New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin said his team’s 24-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys provided clear proof that a new National Football League season is here.
In the nine years the NFL has had its defending Super Bowl champion host a season-opening game in prime time, the Giants became the first reigning champion to start the year with a loss. Tony Romo threw three touchdown passes for the Cowboys, two to Kevin Ogletree, as the visitors opened a 24-10 lead and held on for the win at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
“It’s a bite out of humble pie is what it is,” Coughlin said last night at his postgame news conference. “It brings you right back down to earth. Last year was last year.”
The Giants beat the Cowboys twice in the final four weeks of the 2011 season to clinch the National Football Conference East division title and make the playoffs at 9-7. New York then won four straight postseason games, including its second Super Bowl in five seasons and fourth overall.
The Giants celebrated those titles in a pregame ceremony last night, as former players carried the three previous Super Bowl trophies onto the field. Phil Simms, the Most Valuable Player of the 1986 championship game, walked onto the field first with the Lombardi trophy held over his head. Simms was followed by Ottis Anderson, the MVP of the Super Bowl after the 1990 season, while Michael Strahan, captain of the 2007 championship team, brought out the third trophy.
Manning, the MVP of the Giants’ past two Super Bowl victories, then ran out onto the field with the rest of his teammates before a MetLife Stadium Giants-record crowd of 82,287.
Ogletree’s Big Night
The night’s biggest star turned out to be Ogletree, a 25-year-old undrafted receiver who grew up in Queens, New York, who finished with eight catches for 114 yards. He caught scoring passes of 10 and 40 yards from Romo, and then helped seal the victory with a 15-yard reception on a 3rd-and-10 play with two minutes remaining.
“As a team we didn’t give all our effort, period,” Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said in the locker room. “We can do better and we know that as a team. We’re going to go over film and see what we did wrong.”
The Giants were outgained 433-269 in total yards.
Romo finished with 307 passing yards, completing 22 of 29 passes, while running back DeMarco Murray rushed for 131 yards on 22 carries for the Cowboys (1-0). Manning passed for 213 yards and a score for the Giants (0-1), who also got 78 rushing yards and a touchdown from Ahmad Bradshaw.
“We’ll get better,” Coughlin said. “Hopefully the competitive nature of our guys will come out swinging.”
Giants Strike First
After a scoreless first quarter, the Giants took a 3-0 lead on a 22-yard field goal by Lawrence Tynes with 9:10 left in the second quarter. The kick came three plays after an interception by Michael Boley gave New York the ball on the Cowboys’ 1-yard line, however, the Giants’ offense wasn’t able to punch the ball in the end zone.
“With three opportunities to score, we have to get it in on one of them,” Manning said.
The Cowboys took a 7-3 lead on Ogletree’s first career touchdown catch with 1:01 left in the opening half. Two plays after Romo connected with Dez Bryant on a 38-yard pass into Giants’ territory, he escaped pressure from the Giants’ defenders and lofted a pass into the end zone to Ogletree.
The two would hook up again on the Cowboys’ opening drive of the second half, as Ogletree, who entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent from the University of Virginia, beat Giants cornerback Corey Webster for a 40-yard touchdown catch.
The Giants responded on their opening possession of the second half, capping an 89-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown by Bradshaw. The score came one play after Domenik Hixon hauled in a 39-yard pass from Manning.
Dallas settled for a 33-yard field goal from Dan Bailey on its next possession, when a third-down pass from Romo was thrown behind Ogletree in the end zone.
The Cowboys, who lost 86 yards due to penalties, pushed their lead to 24-10 with 5:57 left when Miles Austin outjumped Justin Tryon on a 1st-down-and-30 play for a 34-yard touchdown.
New York answered with a 9-yard touchdown pass from Manning to Martellus Bennett with 2:42 remaining. The Giants wouldn’t get the ball back again, as Ogletree and the Cowboys converted a 3rd-and-12 pass play with two minutes left and ran out the remaining time on the clock.
This year’s opening game was moved to Wednesday from Thursday to avoid a conflict with President Barack Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. The NFL, which opened its season on a Thursday night the past 10 years, said this was the league’s first Wednesday game since Sept. 22, 1948, when the Los Angeles Rams routed the Detroit Lions 44-7.
The Giants next face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home on Sept. 16, while the Cowboys visit the Seattle Seahawks the same day.
Only one of the eight teams to successfully defend Super Bowl titles lost the season opener, the 1993 Dallas Cowboys.