Jerry Jones didn’t get rich without occasionally getting lucky.
It was the money the Cowboys saved rather than the money they spent this offseason that made the difference in the opener, as bargain buy Kevin Ogletree stole the show.
Ogletree caught the first two touchdowns of his career, leading the Cowboys to a 24-17 win over the Giants in the opener.
But as they looked, they didn’t think much of Ogletree’s chances early on. The Cowboys didn’t bother offering him a deal as a restricted free agent, not viewing him as being worth the $1.26 million tender.
The gamble paid off, as they brought him back later on a one-year, $640,000 contract.
Ogletree finished with eight catches for 116 yards, and his third-down conversion at the two-minute warning might have been as significant as the scores. Miles Austin woke up in the second half, and Dez Bryant made plays early, which means the Cowboys can cross any receiver questions off the list for now.
And with Good Tony Romo dispatching Evil Tony after an early interception, it was a solid start for the Cowboys, who became the first team to beat a defending champ in the opener since the format was introduced in 2004.
Romo’s interception to Michael Boley was the kind of out-of-the-pocket blunder his critics use to bash him over the head. But as the game wore on, he made smart decisions throughout. He finished 22-of-29 for 307 yards, with three touchdowns to counteract the ugly interception.
Here are five more things we learned in the Wednesday version of Sunday Night Football:
1. The Giants looked more like the team that was floundering at 6-6 last year than the team that won the Super Bowl.
And while the league has leaned toward passing, it’s the Giants inability to run well that was their undoing.
First-round rookie running back David Wilson fumbled early, and didn’t get a chance to redeem himself. He didn’t take another offensive snap, and was even replaced on a kickoff return.
When cameras caught him getting emotional on the sideline after the fumble, it was obvious how distraught he was. Giants coach Tom Coughlin hates turnovers, and when he’s finished with Wilson, the sideline tears might not be the only ones shed.
2. The Giants were talking about Jason Pierre-Paul getting 30 sacks this year.
Cowboys pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware is the one on pace to do so.
While he doesn’t get nearly the run of some far less-accomplished teammates, Ware might simply be one of the three or four best defensive players in the game.
Ware had two sacks in the first half, giving him the early lead in a division full of excellent pass-rushers.
Ware (19.5), Jason Babin (18.0) and JPP (16.5) were second, third and fourth in the league in sacks last year, and will continue to present problems for the tackles in the division.
3. Speaking of tackles, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith made the best one of the first half, even if it was illegal.
Smith was called for a horse-collar tackle on Michael Boley after an interception, and even with the half-the-distance that took it to the Cowboys 1-yard-line, the Giants had to settle for a field goal.
4. The Cowboys had offensive line issues walking in the door. They got worse in the first series, when center Phil Costa’s back tightened up and he had to leave the game.
That left Ryan Cook to take over in the pivot, five days after being acquired in a trade with the Dolphins, who were going to cut him.
New right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau struggled early, and when the Cowboys tried to build a little confidence early, the line failed them. A fourth-down conversion attempt was stuffed, and the Cowboys blockers looked to be on roller skates as they were pushed back en masse.
They got better as the night wore on, and they needed to. Keeping a clean pocket is crucial for Romo, who has a tendency to get flustered when he has to move side-to-side. But if they can keep him on his feet, and run the way they did in the second half (DeMarco Murray finished with 19 carries for 129 yards), there’s potential there.
5. Timing is everything.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz dropped a pair of catchable passes in the first half (and a third later). Then as halftime hit, they went to a Time Warner Cable commercial featuring Cruz.
“People say I catch everything,” Cruz began.
Not anymore they don’t, Vic.