IRVING, TX - The Cowboys Stadium roof and end zone doors were open, the star was at midfield, and all the frills of the six Party Pass decks were on display. A record-setting 105,121 fans were in attendance, the most to attend a regular season NFL game.
All that was missing was a Cowboys win to top it off.
But to the players, the 33-31 loss to the Giants didn't take away the icing on the Cowboys Stadium cake. It took away the cake completely.
"It's definitely a saddening mood to it," said wide receiver Patrick Crayton. "We've got to start to look for Carolina now."
How the loss affected Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones, though, is unknown since Jones never spoke to the media. Jones has much invested in the stadium, emotionally and financially, and head coach Wade Phillips said the team really wanted to win the game for him, a sentiment echoed by many players.
"We can make up for it by doing better the rest of the season," Phillips said.
Many players said that the hype of the stadium's opening only had positive effects on the game, not distracting ones.
"The fans were fantastic tonight," said starting quarterback Tony Romo. "I just suspect we're going to have a wonderful home field advantage throughout the rest of the season with this place. The energy that surrounds it is amazing."
Stadium doors opened at 3 p.m., a full four-and-a-half hours before kickoff. Party Pass-holders immediately rushed to get the best vantage point on the six standing-room-only decks. A live band performed outside the stadium before kickoff. The star at midfield was unveiled before the players were introduced, former President and First Lady George and Laura Bush presided over the coin toss, and the Ring of Honor was put in place in a halftime ceremony in which most of the Ring's members participated.
One member, Hall-of-Fame receiver Michael Irvin, said he purposefully avoided coming to Cowboys Stadium during the preseason so that he could get the full experience Sunday night.
"Emmitt and I were just talking about that - 'Wow, what a stadium this is,'" Irvin said. "It would have been nice to have lined up and had an opportunity to play in this stadium. It would have been incredible."
Cowboys Succeed In Run Game
The Cowboys didn't need to run the ball when Romo threw for 353 yards in the season opener against the Buccaneers, but Sunday night they proved they could be a dominant run team.
The Cowboys racked up 251 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on only 29 run plays. The rushing total was the most by a Cowboys' offense since posting 271 in a 1993 win against the Eagles. In that game, Emmitt Smith rushed for a single-game record 237 yards.
But on this night, the Cowboys did it with two backs. Marion Barber rushed 18 times for 124 yards, and Felix Jones narrowly missed the century mark with 96 yards.
Both backs scored a touchdown and posted big gains, a 35-yard run for Barber and a 56-yard strike for Jones.
"They have three good backs that can break it and change the game at any time," said Giants cornerback Corey Webster. "You've got to try to keep those guys contained and keep them in front and inside. We had a couple of times where they got some big runs."
Tashard Choice was the odd man out of the running-back rotation, receiving only two carries and rushing for eight yards.
Tuck Calls Out Flo
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck left the game after injuring his shoulder in the second quarter when Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams was flagged for tripping him.
It turns out Tuck is not a silent sufferer, as he had some choice words about Adams' penalty after the game.
"I think it was bush league," Tuck said. "He did it a few times in this game. Unfortunately, he only got called once."
Tuck did not return to the game, but some fireworks could be in store the next time the two teams meet if Tuck is healthy.
"I'd like to have had the rest of the game to punish him for it," Tuck said.
Defense Still Searching
After leading the entire NFL in sacks last season, the Cowboys find themselves in last after two games.
Sure it's only two games, but the Cowboys have yet to record one sack. Last year, the club never went one game without a sack, much less consecutive games to start the season.
If that's not enough, the Cowboys still haven't recorded a turnover on defense. That's after finishing near the bottom in the NFL in 2008 with just eight interceptions.