And the replacement officials were supposed to be a fiasco.
Instead, Witten provided the inspiration by playing weeks after lacerating his spleen, third wideout Ogletree made the big plays, and the officials had a mostly quiet night in the NFL’s season opener.
The Cowboys waited all year for another shot at the New York Giants, and when they got it Wednesday night, they were relentless in a 24-17 victory that really wasn’t that close.
“We executed on offense and defense when we needed to,” Tony Romo said after throwing for three touchdowns and 307 yards. “We put them in a hole. Our job was to keep the pedal down, to not let up because you know what kind of team they have over there.”
Not a good enough team this night as the Giants lost for the first time since Game 15 of last season. Part of their six-game winning streak that earned them a fourth Super Bowl title last winter was a win over Dallas on New Year’s Day to take the NFC East. New York did everything right back then, and very little right in becoming the first NFL champion to lose the now-traditional midweek kickoff game in its nine-year existence.
“I don’t think we played up to our potential at all,” defensive end Osi Umenyiora said. “Obviously they were prepared and they fought, and all the credit in the world goes to that team. They played a very good game today.”
And the field officials did their part. It was feared they would be a big factor with the league’s lockout of the regulars. But there were no controversies, no blatant mistakes or rampant confusion.
“No problems, just as we said there wouldn’t be,” league executive Ray Anderson said at halftime. Nothing changed in the second half.
Many Cowboys credited Witten’s presence with lifting their spirits and their performance.
“Sometimes you don’t care about yourself, you go out and play for the guys,” DeMarcus Ware said. “It was emotional. We were all behind him when he said he would play.”
Witten, who had two catches for 10 yards, didn’t think it was such a big deal.
“I think and hope every other player on our team would do the same thing,” he said. “At this point in your career, you want that mentality to leave it all out there.”
DeMarco Murray rushed for 129 yards and the defense sacked Eli Manning three times.
For Ogletree, the night was a special homecoming.