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Cowboys vs. Giants: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Dallas

Steven MirandaFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2012

Cowboys vs. Giants: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Dallas

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    The Dallas Cowboys were up to the task as they went into New York and defeated the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, 24-17. For the first time since the NFL opted to have the defending Super Bowl champions host the regular-season opener mid-week, the road team won the game.

    Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns with two of them going to his new third wide receiver Kevin Olgetree. Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 129-yards and the Cowboys start the season 1-0 while dropping the Giants to 0-1.

    Let's take a look at the Cowboys’ final postgame player grades and evaluations.

Quarterbacks

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    Tony Romo: A-

    Tony Romo had a shaky start and made an ill-advised pass early on that was intercepted by Michael Boley. However Romo got more comfortable as this game went along and he was able to keep plugging away and finished strong. When all was said and done, Romo finished the night completing over seventy-five percent of his passes going 22 of 29 for 307-yards and three touchdowns and a final quarterback rating over 100.

    His final 34-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin was a great read, a bullet of a pass and an even better audible call at the line of scrimmage. Romo was a perfect 4-for-4 leading the Cowboys on a fourteen play 82-yard drive for the score that put the Cowboys up by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. 

    In the end, Romo's best pass came on a critical third and ten late in the game when he threw a strike to Kevin Olgetree for 13-yards and a first down. That pass and catch allowed the Cowboys to run out the clock and win the game.

Runningbacks

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    DeMarco Murray: A

    DeMarco Murray showed today that he can handle the load for the Cowboys this season. Murray rushed for a 131 yards on 20 carries averaging 6.5 yards per carry. It was slow going to start the game for Murray, but as the game went along, he was able to pick up yards in chunks.

    Murray had a huge 48-yard run where he escaped two tackles in the backfield and broke to the outside for the long run. He also added nine yards on two catches.

    Murray showed he is powerful, quick and smart. Late in the game, when the Cowboys were looking to run out the clock, Murray showed his speed to get to the outside and then instead of running out of bounds, Murray slid in bounds to keep the clock running. That play was negated by a Jason Witten holding penalty, but it showed that Murray knew the situation and was able to think quick on his feet.

    Lawrence Vickers: B-

    Fullback Lawrence Vickers was great blocking and opening up holes in the running game. His only carry of the night came on a fourth and one mid-way through the first quarter. Unfortunately for Vickers, he was held for no gain and the Cowboys gave the ball to away on downs.

    Vickers will have to prove he can pick up the tough yards if he wants to see more carries.

Wide Receivers

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    Miles Austin: B+

    Miles Austin was quiet for most of the night, until he had a beautiful leaping catch and turned it into a 34-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. In his first real action this season, Austin finished the night with four catches for 73-yards and one touchdown.

    Miles struggled a bit tonight to get open and he is going to have to find a way to get better separation from coverage so that he can provide Tony Romo a better target.

    Dez Bryant: A-

    Dez Bryant finished the game with 85-yards on four catches and although he might not have scored a touchdown, he provided the offensive spark the Cowboys needed. Late in the second quarter with the Cowboys trailing 3-0, Bryant made a nice catch on a 38-yard pass from Tony Romo setting up the Cowboys first touchdown of the game.

    Murray also seems to be grasping the team concept as he was seen blocking down field on several running plays. 

    Kevin Ogletree: A+

    If you did not know Kevin Ogletree’s name heading into the game, you better know it now. Ogletree’s eight catch, 114-yard, two touchdown performance will provide the Cowboys some comfort after the team allowed WR Laurent Robinson to depart via free agency.

    On his first 10-yard touchdown catch, Ogletree saw that quarterback Tony Romo was in trouble. As Romo scrambled out of the pocket, Ogletree broke off his route and split two defenders on his way to the back of the end zone, providing Romo a clean target for the easy score. On his second touchdown catch, a forty-yard bomb, Ogletree used a sweet double move on Corey Webster to get open on the play.

    Not only was Ogletree fantastic catching the ball, he threw a few great blocks during some of DeMarco Murray's runs. 

Tight Ends

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    Jason Witten: B-

    Jason Witten gets an A for effort but the B- reflects how he actually played in the game. Nobody expected him to play while nursing a lacerated spleen, but he made the trip and got on the field. He only had two catches for 10-yards, but his mere presence on the field made a difference for the offense.

    He provide much needed veteran leadership and was solid in the blocking game. Witten did have a huge holding penalty that nullified a DeMarco Murray first down late in the game, but fortunately for Witten, quarterback Tony Romo bailed him out.

Offensive Line

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    Tyron Smith: B+

    Tyron Smith drew the short straw and was matched up against Jason Pierre-Paul for most of the night. He never allowed a sack and limited Pierre-Paul to only four tackles, however Pierre-Pual was constantly in the back field.

    Smith did a solid job for his first time out at left tackle. The Cowboys have to be happy that he was able to hold Pierre-Paul without a sack and that kind of effort will be a huge lift for the Cowboys offense.

    Doug Free: C

    Doug Free struggled throughout the game at right tackle. He was called for two penalties, an offensive holding and a false start.

    Free did a good job of blocking Justin Tuck and limited the Giants defensive end to four tackles and no sacks.

    Ryan Cook: B+

    Ryan Cook was not expected to play tonight as he was just acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins. However early in the first quarter, starting center Phil Costa left the game with an injury and Cook stepped in.

    Cook needs some work adjusting to Tony Romo's cadence at the line of scrimmage, but for his first time out and being that center is not his natural position, Cook played hard. He will need some time to gel and adjust to being a center, but after one game, it appears the Cowboys got a steal having to only give away a seventh-round pick.

Defensive Line

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    Jason Hatcher: A-

    Jason Hatcher was all over the field tonight and at times seems to live in the Giants back field. He finished the night with five tackles and one sack.

    Hatcher was called for a roughing the passer penalty after the Cowboys stopped the Giants on a third and four play, however on the next third down play, Hatcher sacked quarterback Eli Manning forcing the Giants to punt.

    Sean Lissemore: B+

    Sean Lissemore was effective replacing the injured Jay Ratliff. He only finished the game with two tackles, but he provided constant pressure up the middle and was a big reason the Cowboys held the Giants to only 82 rushing yards.

Linebackers

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    DeMarcus Ware: A+

    DeMarcus Ware started his Defensive Player of the Year campaign with a huge statement, leading the team with two sacks of quarterback Eli Manning.

    Ware was everything the Cowboys needed tonight. He was both a dominate pass rusher and a great run stopper. Ware finished the night with five tackles, but his constant pressure on the quarterback helped the Cowboys secondary.

    Sean Lee: A+

    Sean Lee seems to get better in each and every game. He lead the team with 12 tackles, ten of them solo, and also forced a David Wilson fumble.

    Lee continues to be an impressive run stopping force in the middle of the field. Early in the first quarter, with the Giants driving deep in Cowboys territory, Lee came out of nowhere to put a brutal hit on Giants running back David Wilson to force a fumble. It was recovered by the Cowboys and that play changed the momentum of the game.

Defensive Backs

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    Brandon Carr: A-

    The Cowboys have to be happy with Brandon Carr’s performance. Carr only finished the game with one tackle but that is only half the story.

    The Giants rarely threw the ball to Carr’s side of the field and when they did, they were not successful. Carr almost intercepted an Eli Manning pass intended for Domenik Hixon.

    Morris Claiborne: A

    The rookie Morris Claiborne was challenged early and often and the rookie proved he was up to the task. Claiborne had four tackles in the game and only gave up as many catches.

    Claiborne found himself matched up one-on-one with Hakeem Nicks throughout most of the night and Nicks only caught four passes for 38 yards and his longest catch only went for 12 yards.

    It did not appear as if the bright lights of the big NFL stage were too much for the young corner.

    Orlando Scandrick: B

    With Claiborne and Carr playing well, the Giants tried to pick on Orland Scandrick. That plan did not work out well for them either as Scandrick played solid as the nickle cornerback. Scandrick only allowed one huge play to Giants WR Victor Cruz. Other than that one single play, Scandrick held his own in the secondary.

Special Teams

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    Dan Bailey: A

    Kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 33-yard field goal, his only attempt of the night. He was also 3-for-3 on extra points.

    Bailey also had some nice kick-offs. On his third kick-off of the night, the ball hit near the goal line and bounced backwards forcing the Giants to field the ball instead of downing it for a touchback. The Cowboys were able to make the tackle inside the Giants 15-yard line on the play.

    Chris Jones: A

    Punter Chris Jones had a per punt average of over 50 yards on the night. His first punt of the night was a booming 69-yard punt that pinned the Giants inside their own 15-yard line.

    Felix Jones: B

    Although Kick Return man Felix Jones was not able to break any long returns tonight, he did average 20-yards per kick return which is already an improvement from a season ago.

Coaching

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    Jason Garrett: A-

    Head coach Jason Garrett only had one questionable call in the game. On fourth and one from the Giants 37-yard line, Garrett elected to go for it instead of try a game tying 52-yard field goal attempt.

    Going for it was not the problem, his play call was. Instead of running DeMarco Murray, Garrett called a play to the fullback and Lawrence Vickers was stopped for no gain.

    However, late in the game, Garrett showed he has more and more confidence in quarterback Tony Romo. With Dallas leading by a touchdown, Garrett allowed Romo to throw the ball on third and ten from their own 26-yard line. In the past, Garrett likely calls a draw and elects to punt instead of trying to pass for the first down.

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