Dallas Cowboys

Just Chill: 10 Thoughts from the Cowboys’ opening week

The Dallas running game lacked some pop against the New York Giants, but the backs did enough to help get the win.
The Dallas running game lacked some pop against the New York Giants, but the backs did enough to help get the win. Star-Telegram

1. Tony Romo might not be considered a big-game quarterback until he wins in the playoffs, but he has proven to be a great clutch quarterback. Romo engineered his franchise-record 24th comeback victory Sunday against the New York Giants. And he did so without Dez Bryant on the field. Romo has more comebacks since 2006 than any quarterback in the league. Romo is clearly comfortable in those late-game situations because he has had so much practice at it.

2. Romo passed 45 times against the Giants and was hit just once by the Giants defense. That is the example of the dominating play by the offensive line. Forty-five passes, just one hit. Think about it.

3. The Cowboys leaned a lot on Romo against the Giants and it worked, but it was a departure from the run-first strategy they used for success last season. Romo passed 45 times and the Cowboys ran it just 23 times. The number is actually 22 by running backs if you take away a Romo scramble. Romo didn’t throw the ball 45 times in a game at all last season. Sure, the late game deficit forced the Cowboys to throw the ball, but they weren’t exactly learning on the run before. Two early trips inside the red zone featured just two runs. The Cowboys settled for field goals on both drive.

4. The Cowboys got good numbers from the running back position when you consider that Joseph Randle, Lance Dunbar and Darren McFadden had 12 catches for 131 yards combined. But as far as the running game is considered, 22 carries for 81 yards from McFadden and Randle is not close to being DeMarco Murray-esque. Randle had a solid night with 16 carries for 65 yards, but there were no big plays and no powerful runs to batter the defense. Christine Michael will make a difference down the road.

5. Dez Bryant missed all of the off-season in a contract dispute and then missed the majority of training camp and all of the preseason with hamstring injury. Now he is out for four to six weeks with a fractured bone in his foot. Bryant will undergo surgery on Tuesday to get a screw placed in his right foot. It’s a huge loss for the Cowboys because of Bryant’s impact as a pass catcher and the double teams he commands to open things for the running game and other receivers. The Cowboys were already thin at receiver behind the top three of Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley and will likely search for help on the free agent market. It is interesting that Bryant and Scandrick, the two guys that held out during the off-season, have been set back by injuries. Scandrick is out for the season. From the players point of view, the injuries are the reason it was important for them to hold out and get all the money they could.

6. The loss of rookie defensive end Randy Gregory for four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain hurts the pass rush. Gregory was the best rusher in the preseason and was being counted on to fill void with free agent defensive end Greg Hardy sidelined the first four games because of an NFL suspension. DeMarcus Lawrence will have to step up even more as will Jeremy Mincey.

7. I wonder if Tony Romo and Jason Witten designed those two final touchdown passes in the dirt. That’s a reference to a bygone era, but there is truth the chemistry and bond between the two players. Witten remains Romo’s best friend and most trusted pass catcher. Witten is the second-oldest player on the team, but he remains as productive as ever, posting eight receptions for 60 yards and a career-high tying two touchdowns that proved to be the difference in the game against the Giants.

8. Anybody who questioned the Cowboys decision to give defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford a five-year, $45 million contract extension on Saturday despite having just three career sacks should have taken note of his play in Sunday’s game against the Giants. Crawford, who the Cowboys think is a budding star, had a sack, two tackles for losses and a quarterback hit. The Cowboys might have gotten him on the cheap if he keeps this up all season. Of course, that’s why the Cowboys signed him early. They kept him off the market and got him at a price they could live with. It was also a nice bump for Crawford, who was set to make $675,000 this season.

9. It was good to see linebacker Sean Lee back on the field again and making plays for the first time since 2013. Lee sat out all of last season with a knee injury. He led the Cowboys with nine tackles Sunday and had a tackle for a loss.

10. Nobody plays hurt like owner Jerry Jones, who was at the game Sunday a little more than week after having hip replacement surgery. It was his second hip surgery since July. Jones was front and center and basking in the glow of the comeback victory after the game.

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