Last season, the Dallas Cowboys' defense was one of the laughing stocks of the NFC, giving up at least 30 points four separate times. But after the team's 24-17 opening night win against the New York Giants, the Dallas D showed the nation that it is something to be feared in 2012.
The Cowboys were 23rd against the pass last season and gave up three 12-point second-half leads in the process.
They lost four of their last five games in 2011, including the regular-season finale to the Giants that cost them a playoff spot.
That night, Eli Manning torched the defense for 346 yards and three touchdowns, sending the Cowboys back to Dallas to watch the postseason on that giant screen in their new stadium.
Week 1 of the 2012 season, however, saw a complete turnaround from Rob Ryan's squad. The Cowboys held the Giants to just 269 yards of offense and shut down the Super Bowl MVP by holding him to just 217 yards.
With the exception of their impressive drive in the first half, Manning was unable to establish any sort of rhythm all night long.
DeMarcus Ware was once again the catalyst for the Cowboys' defense, recording five tackles and two sacks in Wednesday night's win. He was also a big part of holding New York to 82 yards on the ground.
What was more important was the way the Cowboys offense responded to the momentum their defense generated.
After a near pick-six by New York's Michael Boley, the Giants failed to break the Cowboys as a tough stand near the end zone ignited the fire for Ryan's defensive unit.
Tony Romo may have finished the game with over 300 yards and three touchdowns, but the insurance his defense provided poised the offense to push the ball towards the Giants' end zone.
Dallas scored on four straight drives, and held New York to less than 25 yards in six of their nine drives.
The impressive defensive performance was a great catalyst to a Cowboys team that has a tough schedule ahead of themselves.
Back-to-back matchups against a pair of electric offenses like the Baltimore Ravens and the Carolina Panthers await the Cowboys in Week 6 and Week 7. They also have to travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia shortly thereafter.
Even though the season is barely underway, the Cowboys defense sent a message to the league that they are for real this season.
In order for them to make the playoffs this season, their defense must stay consistent. In an extremely competitive NFC East, the Big D must play some "D" or it will be another year that Jerry Jones loathes in disappointment.
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