I'll be in Landover, Md., tonight for Redskins-Eagles on "Monday Night Football," but let's take a look at the fallout from the Cowboys' 33-20 road win over the Giants:
Interim head coach Jason Garrett had a great day Sunday. He showed that attention to detail and discipline can create change in a short time period. But all the credibility he gained Sunday could come crashing down if the Cowboys lose to Detroit next weekend. There's no way you can trust these players after a 1-7 start, but I do think they were begging for structure and discipline. Garrett and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni delivered the goods.
Former SMU Mustang Bryan McCann made the play of the day when he picked off an Eli Manning pass and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown. For reasons that we may never know, Hakeem Nicks quit on a slant route. McCann caught the ball and then was off to the races. The Cowboys were sick when they released McCann after training camp and he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. They'd hoped to sneak him through to the practice squad. But Ravens scouting guru Eric DeCosta had been tracking McCann throughout the preseason. The Ravens ended up releasing McCann, and I'm sure they were regretting it while watching highlights of Sunday's game.
In his private meeting with the team Wednesday, Garrett grabbed his players' attention by saying, "The ball. The ball. The ball." Garrett was referring to how reducing turnovers on offense and causing them on defense could change the course of the season. And it looks like his players took him seriously. Jon Kitna's only interception came when he tried to let Dez Bryant make a play in the end zone. One of the broadcasters called a "killer interception," but I didn't see it that way.
Pasqualoni's decision to play a lot more zone coverage had a huge impact on Sunday's game. Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted as much afterward. The Cowboys still gave up some big plays, but they also had an opportunity to make more plays on the ball. Alan Ball's interception pretty much sealed the game.
I don't think Sunday's loss exposed fatal flaws for the Giants. They just came out flat against an inspired team. It's human nature to watch the Cowboys quit on their former head coach and think that sort of performance will continue. Even without starting receiver Steve Smith and two starting offensive linemen, the offense still moved the ball. If I had a vote in the ESPN.com Power Rankings, I wouldn't overreact to this loss at all.
Ahmad Bradshaw is one of the best young running backs in the league, but he's going to have to commit to securing the football. He's very susceptible to the strip because he forgets about the fundamentals when he's fighting for yards. The Cowboys were well aware of that trait and the Giants were fortunate to get the ball back after that fumble in the first half.
I would seriously think about cutting punter Matt Dodge today. He continues to put his team in awful situations with outright shanks. It's time to let him clear his head and start elsewhere. A poor punt could get you beat in the playoffs. General manager Jerry Reese should bring in a veteran immediately.
It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Perry Fewell responds to this game. He was outschemed and his players were burned by the aging Kitna. Fewell received a lot of praise during the five-game winning streak. Now he'll see the other side.