The last time the Dallas Cowboys had walked into MetLife Stadium, their playoff lives were extinguished as they watched the New York Giants saunter into a wild card spot and eventually win the Super Bowl. It makes great sense that that 31-14 Week 17 beat down loomed large in the Cowboys’ minds when they made it to East Rutherford to open the 2012 campaign.
They finally took a first step towards not just being a hype machine on Wednesday. Holding a 24-17 lead and just running out the clock must have felt good for a franchise that has giftwrapped so many late game collapses in recent memory.
Defending champions were 8-0 since the NFL made them the main feature of their opening evening. So while this may just be one win on paper, it does mean a whole lot more than that.
It symbolizes that maybe, just maybe Dallas is ready to wake up from a two-year postseason absence. Perhaps, they could even win just their second playoff game since 1996.
However, all those things remain in the distance, but for now the Cowboys at least have something to catapult them to that end of season destination. Every element of the team just seemed to click.
That bolstered Dallas defense forced one fumble and caused four other drives to end in punts. DeMarcus Ware was his ferocious old self with two sacks. DeMarco Murray took the first leaps towards showing that last season was no fluke with a 131 yard day.
Most importantly, Tony Romo went out to prove again that he is an elite NFL quarterback. The lion’s share of blame for all the Cowboys shortcomings has been heaped on Romo over the years.
Just feeling the enormous pressure of being the man under center with the star on your helmet is enough, but there have been several highly visible late game blunders by the seventh year starter. After his 22-29 game on Wednesday, maybe this can be the start of a redeem year for Romo.
Even with safety blanket Jason Witten limited by a ruptured spleen, Romo was still able to have one of his most efficient days as a pro. Dez Bryant and Miles Austin caught four balls each and fourth year pro Kevin Ogletree became a revelation, finding himself on the end of both the quarterback’s touchdown throws.
Perhaps this is all a blip on the radar and the Cowboys slip back to reality next weekend in Seattle, but it would seem after all that has transpired, the results in that NFC East showdown do matter. The stage is set for a division title in Dallas for the first time since 2009.