“FishTips’’ is the world-famous tried-and-true method of pinning down the Dallas Cowboys’ plans before a game and then measuring the effectiveness of those plans.
Oh, and of course, measuring the effectiveness of my research, educated-guesswork and predictions.
Let’s see how we did in forecasting the Cowboys’ approach to Sunday’s season-opener against the visiting Giants … and let’s see how Dallas did in executing its way to a win:
FishTip Prediction 1) It’s Running Back By Committee and the “chairman’’ of that committee is Joe Randle. It was that way all week inside the closed practices at Valley Ranch, and there was no reason to open up this game any other way.
Result: My information that Randle is the “lead back’’ hasn’t wavered since May 2 (after Dallas’ desire to take a running back high in the draft didn’t work out because instead, Randy Gregory worked out). And the Cowboys’ plan never wavered, either. RBBC is the way, as KD notes here in his recap.
This wasn’t going to be about who got the first snap, or who got the most snaps, or about who ends the season atop the totem pole. This was about each of the three active RBs playing their role.
Lance Dunbar is a sub-package guy. … and he did his job with eight receptions for 70 yards.
Darren McFadden is the No. 2 runner. (No matter the volumes of pre-game reports to the contrary.) He made his contribution with six carries for 16 yards, a total that belies the explosion that seemed within his abilities.
Randle is the chairman. Randle’s totals: 16 carries, 65 yards. And a terrific one-handed catch-and-run.
"There's always room for improvement,'' Randle said.
All together: a combined 211 total yards.
“Each guy got his opportunities,’’ coach Jason Garrett said, “and did his job.''
FishTipPrediction 2) Tony Romo’s recent history vs. the Giants is significant. In his last two games, he’s got seven TDs, one interception, a 71.4 completion percentage and a 139.8 passer rating. And of course, two wins, part of Dallas’ four-game win streak against the NFC East rivals.
Result: Giants rookie safety Landon Collins said before the game that Romo wouldn’t be “happy’’ with the result if he threw Collins’ way.
Romo did throw his way. And, especially, threw to tight ends - the area of Collins’ responsibility. Gavin Escobar caught a TD pass. Jason Witten caught two of them in the final eight minutes as Romo for the game was … and for those final eight Dez-less minutes was 11-of-12 for … and the two scores, including the game-winner with seven seconds left. Flawless protection was part of this, of course; and Leary (groin) will miss at least a week now, with Berny probably staying ahead of Collins for the left-guard job.
FishTip Prediction 3) The D-line rotation on Giants passing downs would feature Gregory at right end, Jeremy Mincey moving inside to the 3-Tech, the newly-wealthy Tyrone Crawford at the other tackle, and Tank Lawrence at right end. And against some of the Giants young blockers, havoc might happen.
Result: It all worked well, with pressure on Eli, too, with the only glitch being Gregory sustained a high-ankle sprain. His absence meant a tired bunch of Cowboys D-linemen at the end … and a frustrated Mincey, who earned a costly unsportsmanlike penalty that could’ve lead to a Giants win.
But Mincey was in the locker room and Crawford was in the locker room celebrating -- a sack, a handsome new contract extension and a win, all in a high-pitched voice of excitement -- and it's all good ... especially if Dallas invents some post-Gregory answers for the next few weeks.
FishTip Prediction 4) Dez Bryant told me he’s "on fire.’’ The Cowboys would move him around to gain a matchup edge.
Result: Dez was too on-fire … and then he wasn’t on the field at all.
Not even the dismal diagnosis of a broken bone in his foot put a damper on Bryant's excitement over the victory.
"I can't wait to get back!" he told me.
But wait he must. Bryant says he sustained a broken bone in his right foot - from what I'm told the fifth metatarsal (atop the foot leading to the pinkie toe) - that has required the surgical insertion of a screw in a process completed on Monday
Bryant says he expects to miss four weeks; the Cowboys are prepared to be without the All-Pro receiver for up to six weeks. Other experts say be prepared for longer than that. (See the best thing you'll read on the topic here.)
Said Romo: "Dez is a tough loss. You can’t replace Dez Bryant. I hurt for him right now because I know how much he loves to play this game."
Bryant demonstrated that love when his victorious teammates trotted through the bowels of AT&T Stadium to the locker room, where he gave them a rousing welcome as seen here:
Bryant's enthusiasm probably caused his exit in the first half Sunday due to dehydration. He eventually returned before the foot injury ended his night with five catches for 48 yards and a locker-room TV view of Jason Witten grabbing two late TD passes.
Dallas will have to rely on its Hall-of-Fame tight end, his backup Escobar, receivers Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Devin Street and the running-back-by-committee combo to exhibit better ball control than some of them did here while enduring Bryant's absence.
"No one can replace Dez Bryant," said Romo, who finished 36-of-45 passes for 356 yards and three touchdowns as Dallas came from 10 down midway through the final period and six down with seven seconds left. "But it’s my job to help that whole situation.”
FishTip Prediction 5) Cole Beasley would be the punt returner, Lance Dunbar would be the kick returner and their work, along with special-team coverage guys like Danny McCray might be your decider against Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys-turned-Giants return man.
Result: Thanks to Dan Bailey as a kickoff guy and Kyle Wilber with a punt-coverage hit, Harris was rendered invisible. A huge Dallas victory here.
FishTip Prediction 6) The D-line pressure won’t just help this in-question Dallas secondary get some loose balls; it can also free Sean Lee to make his trademark ballhawk plays.
Result: Thanks to Dallas’ offensive hairballs, the Cowboys actually lost the turnover battle 0-to-3. And Carr and company were left with a bunch of almost-takeaways. But Lee? No, no steals. But nine tackles to lead the Cowboys, just as a Pro Bowl-contending linebacker should do.
I’m sore,'' said Lee, who has waited oh-so-long for this. "It’s the first time I’ve played in awhile. It was fun, but I’m sure the next two days will be pretty tough.''
FishTip Prediction 7) Ex-New Yorker Osi Umenyiora predicted Dallas would lose by three TDs here. This wasn’t a sound football-based concept; rather, it was Osi trying to bring attention to himself, to get on ESPN, to maybe replace another former Giants pass-rusher Michael Strahan on TV.
“So Umenyiora and Kelly Ripa Live’’ as a nice ring to it, no?
My predicted score wasn’t that Dallas would lose by 21 points. It was Cowboys 26, Giants 20.
I got the “26’’ almost right. Hey, take away a stupid defensive score for NY and I’m on the money on the “20,’’ too.
But now? It’s back to the Dallas gameplan room — and back to the FishTips drawing board — for 0-1 Philadelphia.