IRVING (AP) — Asked what stuck out in his mind the day after the season opener, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry didn’t talk about winning the game.
“We gave up a lot of yards. Teams are going to look at that,” Henry said Monday. “It was a bittersweet win. If we don’t get in and correct those things, then it’s going to be a problem for us throughout the season.”
While a 45-35 victory over the New York Giants showed the potential of the Tony Romo-led offense with new coordinator Jason Garrett’s aggressive play calling, the opener Sunday night raised concerns about what is supposed to be a much better defense under Wade Phillips.
The Cowboys gave up 438 yards and several big plays, including a 60-yard touchdown pass on the third snap of the game. Then Eli Manning had two more TD passes in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter that cut the Giants’ 16-point deficit to a field goal.
“I was really surprised because a lot of those plays were maybe blown coverages or somebody not getting pressure, probably me not getting pressure, on a couple of plays,” linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. “I think that will be corrected this week.”
The flaws were already supposed to be fixed under Phillips, the renowned defensive coordinator who replaced the retired Bill Parcells last winter and brought a more aggressive 3-4 scheme.
“Fortunately, we won the game. It’s easy to fix everything when you win,” defensive end Chris Canty said.
“I’m an offensive coach now,” Phillips joked Monday. “I’m encouraged by the 45 points and I’m discouraged by the 35. … We made too many mental mistakes, assignment mistakes. We’re not a big-play, give-up defense.”
But the opener eerily resembled the end of last season when the Cowboys blew a chance to win their first NFC East title since 1998 by losing three of their last four games. They allowed 34 points and 394 yards a game in that closing stretch.
“Oh yeah, I thought we were past it,” Ware said.
“It’s a different scheme. Everybody is in a whole new situation. Everybody is still learning something new,” Henry said. “It’s going to take time, but we don’t have time. You just have to take it at full speed.”
The unit also took a big hit when nose tackle Jason Ferguson tore his right biceps in the first quarter of the opener and is done for the season. In his 11th NFL season, the 6-foot-3, 312-pound Ferguson was the team’s most experience defender.
Jay Ratliff, a third-year player from Auburn, had three tackles and the Cowboys’ only sack after taking over for Ferguson. Ratliff probably will get his first NFL start Sunday at Miami.
After announcing that Ferguson was out, Phillips said the team was closer to getting cornerback Terence Newman and outside linebacker Greg Ellis back on the field. Both could practice this week.
“Maybe we’ll get two guys back after losing one,” Phillips said.