loss in the season finale, the Cowboys fell behind 21-0 in the first half as Romo was unable to stretch the field with his bruised hand, which he suffered the previous week against the Philadephia Eagles. Romo pushed himself in the second half, bringing the Cowboys quickly back to a 21-14 margin.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys defense couldn't hold its end of the deal, giving up a touchdown late to allow an insurmountable 17-point fourth quarter deficit.
The losses against the Giants came at crucial junctions. The first loss to the Giants came at a time when the Cowboys could have all but wrapped up the division and put the Giants out of playoff contention. Instead, they breathed new life into the Giants' season.
The loss in the season finale was a sad finish as the Cowboys couldn't complete a winner-take-all game.
They'll need to bring their best on both sides of the ball to make it count in the opener.
Shutting the Giants Up
The Cowboys and their fans must be fired up by the bile spewed by certain Giants personnel during the offseason. First, Ahmad Bradshaw made the tired claim in an NFL Network interview that the Cowboys can't win a Super Bowl with Tony Romo at quarterback.
This national talking point that Romo causes the Cowboys to fail is so old that it's lost credibility. Only people with short attention spans and selective memory regarding Romo hold it to be true.
The Cowboys will try to douse Mara's fire. In the last week, Mara has made a couple of remarks out of ill will for the Cowboys. In regards to the Cowboys' salary cap penalty for front-loading contracts in the uncapped 2010 year, Mara said the Cowboys were let off easy. He said, "Quite frankly, I think they're lucky they didn't lose draft picks."
Mara made a backhanded remark about the opener after it was announced, saying, "Who cares who we are playing? ... I don't think a division game means much."
Mara surely knows better. Division games represent six of the 16 games. They're one of the most important factors in tiebreakers. Furthermore, he knows what the rivalry means to fans. He should recognize that the games could end up being significant just like they were last year.
Jones addressed Mara's bile about the salary cap penalty professionally, telling ESPNDallas/Fort Worth, "Let's settle this on the field."
That's all the Cowboys need to do. They can stick it to the Giants that their trash talk doesn't mean anything on September 5.
The Giants will surely carry a great deal of championship bravado entering the game. The Cowboys would be apt to shut that up. Shutting down Bradshaw would be great, but it'd mean even more to see the Cowboys defense provide greater punch in pass defense.
Tony Romo Goes To Work Again To Prove the Doubters Wrong
Romo surely has Bradshaw's remark on his bulletin board along with all the other hateful remarks made about him. Entering the 2011 season, Romo was out to prove he had become a true competitor. Telling Sports Illustrated he was in the "second phase" of his career. "I'm to the point where it's all about winning."
By that standard, Romo had to be disappointed with last season. He had four comeback wins, but also blew two games by historic margins.
Romo has all the skills to be successful. He makes all the throws, is one of the most accurate quarterbacks, is mobile, shows great pocket presence and can throw it deep.
He's still trying to prove he can win it when it counts. Many Cowboys fans are holding out hope that he can bring the Cowboys back to the promised land. Pundits have likely given up on him, falling back on typical winners like Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady.
Cowboys fans can be sure that Romo is driving himself to be in top shape and well-prepared to try to make 2012 a big season. He'll be out to further his competitive drive in 2012, starting with a big game against the Giants in the season opener.
Conclusion: Cowboys Fans Have Every Reason To Be Excited
Cowboys fans should be fully energized about this matchup by September 5. The Cowboys have made numerous moves to reshape the team. The Cowboys faithful will be weary by then by constant questions about Romo's ability to win big games. The indignation towards Bradshaw and Mara will surely last through the offseason.
If Romo and the Cowboys go in proud, this should be one to remember.