Cowboys know there's work to do
Win over Giants in opener provides boost, but it wasn't without its flaws
IRVING, Texas -- In the glow of a victory that felt so good to the Dallas Cowboys for a variety of reasons -- vanquishing last season's disappointment and starting what they hope turns into a special year -- sometimes the negatives can get lost in the lights.
But as the players were peppered with questions about how good things looked in their 24-17 win over the New York Giants, they consistently brought up issues they know they need to correct.
"After returning home and getting back this will be pushed right aside and go right to Seattle," quarterback Tony Romo said after the game. "It's a brand new week and a new team. They got some talented players, and this game will have no meaning on the next one."
There was no sense of accomplishment from beating the defending Super Bowl champions in Week 1 of a 17-week football season. Too many times the core of this team has lived through the lowest of the lows after emotionally charged victories like the one they had Wednesday night.
For Jason Garrett, that has to be refreshing to hear.
That type of victory is almost a coach's dream because the team accomplished the main goal, but still has plenty of things to correct.
"They've heard me say this a lot: when you lose a game it doesn't mean everything is horrendous and when you win a game it doesn't mean everything is right," Garrett said. "So, we've got to go back and take a critical look at this ballgame and see the things that we did well, build on those, see the things we didn't do so well and make sure we improve those things. There were plenty of them in the ballgame."
When you have 433 yards and control the ball for more than 34 minutes against a defense like the Giants, you would think things flowed almost perfectly on offense. They didn't.
Romo was sacked only twice -- including the second play of the game which brought about some 'Here they go again' thoughts -- but too often he had to make things happen with his feet and vision. You can argue that the Cowboys won't see many front fours like the Giants with Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, but Tyron Smith and Doug Free were walked backed into Romo too many times.
The pocket will not always be pristine, but the Cowboys can't expect Romo to deliver them from evil every week.
After being sliced and diced by Eli Manning in losses last December and January, it's difficult to find some consternation. The Cowboys had a goal-line stand after a Romo interception was returned to their 1. They harassed Manning more than they did in 2011 and they sacked him three times.
If you want to nitpick you can look at the big plays allowed. Ninety-eight of the Giants' 269 yards came on three plays: a 26-yard catch by Victor Cruz, a 33-yard run by Ahmad Bradshaw against the dime defense and a 39-yard catch by Domenik Hixon.
Big plays were an issue for the Cowboys' defense in 2011 and they know they can't be so generous in 2012.
"It sort of lets us know where we are as a defense, how we can be," DeMarcus Ware said. "Now it's like, 'Can we be consistent every week and play that same way?'"
The Cowboys had 13 of them -- the most since Garrett took over as coach -- against the Giants for 86 yards. Maybe you want to blame the replacements for being too finicky, but five of the penalties were false starts and two were delay of games.
The defense had only one accepted penalty against it, coming on Jason Hatcher's roughing the passer, but the Giants might have been rightfully squawking about some missed pass-interference penalties that future officials, replacement or regular, might not overlook.
On the Cowboys' clinching drive that ended in a Miles Austin touchdown catch, they overcame five penalties.
"You're not supposed to make those mistakes, stop some of those drives or some of those possessions and beat a team like that," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.
They beat the Giants. But the good thing is they sounded like they knew they can't keep winning that way.