Dallas 36, N.Y. Giants 31: Cowboys Rediscover Turnovers

During the first quarter of last year’s 24-17 win by the Cowboys over the New York Giants in the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys forced running back David Wilson to fumble the ball. The Cowboys’ offense turned around and did next to nothing.

Jason Witten caught two touchdown passes in a 36-31 win by Dallas over the New York Giants.

Jason Witten caught two touchdown passes in a 36-31 win by Dallas over the New York Giants.

That was a key pattern of 2012. For the season, the Cowboys only forced 16 turnovers and only managed 52 points off turnovers to rank 27th in the league.

During the first half of tonight’s game, the Cowboys managed to force three turnovers. Points off those turnovers?

Three.

Then came the second half. On the Giants’ first offensive drive of the second half, Wilson fumbled, and Barry Church returned a fumble recovery 27 yards for a touchdown.

Later in the quarter, the Giants’ Trumaine McBride touched the ball on a punt return, resulting in a muff. DeVonte Holloman recovered the ball, and the Cowboys managed to score another touchdown later in the drive.

Finally, with the Giants trailing 30-24 with two minutes remaining, Eli Manning tried to throw a screen pass to running back Da’Rel Scott, but Scott did not turn around in time. Brandon Carr picked off the pass after the ball bounced off Scott’s shoulder, and Carr returned the pick 49 yards for the Cowboys’ final score.

Three turnovers and 21 points off those turnovers (6 turnovers for 24 points for the game). Quite a difference from 2012.

The team’s 36-31 win certainly wasn’t perfect. The Cowboys took a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but no lead in the former Cowboys Stadium is safe when the Giants are in town.

A short summary of the Giants’ wins at Dallas since 2009:

2009: The Giants trailed 31-30 but drove the length of the field in the final seconds for the game-winning field goal.

2010: The Cowboys saw a 20-7 first-half lead dissolve into a 38-20 deficit in what turned out to be a 41-35 Dallas loss.

2011: The Cowboys took a 34-22 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Giants managed to score twice in just over three minutes to pull out a 37-34 win for New York.

Dallas should have been able to put this game away much earlier, but the secondary could not avoid major breakdowns. Hakeem Nicks had a 57-yard reception in the first quarter, and Victor Cruz had a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter to keep the game close.

The Cowboys led 13-10 at the half thanks to two field goals and a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten.

Following Church’s touchdown in the third quarter, the Cowboys extended the lead when Romo hit Witten again on a four-yard touchdown. The second score gave Dallas a 27-10 lead.

Dallas once again could not stop Cruz, who ended up scoring three touchdowns. His last touchdown came after the Cowboys had kicked a field goal and cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.

For part of the final nine minutes, it felt as if the Cowboys would let the win slip through their fingers. However, the Cowboys held the Giants to a three-and-out with just over five minutes left, and then Carr’s interception sealed the win for Dallas.

Below is my Facebook thought near the end of the game. Please note that I backed off my “solid defense” reference in the comments:

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Simulations: Cowboys Will Edge Giants in Season Opener

The Cowboys host the Giants on Sunday night to open the 2013 season.

The Cowboys host the Giants on Sunday night to open the 2013 season.

The Cowboys never beat the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Nevertheless, in the first regular season game at the renamed AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys enter as 3.5-point favorites.

Results of most of the polls show that fans are split about who will win. As for predictions through simulations, most predict the Cowboys will edge the Giants for the first win in Dallas since the season-opener in 2007.

A few of the previews:

Team Rankings

Dallas 25.3, N.Y. Giants 22.4

numberFire

Dallas 24.7, N.Y. Giants 23.9

WhatIfSports

Dallas 26, N.Y. Giants 25

Here is video preview provided by Football Gameplan. It’s worth watching (and predicts a Dallas win):

 

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