The New York Jets were given the special privilege of hosting the one of the most special games in NFL history. On Sunday night, in front of a city and nation who were respectfully remembering the tragic events that took place 10 years ago, the NFL wanted to give the city of New York and a nation a football game to remember.
For the New York Jets, they wanted tonight to be a chance to honor those who were so deeply affected by those events. They wanted to win this game for their city and their nation. Who better to play this tremendous game of opportunity against than, “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys.
There were still many questions surrounding the Cowboys, mostly on defense, as they headed into week one. The Cowboys defense was coming off a less than stellar preseason, and, coordinator, Rob Ryan, wanted to answer some of those questions against his brother Rex. With their father, the legendary Buddy Ryan, in attendance, the stage was set for a great football game.
It would be the Cowboys that would strike first as they took the opening drive 74 yards to score the games opening touchdown. Quarterback Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant on a 3-yard fade pass over, Jets corner, Antonio Cromartie. The drive was aided by a great pass from Romo to Bryant on a crossing route that picked up 42 yards. If the opening drive was any indication, it looked like the Cowboys were going to have no problems scoring.
The Jets looked to answer but, Cowboys linebacker, DeMarcus Ware had other ideas. Ware sacked Jets quarterback, Matt Sanchez, on the first play of the Jets opening drive. The sack led to a three-and-out by the Jets and an effective start by the much anticipated Cowboys defense.
The defences seemed to take over with the Jets able to get lots of pressure on Tony Romo and confuse the Cowboys’ other question mark, their offensive line. The Jets would sack Romo three times in the first half. The Cowboys also had a lot of pressure on Sanchez, and just before the half, DeMarcus Ware would add his second of the game.
The Cowboys depth would also be stretched during the half, as cornerback Mike Jenkins would leave the game for a few plays with an aggravation to his neck stinger he suffered in the preseason. Jenkins partner on the other side, Orlando Scandrick, left the game to get x-rays on his ankle. Scandrick did not return.
Late in the second quarter, the Cowboys would drive the ball into the Jets red zone for a second time but were unable to find the end zone and would have to settle for a Dan Bailey 34-yard field goal. Bailey won the job as the Cowboys’ field goal kicker during the preseason, beating out incumbent David Buehler. There were many questions about the Cowboys kicking situation, but Bailey, calmly kicked the field goal to give the Cowboys a 10-0 lead.
With under a minute left in the half, Sanchez found his tight end, Dustin Keller, in the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown pass. Keller had lost Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee, and eluded Keith Brooking in the end zone for the score. The play capped off an impressive 87-yard drive and provided an answer to the Cowboys field goal. The drive was aided by a 32-yard screen pass from Sanchez to Tomlinson. The Cowboys headed into half time with a 10-7 lead.
The second half started with the Cowboys defense holding the Jets to another three-and-out. The Boys’ offense followed that with a steady stream of Felix Jones and DeMarco Murray runs and screen passes setting up a Romo to Miles Austin 36-yard touchdown pass that saw Austin rip the ball from the Jets corner, Antonio Cromartie. The Cowboys, while they had Dez Bryant in the locker room with cramps, took advantage of the Jets missing standout corner, Darrelle Revis, who also had cramps. The touchdown gave Dallas a 17-7 lead.
The Jets would respond with a 10-play, 64 yard drive that ended in a Nick Folk 34-yard field goal and narrowing the score to 17-10. After a Cowboys punt, Sanchez looked to be moving the ball until he threw a pass intended for TE Dustin Keller that was picked off by Sean Lee. Lee returned the interception to the Jets 1-yard line to finish the third quarter.
The Cowboys started the fourth quarter by capitalizing on Lee’s interception by scoring on a Felix Jones 1-yard touchdown run giving the Cowboys a 24-10 lead.
The game looked to be heading to a shootout as the Jets would waste no time answering back. Sanchez took advantage of the Cowboys missing their top three cornerbacks as he hit Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress for a couple of big plays on their way to a Sanchez to Burress 26-yard touchdown pass. The drive covered 84-yards in just 2:54.
The Cowboys took the ball at their own 20 yard line and Romo hit TE Jason Witten on back to back receptions to go 76 yards to the Jets 4 yard line. After Jones was stuffed on an inside handoff, Romo took the snap and looked for Dez Bryant, who was covered, Romo scrambled, darted up the middle and fumbled the ball at the Jets 2 yard line. The Jets would recover and keep it a one score game.
Sanchez led the Jets to midfield where he gifted the ball back. Cowboys safety Danny McCray, came around the end and stripped the ball as he sacked Sanchez. The Cowboys took over in Jets territory, but, two straight penalties bumped the Cowboys back to their own 41 yard line. Matt McBriar came on to punt the ball, but the Jets blocked the punt and Isaiah Trufant picked it up at the 18 yard line and returned it for the tying score.
Romo and the Cowboys saw a chance to drive for the winning score with 5:00 left to play in the game, but Romo couldn’t get the Boys moving and they would have to punt. After Sanchez had similar luck, it was left to the Cowboys with just over a minute left to play. Romo, looking to take the Cowboys down the field for the win, forced a ball to a double covered Dez Bryant. Darelle Revis undercut the route and picked off Romo.
The Jets took over in Dallas territory. The Cowboys defense would stiffen and gave the Jets nothing. New York would go for the win sending, ex-Cowboys, Nick Folk on for the 50-yard field goal. Folk booted the kick through, though it looked like it might sail wide. The kick would prove to be the game winner.
The Jets roared back from a 14 point deficit to beat the Cowboys 27-24. This was the first time in Cowboys history that they had ever blown a 14 point lead to lose the game. They were previously 241-0-1.
For the Cowboys it is the second straight season that they have started off the year with heart break. Last year they had the game winning touchdown called back on a holding penalty in Washington. Tony Romo had a rough fourth quarter, turning the ball over twice. The Cowboys will leave New York knowing they had a chance to start the season off with a very important win.
For the Jets, it was the perfect end to a game they wanted to give to their city, and fans, on this very important day in the nation’s history. While it wasn’t the way they drew it up, Rex Ryan and his group will gladly take the victory.
The Cowboys will regroup before heading out to San Francisco to play the 49ers (1-0) next week.