You know, I love writing about Eli and Tony. Missed the chance, but it’s such a perfect example of how football is weird. Not only does Tony have a better QB rating every year of their shared careers. Not only does Tony have more passing yards in 4 out of 6 non-broken ribs years. Not only does Tony have fewer INTs in 5 out of 6, and more TDs in 4 out of 6. But every single season, it seems like, the ‘Boys are one heartbreaking play, every season, from sending the Giants home without postseason-dessert and going themselves (see: Dez’s fingertip).
And Eli has two Super Bowl rings, and Tony has one playoff win. Football: she is crazy.
The Cowboys play the Chiefs this week and should be able to start a winning streak that lasts, at least, through week 3 against the Rams. Yes, the Chiefs destroyed the Jags, but the Jags only won two games last year. The Chiefs also only won two games last year and the list of teams that didn’t hang 24+ on the Jags last year (Indy, Tenn., NYJ, NE) is way shorter than the list of teams that did. They are very probably still—Alex Smith or no Alex Smith, Andy Reid or no Andy Reid—not very good.
But there are some things to keep an eye on.
First and foremost, playing bad teams is about taking care of business but the football season is about winning in ways that are sustainable. From that perspective, there’s a whole lot of good news/bad news from the first game, starting from the fact that while it is so great that the Cowboys got more turnovers in one game than they’ve gotten since the reign of Ramses II, combined, it isn’t as great that they still barely won and seemed unable to stop the Giants in conventional ways. The defense gave up three 100-yard receiving days, which is hard to do against a team that gets to keep all of its drives.
By the same token, it’s really good news that the Cowboys got so much productivity from their running game, and from wide receivers not named Dez Bryant, who had a tough game. On the other hand, that productivity was in the persons of DeMarco Murray and Miles Austin, to the extent that the two of them combined for 20-of-23 rushes and 18-of-36 Cowboy completions. For two men who aren’t very good at taking showers or breathing without injuring themselves, that’s a little worrisome.
None of this really matters. The Cowboys are 1-0, have a divisional win under their belts, and no game is the same. But you’d certainly like to see them, in Game 2, start moving a little closer to an identity. The really good news from Game 1 is that the run defense is stout. The Cowboys will need that.
Because Jamaal Charles is immense.
The Chiefs aren’t without other weapons. They have Dwayne Bowe, too, a talented wide-receiver with three 1,000-yard seasons in his career, who still made it to 800 last year catching passes from Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. They now have Alex Smith, who may have washed out in SF, but there’s no real shame in coming second to Colin Kaepernick, and he’s a guy who’s had a lot of success in the league.
Still. This is a good matchup for the Cowboys, since the secondary shouldn’t be tested nearly as much as the run-stoppers and the run-stoppers look way better than the secondary. It’s a good time for a game against an opponent that, at best, is mediocre. Another game to figure out the new defense against full-strength NFL teams, without, probably, testing it too much. A game, maybe, in which Romo’s ribs—again-- and Dez’s ankle—again—can get a little better before they face the beasts. The Chiefs were not a good defensive team last year, either—allowing 356 yards a game—and I’m not willing to believe that limiting Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne to 157 passing yards shows that that’s changed.
If history is any judge, the Cowboys will play down to the level of their opponent. But, unless everybody’s more injured than they’re letting on, this one, hopefully, won’t be that big of a challenge. At least, if the ‘Boys have their sights set on higher things, this year.