In a game full of mistakes, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys proved to make the more costly ones.
A huge blocked punt by the Jets was returned for a touchdown to tie the game, and Tony Romo threw an interception to Darrelle Revis late in the fourth quarter that set up Nick Folk's 50-yard game-winning field goal against his former team.
It wasn't a pretty win, but Rex Ryan's Jets have a tendency of pulling those kinds of wins off. With the victory, the Jets are 1-0, the Cowboys are 0-1 and Opening Sunday of the 2011 NFL season is complete.
It was a grind. It was a battle. But we made it. Now, excuse me while I hit the showers. I hope you all enjoyed following along for this wild game as much as I enjoyed scribing it.
On Monday, the Pats will take on the Dolphins down in Miami, and the Broncos will host the Raiders. NESN.com will bring you coverage of both games, so be sure to poke your head in from time to time.
Fourth quarter, 0:27, Jets 27-24: That one must have felt good for Nick Folk. The Jets kicker was cut by Dallas after two years with the team, and now he might have just delivered the finishing blow to them on a national stage.
After the Jets were unable to move the ball deeper into Cowboys territory, Folk said, "Eh, that'll do." He booted a 50-yard field goal to give the Jets a 27-24 lead.
Fourth quarter, 0:49, 24-24: Watching this game makes you appreciate the Tom Bradys of the world even more. Not only is neither quarterback stepping up in order to give his team a win. But each is doing a heck of a job to ensure his team starts off 0-1.
After Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense couldn't get into field-goal range, the Cowboys got the ball back, at which point Tony Romo promptly threw an interception to Darrelle Revis. Now, the Jets have the ball at the Dallas 32, where they'll look to progress it a bit further before calling on kicker Nick Folk.
Fourth quarter, 2:16, 24-24: Tony Romo and the Cowboys' offense was unable to get much going after the blocked punt touchdown. Mat McBriar's most recent punt nearly landed at the goal line, but it instead resulted in a touchback. Mark Sanchez will now have a chance to prove he can lead a two-minute offense late in the game on a big stage.
What do you all think? Will Sanchez come up big for the J-E-T-S or will he throw up in the huddle? Oh wait, that's Donovan McNabb.
Fourth quarter, Fourth quarter, 5:18, 24-24: OK, so I lied. I was off by 44 seconds. The 'Boys had a great opportunity to extend the lead and seize control of this game but, rather unsurprisingly at this point, they failed to do so.
But not only did the Cowboys fail to execute, they allowed the Jets to score without New York's offense ever taking the field. With the way these two mistake-prone offenses are playing, that really seemed like the only way we'd see a change in the score.
Mat McBriar's punt was blocked by Joe McKnight, who busted right up the gut of the line. Isaiah Trufant then scooped up the loose ball and took it to the house.
Fourth quarter, 6:08, Cowboys 24-17: It's as if neither team wants to win this one. After being given a golden opportunity and a good start to the drive, Sanchez coughed up the football and handed possession back over to Dallas. Mike Jenkins, who had been hampered by injuries this week and even during this game, forced the fumble. Sean Lee, who had the huge pick earlier in the game, came up with the recovery.
So it's back to work for Romo. If this current trend continues, the drive should last four seconds flat.
Fourth quarter, 8:59, Cowboys 24-17: The Cowboys looked like they were going to respond in a big way. Romo found Jason Witten for a 64-yard pickup and the Cowboys marched to the Jets' 2-yard line. But as quickly as they got into a position to score, they gave it away.
Romo fumbled while scrambling for the end zone, the result of Revis smothering Bryant and taking away any jump-ball opportunity. The Jets recovered and will now have a chance to tie this game up, although they'll have a long ways to go down the field to do it.
Fourth quarter, 11:56, Cowboys 24-17: Well, hold the phone. Mark Sanchez effectively makes yours truly eat his words by delivering one of the better throws I've ever seen the Jets QB make. On third down from the Dallas 26, Sanchez put a ball perfectly on Plaxico Burress' back shoulder along the left sideline for a touchdown. It's Burress' first TD as a member of the Jets and cuts the Dallas lead to 24-17.
The play, which was called a touchdown, was under review to determine whether Burress stepped out of bounds before falling into the end zone at the pylon. But the ruling on the field was confirmed.
Fourth quarter, 14:50, Cowboys 24-10: Two plays after Sean Lee's interception put the ball at the Jets' 1-yard line, Felix Jones easily scampered into the end zone. Romo looked for Jason Witten with a pass on the first play, but then Dallas went to the run for its second attempt.
A huge interception thrown by Sanchez, which is very discouraging considering the increased role he's been expected to take on and succeed in. Also, on a side note, Plaxico Burress hauled in his first catch as a member of the Jets on their last drive one play before Lee's pick.
End of third quarter, Cowboys 17-10: Mark Sanchez resorted back to what's plagued him in his first two seasons, throwing a pick into the hands of linebacker Sean Lee. Lee then scampered all the way to paydirt, getting taken down into the end zone. The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but after further review, it was determined that Lee stepped out of bounds at the 1-yard line as he was being tackled.
Dallas will have to hold up the celebrating at least momentarily, but with the ball at the New York 1, they look poised to extend the lead as we get set to begin the fourth quarter.
Third quarter, 0:49, Cowboys 17-10: Darrelle Revis is also cramping up for the Jets, which says a lot about the battle that's going on between he and Dez Bryant.
Dallas' drive started off a bit promising after a couple of seven-yard pickups followed by a 19-yard catch and run by Felix Jones. But the Jets' defense stepped up and made sure the Cowboys wouldn't repeat their previous TD drive, forcing them to punt.
Third quarter, 4:01, Cowboys 17-10: Mark Sanchez put together another solid drive (10 plays, 64 yards), but the Jets came up short of the end zone and were forced to settle for a 34-yard field goal from Nick Folk. Nevertheless, it means we're back to a one-possession game.
Third quarter, 8:05, Cowboys 17-7: Dez Bryant, after impressing so much on the first drive of the game, hasn't caught a pass since and headed back to the Cowboys locker room because of cramping to begin the second half.
But that still didn't stop Tony Romo from showing off his arm with an impressive touchdown drive.
Romo incorporated Kevin Ogletree, normally Dallas' third wide receiver into the action quite nicely, but eventually went back to his go-to target in Miles Austin for the score.
Romo threw one deep down the right side, and Austin and Antonio Cromartie both went up for it, although Cromartie had the favorable inside position. Austin was able to overpower him, though, and hauled the pass in for the 36-yard score. Both players seemed to have possession of the ball when hitting the ground in the end zone, but the receiver is granted possession in such instances, which meant a Dallas touchdown.
Halftime, Cowboys 10-7: The Cowboys took a knee after a touchback to take us into the half.
Interesting note regarding kickoffs from ESPN's Trey Wingo via the Twitter World:
Prior to this game, almost 50 percent of kickoffs on Sunday were touchbacks. Last year, only 18 percent of Week 1 kickoffs were touchbacks. Of course, kickoffs are not from the 35-yard line instead of the 30. Interestingly enough, though, there were three kickoffs returned for touchdowns on Sunday, so I don't know what to make of the whole situation through one week.
Anyways, back to this game. Each team had their moments, while also having their struggles. But that was certainly a big drive by the Jets to close out the half, especially given how impressive Sanchez looked. Clearly, the Jets are trying to take advantage of Dallas' banged up secondary.
Second quarter, 0:37, Cowboys 10-7: Sanchez hooked up with tight end Dustin Keller for an 11-yard pitch and catch, his first catch of the season, and with LaDainian Tomlinson for nine yards to get the drive rolling. After a setback in the form of a DeMarcus Ware sack, his second of the evening, Sanchez delivered a dart to Keller for 17 yards.
On the very next play, Sanchez showed some serious poise for the drive's biggest play. Once again facing pressure, Sanchez slipped to his right and dumped off a pass to Tomlinson, who took it 32 yards to the Dallas 4. On first-and-goal, Sanchez tried to find veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, but he was unable to go up and grab it. No biggie. Sanchez rolled out to his right on the next play and found Keller in the back of the end zone.
A good drive for Tomlinson. A great drive for Keller. An even better drive for Sanchez. The Jets have cut into the lead with a well-orchestrated possession.
Second quarter, 3:16, Cowboys 10-0: The Cowboys' offense looked much more like the offense that impressively marched down the field on the first drive of the game. Romo led them 47 yards on 10 plays, setting up a 34-yard field goal by rookie Dan Bailey — the first of his NFL career.
The Cowboys now hold a 10-0 lead with 3:16 to play. In other words, if Stone Cold Steve Austin was ever going to make an appearance tonight, now's as good a time as any. Hey, he's from Texas, you never know.
Second quarter, 8:13, Cowboys 7-0: The Cowboys' cornerback carousel continues, as Orlando Scandrick has headed back to the locker room. Fortunately for the Cowboys, Mike Jenkins has returned after getting dinged up. But Alan Ball is also now in the game.
The Jets' offense hasn't looked good thus far. Chalk up another three and out. Fortunately for Gang Green, though, Dallas' offense has also sputtered since its impressive first drive.
Interesting note that Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan hit third and fourth in their high school baseball lineup. I can't say I'm surprised, though. I certainly didn't tab either of them as a speedy leadoff guy. But, hey, I'm sure they could rake.
Oh yeah, and Ben Stiller's here. LeBron is too, but LeBron didn't give us this.
Second quarter, 9:08, Cowboys 7-0: Pretty impressive showing by the Jets defense on that last drive. Jason Witten caught a pass for a first down, but after that, the D buckled down. Felix Jones was dropped for a loss on first down, and then Calvin Pace sacked Romo, setting up a third and long. Romo then completed another pass to Witten, but it was shy of the sticks, meaning Dallas again had to punt.
Mat McBriar's 55-yard boot was returned six yards by Kerley, meaning the Jets will head out and start the upcoming possession on their own 26-yard line.
Second quarter, 11:44, Cowboys 7-0: The Jets squandered a pretty good opportunity to get on the scoreboard. By forcing the Cowboys to go three and out on their last drive, the Jets gained the upper hand in terms of field position. But they were unable to make it count, going three and out themselves on the ensuing possession.
Conley again dropped a punt inside the Dallas 10-yard line, where it was fair caught. Essentially, we're right back where we were just a couple minutes ago, with Romo leading the offense onto the field deep in their own territory.
Second quarter, 12:44, Cowboys 7-0: After threatening a bit, the Jets weren't able to get into field-goal range. Sanchez fired one over the head of Plaxico Burress, forcing the Jets to punt. T.J. Conley was able to drop the punt at the Dallas 7-yard line, though, where the Cowboys went three and out.
After a 47-yard punt and a return of seven yards, the Jets will take over at the Dallas 46.
End of first quarter, Cowboys 7-0: It's always worth noting that cornerback Mike Jenkins isn't playing for the Cowboys right now after getting banged up a bit. He was previously listed as questionable, but his current absence means Dallas is without both of its starting cornerbacks in this one — Terence Newman is also out. We'll keep an eye on Jenkins' status, but it looks like the Jets might try to spread the field a bit in the meantime and give Sanchez a chance to take some shots down the field. For the most part thus far, though, he's relied on a couple dump-offs to running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. Sanchez has hooked up with Santonio Holmes a few times early.
The Jets will start the second quarter at the Dallas 38.
First quarter, 4:31, Cowboys 7-0: Bryant obviously got the attention of Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine on the first drive. They came back out with Darrelle Revis covering him on the second drive. But while they hoped that would minimize the damage, Bryant responded by going up and snatching a third-down strike from Romo for 26 yards while matched up one-on-one with Revis. Generally, Revis Island isn't necessarily a spot you want to vacation on, but the young receiver doesn't seem too concerned about it.
The matchup change also allows Miles Austin to go up against Cromartie, which is a matchup I think the Cowboys will gladly take.
Dallas' drive stalled, though, after a Bart Scott sack and then consecutive five-yard penalties without the ball even being snapped. It forced the Cowboys into a third-and-25 situation and subsequently forced them to punt. Jets rookie Jeremy Kerley muffed the kick, but it went out of bounds. They'll now go to work at their own 16-yard line.
First quarter, 8:25, Cowboys 7-0: There's a lot of talk about this being Mark Sanchez's time to shine. Well, he received every opportunity on the first drive, as the Jets threw three straight times to start the game. It didn't work out so well, though, as the Jets went three and out.
Dez Bryant returned a 48-yard punt 12 yards, setting the Cowboys up at the 36-yard line. Back to work for the Cowboys O.
First quarter, 10:27, Cowboys 7-0: There are certainly some weapons on this Dallas offense and a couple of them showed flashes of what they're capable of on the first drive of the game, most notably Dez Bryant, who caught the game's opening score.
The big play on the drive went for 42 yards. Romo hit Bryant in stride, and the second-year wideout was able to show his ability to run after the catch. He was almost able to regain his footing after being spun airborne, which would have been a bit of a flashback to the Packers' Randall Cobb's touchdown on Thursday night.
The Jets forced the Cowboys into a third-down situation, but Romo delivered a pass to Kevin Ogletree, who was awarded forward progress, for the first down. Two players later, Romo threw one up for Bryant in the corner, who defeated Antonio Cromartie on a jump ball for the touchdown.
Dez Bryant fantasy owners everywhere are all smirking simultaneously.
8:30 p.m.: George W. Bush took part in tonight's coin toss. The Cowboys won the toss and have elected to receive. That means we'll see Tony Romo on the field for the first time since Oct. 25 of last year early in this one.
8:19 p.m.: We're a few minutes away from the opening kickoff, and Rex Ryan and Rob Ryan met with their father, the great Buddy Ryan, on the field.
This will be the first time in his career that Mark Sanchez goes up against the Cowboys and he'll have the luxury of Dallas being without one of its starting cornerbacks. Terence Newman is inactive for tonight's game, meaning Orlando Scandrick will be inserted into the starting lineup.
Tight end Martellus Bennet is also listed inactive for the Cowboys.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo has played the Jets once in his seven-year NFL career. He was 21 of 28 for 195 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 34-3 blowout in Dallas. Then again, the Jets finished 4-12 that season, so I wouldn't put too much stock into that victory. Tony Danza probably could have finished with a 75 percent completion percentage (and if you remember correctly, he was a kicker in The Garbage Picking Field Goal Kicking Philadelphia Phenomenon).
Anyways, Danza references aside, I like the Jets tonight. They've got the home-field advantage, which could perhaps be bigger tonight given the circumstances, and an all-around superior team, in my opinion — pretty good recipe for a win. I'm saying Jets by a 24-13 final.
6:15 p.m. ET: The football season is finally in full swing, and the Jets and Cowboys, each of whom have high expectations heading into the season, will cap off the season's first Sunday with an emotional game at the Meadowlands on Sunday night.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan has even said that he feels more pressure for Sunday night's matchup than any other game he's ever coached. Ryan will not only be leading his team into a pressure-packed opener to a pressure-packed season, but he'll be doing so against his brother, Rob, who is Dallas' defensive coordinator.
More importantly, though, the Jets are playing host on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, which means it will undoubtedly be a very emotional night for all those in attendance.
"It's different," Ryan told reporters recently. "Like a responsibility. Every week it's my responsibility to make sure our team's prepared, but I don't know. It just feels different to me. The significance of it. I think it's stronger than any game I've ever felt. I feel more pressure on this game for whatever reason than any game I've ever coached."
It might not be the most important game Ryan ever coaches, as he's helped lead the Jets to back-to-back AFC championship games and has been adamant about the fact that the Jets are poised to make a trip to the Super Bowl. But it certainly gives the Jets a chance to make a statement on a national stage. For that, it is somewhat essential that Ryan's Jets get off on the right foot — no pun intended (or is it?).
Stick around with NESN.com's live blog for the rest of the night. You'll laugh, you'll cry, maybe you'll curse, but in the end, I'll do what I can to keep you informed of all the game's happenings — bad puns, hip jokes and useless stats are all free of charge.
Game time is 8:20 p.m. ET.
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