IRVING, Tex. - Sometimes the pieces of a puzzle simply fit. In the case of the Dallas Cowboys’ first regular-season game in their new stadium, the piece that completes the puzzle that is the marquee event owner Jerry Jones wants is the opponent: the NFC East rival New York Giants.
“It’s going to be awesome — I’m looking forward to it,” tight end Martellus Bennett said. “There’s going to be a lot of fans there, the crowd will be pumping, it’s a rivalry … there’s not a better team to start it off with than the Giants.”
That the Cowboys’ longtime rival will help christen the team’s new megaplex is completely justified. The Sunday night game, which will be played before a national television audience, wouldn’t be the same if the opposing sideline was occupied by some generic AFC team. Would it really have the same sizzle if the first game in the new stadium was against Cincinnati or Jacksonville? Of course not.
But take away the drama associated with the teams being in the same division, and the rivalry that has existed for decades. The matchup also pairs two teams with designs on the same division championship, and two teams that match up pretty well against each other.
“They have one of the best defensive lines in the league,” Bennett said. “Just watching (those) guys on film, there’s a lot of different things they bring to the table. Osi (Umenyiora) is a great athlete, (Justin) Tuck is very good, you know, but we’ve got Flozell (Adams) — we’ve got one of the best lines in the league. It’s going to be a battle the whole game.
“They’re very physical, but we’re a very physical team, too, so that’s why it’s such a great battle when we go against (those) guys. It’s just smash-mouth football — old school.”
To survive against the Giants’ physical defense, Bennett said the Cowboys will have to vary the offensive looks they present.
“We try to mix it up a whole lot,” he said. “They bring a lot of different fronts, so we try to bring a whole bunch of different personnel to the field. That’s how you counter it — they’ve got to react to what we’re doing, so we just push the pace and give them different looks and see how they react to it.”
Bennett dodged questions about whether Sunday’s game can be called a “must-win game,” but admitted that establishing a winning trend in the new stadium could go a long way toward success down the road.
“A win is a win, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing, or where we’re playing. We’ve got one under our belts, and we’re trying to get another one. To get another win is excellent. That’s our goal — to get one every week.
“You always protect your turf. It’s like when somebody comes and runs into your house — you think they’re going to try and steal something from you. In this case, the analogy would be a win from us. You’ve got to protect that, and we’re going to do everything we can to win at home, and everywhere we play.”