Cowboys' sharp effort equals Giant surprise

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Don't call it redemption because the Dallas Cowboys can never make up for the bitter pain of last season.

But there was something truly satisfying about Wednesday night's 24-17 victory over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the NFL season kickoff game before 82,287 fans at MetLife Stadium.

"I did a high-five when I saw the schedule. I knew that if we could win a good game like this against the defending Super Bowl champions, it was a good opportunity," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Always relish the opportunity; it will do wonders for our team."

Quarterback Tony Romo had three touchdown passes and was 22 of 29 passing. Receiver Kevin Ogletree answered any concerns about the team's third receiver with eight catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns.

No catch was bigger than the 15-yard gain he had on third and 12 with 2:11 remaining in the game.

It came after a penalty against tight end Jason Witten that erased a first down and had many wondering if the Cowboys were on the verge of repeating last year's results when they lost five games after taking leads into the fourth quarter.

The Giants were out of timeouts and Ogletree's final catch enabled the Cowboys to kneel on the ball the rest of the way and to begin a sweet celebration on the sideline.

"Our approach is to take it one play, one day at a time, and get better," Romo said. "Good or bad play, you've got to just keep doing it. Disregard it, go to the next play, keep going. Whether you are playing in a parking lot or Giants Stadium against the world champs, you've got to be able to execute the plays. I think our team has done a great job taking that approach day-in and day-out. It's been exciting to see."

It was exciting for the Cowboys to see the result in a game they have been pointing to since last season when the Giants beat them twice, including a 31-14 blowout loss in the final-game winner-take-all battle for the playoffs and NFC East title.

The Cowboys stayed at home for the playoffs while the Giants went on to win the Super Bowl for the second time in five years. The Cowboys had to watch as the Giants dropped the banner at MetLife Stadium before the game.

Add that the Giants had owned them of late, winning seven of the previous nine meetings, and the motivation for this season kickoff fueled the Cowboys through the off-season.

It's one reason Witten was on the field and active despite suffering a lacerated spleen in the preseason.

"We can't get ahead of ourselves, but at the same time, it's a big step, a big win for our team," Witten said.

The Cowboys became the first opponent to beat the defending Super Bowl champion at home in a season kickoff game.

To go with the passing game, running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 20 times for 131 yards, including 109 in the second half.

The revamped Cowboys' defense, namely free-agent cornerback Brandon Carr and rookie top pick Morris Claiborne, gave up a few plays, including a touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Martellus Bennett to narrow a 24-14 game to 24-17 with 2:36 remaining.

But the defense proved to be up to the task with three sacks -- two by DeMarcus Ware -- and a forced fumble.

"We sort of went back to the old game," said Ware, who notched his 100th career sack in the game. "We had to get pressure on the quarterback, and we did in key situations. The cornerbacks made Eli hold the ball longer than he wanted."

It was a satisfying victory, but it wasn't perfect by any means. The Cowboys had 13 penalties for 86 yards, including a host of pre-snap penalties that set the offense back.

They also lost center Phil Costa in the first quarter, forcing newly acquired Ryan Cook into action.

But the Cowboys overcame it all, thanks to Romo, who overcame an early interception by scrambling to make plays.

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


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