Dallas Cowboys fans are feeling better right now than they have in years. There’s something very satisfying about going into the defending Super Bowl champs' home and beating them, especially when it’s a division rival who embarrassed you twice last year.
The Cowboys had to suffer through the required Super Bowl celebration held at MetLife before the game but eventually crashed the party and beat the Giants 24-17.
Tony Romo was the real story of the night. It’s not out of line to suggest that this was one of the best games of his career. He showed the kind of poise and maturity we’re used to seeing from the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
Here’s his Week 1 report card.
It didn’t take long for us to be reminded of one of Romo’s biggest weaknesses. Five minutes into the second quarter, with pressure in his face, Romo stuttered to his left and threw a strike to Giants linebacker Michael Boley. The pass was intended for Kevin Ogletree but Boley was quick to step in front and nearly took it for six points the other way.
It was one of those face-palm plays that left everyone thinking the same thing: Why didn’t he just take a sack?
A similar situation happened late in the third quarter. From the Giants' 15-yard line on a 3rd-and-15, Romo got flushed out of the pocket and threw a prayer well behind Ogletree. It was a pass that could have been easily intercepted but was knocked to the ground.
For the most part, Romo’s passes were right where you’d want them. Some led his receivers a little more than necessary. A couple of them were completely off the mark. One was too high for Felix Jones on the opening drive of the second half. The other was a few plays later, too high for Jason Witten.
But this has never been an area of concern for Romo. Even on his first-half interception, had Boley not made a nice move on the ball, Ogletree would have been hit in stride.
The rest of the night Romo was virtually perfect. His receivers, specifically Ogletree, didn’t have to make awkward adjustments to catch the ball or sacrifice their bodies. The stat sheet says it all: Romo completed 22-of-29 attempts, 75 percent, for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Romo’s ability to keep plays alive with his feet is what makes him one of the most dangerous and effective passers in the game. He proves it time and time again by avoiding sacks and making plays down the field or picking up yardage by scrambling.
Case in point was late in the third quarter on a 2nd-and-4 when the pocket collapsed; he was able to scramble out of it for nine yards and a first down.
We saw it again midway through the fourth quarter. With the rush disrupting the pocket, Romo scrambled to his right, then back left, did a 180, planted his feet and connected with Miles Austin for 10 yards.
It’s equally polarizing and terrifying to watch.
This is the Romo that fans have come to know and love, the one that kills the play on a 2nd-and-10 and hits his receiver in stride for a 40-yard touchdown (Ogletree again).
Even with the pressure bearing down on him, Romo made a slight roll to his right and showed off his arm strength, accuracy and creativity, all in one throw.
His creativity is a direct result of his mobility. It won’t always work out as his decision-making isn't quite as good as his athletic ability, but tonight, Romo was phenomenal.
Never pass on an open receiver. That’s just coach’s talk, but you could tell right after the first connection between Ogletree and Romo that Romo had confidence in his third wide receiver.
He seemed to be looking for him on every play and Ogletree seemed to be open on every play. Romo did a great job of spreading the ball around and Ogletree did a great job taking advantage of the attention Dez Bryant and Miles Austin were getting.
Jason Garrett made the right adjustments at halftime, moving DeMarco Murray from side to side. Romo keep his eyes down the field, made his reads and when it wasn’t there, he checked down to the running back.
The formula coming out of the locker room was classic: Look for the big play but don’t risk it. Dink and dunk the defense so they are gassed by the fourth quarter. It worked to perfection, mostly thanks to Romo making the right reads and right decisions.
Clutch is a word that gets tossed around a lot and Romo is a quarterback that often gets tossed under the bus a lot for lacking it. Not tonight.
No, the game wasn’t technically on the line, but right before the two-minute warning, right after a bad holding call, on a 3rd-and-12 when Romo had rushers bearing down on him, he made the perfect read and the perfect throw once again to Ogletree, who made a great catch and stumbled across the first down marker.
If Romo doesn’t make that throw, the Giants get the ball back with a full two minutes—and who knows what kind of story we’d be writing.
It’s also important to note that he went two-for-three in the red zone. That’s the kind of efficiency that can be the difference in a game. Constantly settling for field goals is a great way to miss the playoffs. If Romo continues this kind of play for the rest of the season, that won’t be a problem.
Tonight could have been a complete disaster. The interior offensive line has been a major source of concern for the duration of the preseason, and considering that this group has never played a single game together collectively, they did a fine job.
Phil Costa left the game early with back problems, which forced the Cowboys to play Ryan Cook, a center they acquired just six days ago. But aside from penalties, you wouldn’t have known that the offensive line was such a mess.
Romo did a great job directing traffic, which sometimes resulted in a delay of game. That’s been a problem with this unit for years; tonight we’ll make an exception given the atmosphere.
Keeping overreactions to a small roar, there aren’t enough good things to say about the way Romo and the Cowboys played. They got big plays from big playmakers and efficient plays from role players. Romo had an MVP performance, and if this is any indication of how good this team is, the Cowboys are on their way to a division championship.