Winning a game in the NFL is no easy task. Some will say the hardest thing to do in sports is hitting a major league fastball, sinking a baseline jumper over a seven-footer or making a shot that's Tiger Woodsesque. But football is the ultimate team game, requiring all 53 players and coaches to be on the same page. When the Dallas Cowboys took on and defeated the New York Giants on opening night, it was the ultimate team win and collective effort.
That's what it takes to win games in the NFL, and for the Cowboys, it's time to start winning the types of games they've been criticized for losing.
Not only was it the type of win this franchise needed, especially against the defending champions, but it was a tone-setter for what will prove to be a critical year in this team's development.
Several players had the type of standout performances that are visible on the stat sheet, some did their best work behind the scenes and some had little-to-no impact. Let's take a closer look at some of those heroes from opening night and, unfortunately, some of the zeros as well.
You just cannot say enough good things about his performance on opening night. After a sluggish start and an interception, Romo worked with the precision of a surgeon as he carved up the Giants defense. He finished the contest with 307 yards passing, three touchdowns and a 129.5 quarterback rating.
He was able to make plays with his feet and elude the pass rush, he made some great pre-snap reads and adjustments that resulted in big plays and he was poised and confident. But we also saw his maturation as a quarterback, and that stood out to me. We also saw a player and team that wouldn't be denied.
What a great story here. Not only has he planted his flag on the No. 3 receiver spot, but his performance was exactly what this team needed. Ogletree clearly seized his opportunity, and it paid huge dividends for this team. His two touchdowns were impressive, but his catch on third down to seal the win was even more impressive.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning for Ogletree and his impact in this offense.
What impressed me about Murray was that he didn't get discouraged after not having much room to run in the first half. His ability to run effectively in the second half is what opened up multiple big plays in the passing game. His clutch 48-yard run was the result of not giving up on the play, and that's a valuable lesson for every player on this team.
He is a game-changing running back. It's that simple.
Miles Austin/Dez Bryant
Both of these players, collectively, had major impacts on this ballgame. First, they provided the opportunity that allowed Ogletree to have favorable matchups to make plays. As long as these two players can stay healthy, they elevate this offense on many levels. Most importantly, they clearly displayed their play-making abilities by showing outstanding athleticism. They are a matchup nightmare.
His determination to play in this game after suffering a lacerated spleen doesn't need many words to describe. It's that type of intangible quality that can be contagious on a team that needs every advantage it can get.
I know you might want to scratch your head here, but I think his performance was noteworthy. After Phil Costa departed early, Cook, who was recently acquired, did an admirable job of stepping in at center. At times, he was shaky, but he made solid reads, picked up blitzes well and gave Romo just enough to get through this game. Oh yeah, he might even wind up starting and taking Costa's job.
After what the Giants were able to accomplish in two victories against the Cowboys last season, it was time for Rob Ryan's unit to come out swinging, and that's what they did. They provided pressure, swarmed to the ball, finished their tackles and covered some of the best receivers in football. Most importantly, this unit will now command respect.
Jones has been an enigma ever since he was medically cleared to start training camp. Maybe it's the lingering effects from his shoulder surgery? Maybe it's the collective number of injuries he's sustained? Whatever the case may be, Jones failed to register any offensive statistics outside of his kickoff returns, which were putrid.
I'm starting to view his status as a concern that needs to be monitored closely. He may be playing his last season in Dallas, but someone needs to be able to lighten Murray's load once in a while. It could be Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar time sooner than later.
I don't want to totally condemn their performance, but based on certain factors, there is more work to be done. The Costa injury so early in the game was unforeseen, and collectively, this unit just needs more time to jell. I wouldn't say it's a panic situation or a comedy of mental errors, but it's something that will take more time.
Confidence is high that their issues will be corrected, and Bill Callahan is the man for the job. They still deserve some credit for allowing the offense to have a tremendous game.
Ultimately, every game will have its share of heroes and zeros. For the Cowboys, it was an opening-night performance for the ages. So whether one, two or 20 players positively or negatively impact a game, it's still all about winning. Just ask the Cowboys how it felt watching the Giants hoist two trophies in four years.