The four-point favored Giants couldn’t get the job done Wednesday night in the first game of their 2011 Super Bowl title defense, as they fell 24-17 to their division rival, the Dallas Cowboys. It was the first time in nine years that the defending champions lost on opening night at home.
New York failed to get the offense rolling until it was too late. Eli Manning threw led the G Men on two touchdown drives in the second half, but couldn’t match Tony Romo, who had one of the best games of his career, throwing for 307 yards and three scores.
Romo made some fantasy football owners happy with the numbers, but it was Kevin Ogletree who surprised everyone with a breakout performance that included eight catches, 114 yards and two TD catches. Ogletree, who enjoyed the first touchdowns of his young career, credited Dallas’ team effort over his individual stat line in the win.
“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,” Ogletree told ESPN.
After a first half struggle for each offense, Dallas broke through with a minute left on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Ogletree. The two hooked up again to open up the third quarter, this time for 40 yards, giving Dallas a 14-3 lead at that point.
Needless to say, Big Blue had less success in the air. New York’s top two leading receivers on the night, Victor Cruz and Domenik Hixon, combined for one yard fewer than Ogletree. Manning’s only TD came with just under three minutes to go on a 9-yard strike Martellus Bennett.
Dallas had the edge in the passing game, but an even bigger edge on the ground, as DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards on just 20 carries, good for 6.6 yards per rush.
Murray and Co. were able to grind out the clock after that Manning touchdown, converting key third downs, including a 3rd and 12 on a pass to once again, Ogletree to secure the victory.
Although the Boys were the underdog in this game, their win and fast start to 2012 is not all that surprising. Remember last year? The Cowboys were looking good at 7-2, but then went on to drop six of their last seven, ending the year 8-8 with no postseason ticket. If we can learn anything from last year, it’s that Cowboy’s fans shouldn’t get too excited yet, but yes, they should celebrate the win over a rival on the road.
The same goes for the Giants, who are notoriously slow-starters. Last year they did the opposite, finishing strong while sneaking past Dallas and into the Playoffs and eventually into the Super Bowl. We know New York won’t panic, but instead regroup and get ready for next week.
Next week will actually be September 16th for the G Men, as they get a long break to pick themselves back up. They will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home and although we obviously don’t have the lines yet, it’s safe to say New York will be favored.
Meanwhile, Dallas will take its 1-0 record into one of the NFL’s most intimidating road venues, CenturyLink Field, as it battles the Seattle Seahawks.
While it’s always hard to predict a team’s season based on one game, I think we can say that Dallas looks better than we thought and New York looks a little worse. The NFC East should be tight again this year with these two rivals and Philadelphia expected to field solid squads.