Finally NFL football is back! A late rally by Eli Manning and the defending champion New York Giants came up short on this opening Wednesday kickstart to the 2012 campaign.
The long awaited divisional matchup began in lackluster fashion, the only touchdown in a yawner of a first half coming on a Tony Romo toss to Kevin Ogletree from ten yards out with 2:33 left before intermission.
Both offenses picked up the pace in the second half, both quarterbacks started to move the chains, and Romo threw for two more scores as Dallas was able to hold off a late charge by the 2011 champions by a tally of 24-17.
Here are five things we learned during the kickoff to the 2012 season:
1. Kevin Ogletree, the fourth year wideout, has emerged as a legitimate third option for Tony Romo. After Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, the Cowboys have lacked that slot wide receiver to clean up in a stretched secondary. Tonight, they found their answer.
Ogletree caught eight balls for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and made clutch catches when Dallas needed them most. The combination of Austin, Bryant, and Ogletree may end up giving opposing defenses fits all year.
2. When the New York Giants’ defensive line fails to get pressure on the quarterback, their back seven looks average at best. Granted, the Giants entered the game thin in their secondary, but injuries are nothing new to this defense and the D-line has most often times covered for weaknesses in the back end.
On this night, however, Dallas did enough to keep the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck at bay. The result became the difference in the game, as Romo was able to buy time and find targets running free throughout the second half.
3. Demarco Murray is the real deal: Murray, who averaged 5.5 ypc in 13 games a year ago, picked up where he left off in 2011.
Murray carried twenty times for 130 yards on the night and showed many varied talents in doing so. He ran with power between the tackles, sniffed out lanes when nothing seemed available, and displayed his speed in getting to the outside while outrunning the defense to gain positive yardage.
4. When it comes to Victor Cruz, Giant fans must learn to take the bad with the good. Looking to duplicate his breakout season last year, Cruz made six receptions for 58 yards. But he also had two bad drops, and a false start penalty.
Cruz came into camp this year showing the big play ability he had last season, but also the sloppy play of a young player. This carried over into the opening home game for the young wideout.
5. The replacement officials, at least on this evening, held their own in a spotlight game. Yes, calls were missed, but calls were made as well, to the tune of 17 penalties between the two teams.
There were no game changing (or life ending!) calls. In the end, the play of the teams decided the game, for better or for worse. The sub officials were about as anonymous as they could be given the light that’s been shed upon them. And that is a good thing.