Pre-season is about running the routes, making the blocks and completing the plays. Effectively, it's oiling the machine ahead of the regular season and in the admirable name of the Make A Wish foundation, the Munich Cowboys hosted the US Eagles, a selection of American college players amongst others, for their preseason test drive.
This week's NFL draft has dominated the sporting headlines on the other side of the pond and Garrett Andrews' arrival has all the excitement of a round one pick about it. The wide receiver was one of the best players for the Cowboys on an afternoon where a positive opening was nearly overshadow by a late surge from the away side in a game finishing 26-24 in the Cowboys favour.
Early on, first-choice quarterback Patrick Carey took a little time to shake off the rust spoiling an encouraging drive with an interception as the Cowboys entered the red zone. It was the defense who stole the show at the start and most notably, Ryan Newell. Along with the arrival of another leader in Bill Doody, a move Newell has hailed as important for the team, the defense applied uncomfortable pressure on visiting quarterback Chris Dillon. An early safety from Newell set the tone for a game that included sacks from the impressive Tobias Unger and Effe Can Kara.
Carey soon followed suit as the home side started to respond to the positive effect their teammates were having on each other. The game came to life when line-backer Alexander Boehm picked off Dillon's pass, returning it agonisingly short of the end zone. Daniel Nentwich, a defensive back who came in after star running-back Fabien Gaernter's injury absence, rushed in for the score on the following play though, giving the Cowboys a 9-0 lead. Despite a hurry-up drive in the dying embers of the first half, the Eagles fell just short.
Post half time, the sun had started to fade but the play stayed enticing as the Cowboy's offense came into its own. Javan Hendrix, normally a wide receiver, ate up the field on his kick return, making things a whole lot easier for Carey and his offense. They didn't disappoint either as Carey picked out Andrews for a 35-yard touchdown pass to execute a swift drive.
The Eagles did get on the board but not until midway through the third quarter, a real sign of how strong the Cowboys' defense had been. Almost in reward, the offense stepped up and Carey placed a perfect ball into the outstretched hands of who-else-but Andrews for a 68-yard touchdown pass. 23-6 and with the contest seemingly over, coach Craig rung the changes, most notably the versatile Markus Gaertner was given the opportunity to chance his arm.
Dillon threw a 5-yard touchdown to Torrance Brown, playing his last game, and despite not getting the two point conversion, another touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter left things a little closer than desired. As the clouds gathered up above and the thunder started to rumble, so did the Eagles. A Robert Werner field goal steadied the nerves of the home side but a late Ben Ball touchdown for the visitors threatened to spoil the party. However, some big plays from Daniel Nentwich on the run allowed the Cowboys to successfully run down the clock and leave the field as winners.
Despite an obvious increased media attention, Andrews said he "just felt humbled and privileged to be being playing football again. Their defense had a good day today but we are really gelling as a team." There can be no doubt that the wide receiver has changed the mood and the performance in camp, coach Craig even joked afterwards saying, "Patrick came up to me in the third quarter I think, and said thank you, thank you for getting Garrett Andrews."
As much as Andrews has become the new face of success at the Cowboys, credit must be given to "the ten-man coaching team that has made such a big difference." Defensive coordinator Garren Holley has been hailed as a real mastermind and as much as Andrews' quality is clearly having an impact on the team, the fact others are improving their own game is a sign of quality coaching.
Bernhard Hunzinger, Moussa Ndiye and Johannes Aumann were three wide receivers that seized on Andrews' ability by notably upping their own performance. "The new boys came in and did a great job," said Craig and when asked about how impressed he was with his defense on the day, he simply responded with "Yes, very."
Credit must, and was, given to the Eagles for their performance particularly in the context of how much of an effort it was organising the team. However, that shouldn't reduce the value of this Cowboys' victory. On offence, Craig's men possess a strong quarterback, a playmaking wide receiver and, on this showing, evidently more than one power runner. In defence, they have two leading linebackers and a host of improving defensive ends. The future is looking good, some may even say black and yellow but as diligent coach Craig said, "I had to ask someone who we were playing in week two because I'm not looking past Franken on the 11th [May]." Neither should we.