Cowboys triumph in NFL season kick-off
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Inspired by Jason Witten’s surprise appearance and sparked by Kevin Ogletree’s unexpected star turn, the Dallas Cowboys kept the spotlight on football, not officiating.
The Cowboys waited all year for another shot at the N.Y. Giants. When they got it in the 2012 season-opener, they were ready—winning 24-17 last night in a game that wasn’t really that close.
It won’t make up for the New Year’s Day loss that cost the Cowboys the NFC East title and sent the Giants on their way to the NFL championship.
It sure could provide impetus for this season, though.
“We’re judged by winning and losing,” said quarterback Tony Romo, who threw three touchdown passes. “So the best thing was going on the road and getting a win.
“Not only a win, but it was against a division rival and obviously against the world champs.
“I don’t know how many times teams go in and beat them in that first game of the year,” he added. “It’s a tough atmosphere, a tough game.
“Our team grinded it out and did good.”
So did the officials, who were expected to be a big factor with the league’s lock-out of the regulars. But there were no controversies, no blatant mistakes, nor rampant confusion.
“No problems, just as we said there wouldn’t be,” NFL executive Ray Anderson said at halftime.
Nothing changed in the second half.
Romo threw for 307 yards, DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards, and Ogletree had two touchdowns. Yet most of their praise was for Witten, who had only two receptions for 10 yards.
Witten missed most of the pre-season with a lacerated spleen and was considered a long shot to suit up for the opener. Yet there he was, uplifting his teammates with his mere presence.
“Sometimes you don’t care about yourself, you go out and play for the guys,” said Cowboys’ linebacker DeMarcus Ware.
“It was emotional,” he added. “We were all behind him when he said he would play.”
Witten didn’t think it was such a big deal.
“I think and hope every other player on our team would do the same thing,” he remarked.
“At this point in your career, you want that mentality to leave it all out there.”
Ogletree enjoyed his big night not far from where he grew up in the New York borough of Queens.
“A huge emphasis for us was big plays,” he noted. “I don’t want the focus to be on me too much, but I am very, very humbled and appreciative of how we played today.”
Dallas’ defence frustrated Eli Manning and his offence with three sacks and a half-dozen pressures—all before the largest crowd at MetLife Stadium for a Giants’ game.
The 82,287 saw the defending league champs lose in the now-traditional mid-week kick-off contest for the first time in nine such games.
“We let them know where we are as a defence, and that we’ll play that way every week,” Ware said after getting two sacks to give him 101.5 for his career, now in its eighth season.
When the Cowboys were threatened late—a spot they often have folded in against the Giants—Romo hit Ogletree for 15 yards on third down to clinch it.
That gave Ogletree 114 yards on eight catches. He had 25 receptions for 294 yards and no scores entering the game.
“I’m close to home, so it’s a good feeling,” Ogletree said. “But Dallas is my home now.”
The Cowboys’ big-time receivers—Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Witten—were eclipsed by Ogletree, who sure didn’t resemble a back-up.
In the first half, he had five catches for 47 yards and a TD.
Then he broke free for a 40-yard reception early in the third quarter, thoroughly fooling New York’s top cornerback, Corey Webster, to start the second half—the kind of big play the Cowboys couldn’t make enough of in that Jan. 1 showdown that ended their season.
And they got another huge play from Murray, who broke two tackles in the backfield, scooted down the right sideline for 48 yards, and set up Dan Bailey’s 33-yard field goal for a 17-10 lead through three quarters.
After Manning connected with former Cowboys’ tight end Martellus Bennett for a nine-yard touchdown with 2:36 to go, Dallas never gave the ball back.
“Take a bite out of humble pie, that’s basically what it is,” said Giants’ coach Tom Coughlin.
“It brings you right back down to earth.”