Wade Phillips was the fall guy for a team that just didn't play up to expectations, the talent on the roster or with the sense of urgency every team has to have if they want to win.
As interim coach Jason Garrett said after the game, "The players understood the quick transition required to turn this around."
Owner Jerry Jones said he was hopeful the team could look to Garrett in the future, but for now, it was good for the fans to see a change. It's easy to say firing Phillips was just what the doctor ordered. Let's take a look at this game vs. the rest to see where things were different.
What makes the study interesting is the game was on the road against the top team in the NFC that had already beaten the Cowboys in Week 7. Maybe the most impressive issue the Cowboys addressed was their production on first down. On 20 first down calls, Dallas gained 208 yards on 11 runs and nine passes.
Call it a sense of urgency, a risk of losing your job, professional pride, a wakeup call or anything you want, but the Cowboys played better and the numbers indicate just where the team improved. Don't forget, they did it against an offense and defense ranked among the top five in each category. In one week, Dallas reduced penalties, mistakes, created better field position, extended drives and scored twice as many points as they usually do on the road.
The Cowboys looked like they concentrated, did the little things and refused to shoot themselves in the foot. The credit for the turnaround needs to go to Garrett more than anyone else. Jones has to keep a low profile and let Garrett stand in front of this team and convince the players he's the boss.
Go watch the game again and realize the team called 23 run plays and 27 pass plays, which is much more balanced than in previous games. The offensive line did a much better job, giving up just one sack against one of the best pass-rushing units in the NFL.
While the defense held the Giants to 20 points, it still needs to get a better pass rush among other things. The defense did a nice job of not letting 10-plus play drives end in touchdowns. The Giants had three such drives, two ended in interceptions and one in a field goal. That is a bend-but-don't-break philosophy that can be the foundation of the future for new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.
The Cowboys didn't wait for the Giants to lose the game. Instead, they went out and took the win. To revert back to bad habits is not an option, and if the film review indicates there are still guys not playing up to Garrett's standards, I trust he will show them the bench.
If Garrett can keep the Cowboys running the ball, minimizing mistakes, playing better pass defense and make sure they practice in pads for the rest of the season, they will succeed.
Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson kept the pressure on the Cowboys players and never let up. Garrett knows how to do it if left alone. Dallas has a chance at respectability and, more importantly, stability. This was just one game and no reasonable football person will convince themselves all is well. But going forward, nothing less than the Week 10 performance is acceptable.