Friday, November 25, 2011

Miami Dolphins 19 at Dallas Cowboys 20 - November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! For me, it was a great day highlighted by a pretty good football game at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. The Miami Dolphins were visiting and with both teams riding 3-game win streaks, I had high hopes of witnessing a good battle, and I wasn't disappointed.

Dallas Cowboys Stadium

Everything is bigger in Texas, and this stadium is no different. Cowboys' owner Jerry Jones opened this monster of a venue in 2009 amongst much fanfare. It is the largest domed stadium in the world, seating 80,000 with room for an extra 30,000 persons standing. I could write dozens of "largest" or "most" facts about this place, but such a statement becomes too much about the numbers rather than the fan experience. Suffice to say that Cowboys Stadium is very big and very impressive.

The stadium is located in Arlington, next to the Texas Rangers Ballpark, which is visible to the east.

The first thing to note is how outrageously expensive parking is. I didn't see prices next to lots as they are all for season ticket holders, but judging from people selling parking, you would expect to pay around $75. Park at nearby businesses was $30. There may be free parking around, but I was staying close enough that I didn't have to look for it. There is also a shuttle bus from Fort Worth that costs $10 round trip, so not really worth it if you have more than two people.

Once you have taken care of your transport, you will need to get tickets. These are also very expensive, but relative to the parking, not as much of a rip-off. You can buy a Party Pass at $29, which allows for access to the stadium but no seat. There are party decks at both end zones where you can stand, but these were quite crowded.

There are four levels of seating, but if you want to sit between the 20-yard-lines, you will be looking at the 400 level as the other 3 have club seats in the prime locations. The first six rows of this level are the Sideline loge and cost $149. This section is separated from those above by a wall, which means that row 9 of the upper deck is the first row in that section. Seats here range from $75 to $109. There are 27 seats per row up here, but only one listed entrance per section. However, you can walk behind the sideline loge seats to another stairwell which is not visible from the concourse. It takes 4 escalators to get up to the 400 level, but the seats aren't that terrible. Binocular rentals are available for $10 though.

Clubs and suites ticket holders have their own entrance to the stadium which are essentially on the north and south side. Below is shot of field level suites, which would seem to be a poor location for actually watching the game as the sidelines are packed with a lot of people.

The rest of us enter through one of two plazas, depending on your ticket. These areas are filled with promotion, large TV screens, and concessions and are a good place to enjoy the weather before the game. Note that lineups at some gates were huge, perhaps 20-30 minutes to get in, but I found one nearby that had no waiting, so walk around if you have time. Below is the AT&T Plaza, located on the west side of the stadium.

Once you are inside, you will immediately notice the insanely huge HD video screen, which is so compelling that you might forget that you are at the game. The screen is 160 feet long by 72 feet high, and the quality is incredible. The picture above shows it from the corner of the end zone on the lower concourse, while the shot below is from an upper deck seat, where you can see how big it is in relation to the stands.

For a while, I sat close to the action, as you can see below. Ha, fooled you! This picture is taken directly from the screen. Truly amazing.

Concessions are plentiful but not particularly varied. I had a chopped BBQ burger for $8.50 and it was OK. Nachos were the plate of choice judging from the locals. An interesting option is a huge dill pickle for just $3. If you don't plan to drink, then sign up for the Designated Driver program to get a free bottle of water, which is normally $5. There are vendors walking though the stands, including some selling $16 margaritas, which were surprisingly popular.

Restrooms were crowded at halftime and after the game, with long lines at both. Plan to avoid them if at all possible, if not, use one of the many TV timeouts to dash down.

The Ring of Honor is between two suite levels and contains the names of 20 Cowboys who have been honored for their service to the club. Below are a couple of names you might recognize.

The Art Program is a collection of sculptures and paintings scattered throughout the stadium. It is a cool idea and adds some colour where otherwise you would be looking at concrete. I saw a few of them but this is the only one I could snap without other fans blocking the view.

Overall, this is one of the most amazing sports venues I have seen. It is unfortunate that it costs so much, but I cannot argue with supply and demand. The Cowboys are like the Yankees, and fans are paying to be part of the experience. After today's game, I can see the appeal; I hope to come back soon, perhaps to try the party pass and spend more money on food and drink.

Finally a couple of comparison shots, one at sunrise above (thanks jet lag!) and one in the afternoon below.

The Game

The first half was pretty crap as neither team could do much with the ball. Tony Romo (above, practicing his holds) threw two picks in the Cowboys' first three possessions, but Miami couldn't capitalize, getting just a field goal from Shane Graham (below) after the second interception.

Dallas tied the game when Dan Bailey hit a 32-yard FG with 4:42 left in the half. After both teams followed with ugly 3-and-out possessions, Miami took over from their 28 with 1:45 left. On 2nd and 9, QB Matt Moore bobbled the snap and the ball bounced back toward the end zone. Dallas LB DeMarcus Ware reached it first and the Cowboys had possession on the Dolphins' 5-yard line.

Romo wasted no time, hitting a crossing Laurent Robinson on the first play and the Cowboys had the lead 10-3. It was Robinson's 5th consecutive game with a TD. Miami ended the half with a decent drive, helped by a pass interference call, but again they could not find the end zone and settled for a field goal to make the halftime score 10-6 Dallas.

The 3rd quarter was a nightmare for the home team. Miami used nearly 7 minutes on their first possession, moving the ball down to the Dallas 9 before being forced to again kick a field goal. After the Cowboys did nothing on their subsequent possession, the Dolphins scored quickly, when Moore hit Brandon Marshall for a 35-yard touchdown. Marshall was being choked by Terence Newman but still managed to make an outstanding catch and the Dolphins led 16-10.

I'm open Matt! Look at me!

Dallas drove to the Miami 23 as time expired in the 3rd. The first play of the fourth was a pass to Jason Witten who gained 18 yards before being forced out of bounds, where he slammed into a cheerleader. She was unhurt, quickly getting up and smiling to the crowd. On the next play, Romo again found a streaking Robinson in the end zone to tie the game. After the extra point, the Cowboys led 17-16.

The Dolphins then drove another 7 minutes, helped by two Dallas penalties, only to be stopped 5 yards short of the goal line. Graham hit his 4th field goal of the game and Miami was poised to upset Dallas, leading 19-17 with 7 minutes left.

The Cowboys couldn't execute on their following drive, and Miami took over with 4:47 left, needing a couple of first downs to really put the game away. But they went 3 and out and Dallas had one last chance, taking possession at their 36 with 2:59 left.

A 23-yard pass to Witten put the Cowboys into Miami territory and two good runs by DeMarco Murray (#29 above) brought the ball to the 20 with 1:52 left. This was easily close enough for Bailey, but the Cowboys needed to take time off the clock, which they did with Murray running 3 times for 12 yards. After Romo knelt, the Cowboys took their final timeout with 3 seconds left. Bailey calmly walked out and booted a 28-yarder to win the game as time expired. It was his 26th consecutive made FG and sent the fans home happy.

In reality though, this was not a good game. Yes, the finish was exciting, but neither team was effective. Miami outplayed the Cowboys but could not get a TD in the red zone, going 0-4 with a FG to show for every trip. If you are a Cowboys' fan, you should be worried; your team will not do well in the playoffs if they don't improve their offense.


Kudos to the Cowboys for showing all highlights, not just those that are good for the home team. Fans deserve to see replays of any meaningful action.

Former 1st overall pick Jake Long had a terrible game, getting flagged for three false start penalties as well as an obvious hold. He was beaten a couple of times for sacks as well.

The cheerleaders live up to the hype, performing before the game and at several points during and being very energetic and pretty good as well. The best use of the large screen is when they show close ups of them. You can see the cameraman in the shot below; not a bad job.

The national anthem was sung by a boy band known as Big Time Rush. As a Canadian, I believe no other band should be allowed to use the word Rush in their name.

There was also a halftime concert but I didn't bother watching. It amazed me though how quickly they can disassemble a stage; it took less than 2 minutes from the concert ending until the field was ready for play.

The last time an NFC East team defeated an AFC East team by a 20-19 score? The Giants Super Bowl victory over the Bills back in 1991. Ugh.

Next Up

Leafs at Stars tomorrow night! Hoping for a visitor victory in this one.




  1. Sean,

    Did the Leafs not invite you to their box??

    What's up with that?


  2. They invited me, but I had to turn them down as I had a better seat!