Hardy Shines In NFL Return, Tallies Two Sacks In Cowboys Loss To Patriots
If there was any one person who needed a good Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium, it was…sorry, Jerry, not even close. Twenty years and counting of football failings makes you an eternal work in progress. And nobody, Jerry, has the time or the patience to await the finished product.
Whereas Jerry Jones’ football epitaph has already been determined, Greg Hardy’s is still up to his own making. The world may have buried him as a person, but, as of yet, can’t touch his playing ability with nearly the same emphasis.
Hardy was one in a long line of domestic violence unfortunates that racked the NFL last season. And though he was never convicted by a jury, social pressures compelled first the first the Carolina Panthers to suspend him for 15 games in 2015, and then the NFL to tag him with a four-game penalty to start off 2015 with.
And then came a very curious countdown this week for Hardy. If ever there was a false start to a debut, Hardy’s first meeting with the press as a Cowboy was certainly it. Perhaps it was only fitting, considering that Hardy’s No. 76 was formerly worn by left tackle Flozell Adams, a noted false-start artist during his twelve years in Dallas.
Hardy was eager to prove to the world that he was a changed man, so eager in fact that his tongue got the better of him. When asked by reporters about his expectations for his first NFL action in more than a year, Hardy said that he hopes he would come out with “guns-a-blazing.”
Having angered liberal activists across the nation, Hardy then set out to make peace with the women of America, reciting an awkward personal soliloquy of sorts focusing on the genetic superiority of Tom Brady’s wife.
That, above all else, drew the ire of Hardy’s head coach Jason Garrett, who for some obscure reason, doesn’t want his players acting the part of judges at a Miss America pageant.
Especially with the wife of an opposing quarterback. Especially when the said quarterback is Tom Brady.
Fortunately for Hardy, the professionalism which he lacked off of the playing field showed up between the lines in a big way during the Cowboys’ Sunday afternoon tilt versus New England. The Patriots, a team that works the short, quick passing game to perfection on a weekly basis, was out of its rhythm early, and didn’t have to look very far to find the primary cause.
Hardy made quick work of Patriots left tackle Nate Solder, going around him and hitting Brady on just the third snap of the game. On the next play, he teamed up with Cowboys linebacker Rolando McClain to sack Brady for the first time, which forced a punt. His takedown of Brady on New England’s ensuing possession helped stall yet another drive.
The Patriots tried to stave off the pass-rush by placing Marcus Cannon in one-on-one situations with Hardy. That didn’t work either, Hardy taking Brady down from behind again later in the second quarter.
For those Cowboy fans who are of the opinion that Hardy shouldn’t even be playing football anymore, a pause to consider just how ugly events would have turned for their team had he not been in the lineup seems to be in order. Hardy was the difference that prevented a disturbing bludgeoning in Dallas, and at the very least gave the Cowboys a fighters chance to pull off the upset over the world champs.
With Hardy on the field making life miserable for Brady, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was given an assortment of options to use. During the first two quarters, he chose to be aggressive, a tactic that worked better than anyone could have hoped for.
Brady was sacked a career-high five times in the first half, while the defense limited New England to 132 total yards, and a 1-of-6 conversion rate on third-down. Hardy, it should be noted, reached Brady on each of New England’s first five possessions.
In the second half, Belichick and Co. made the only adjustment that they could by double-and-triple-teaming Hardy regularly. What amounted to a last-ditch effort from the Patriots coaching staff worked to perfection, as Hardy was held in check and New England pulled away for the victory.
Considering the final score, nobody can rightly say it was the greatest of days for Greg Hardy. But it wasn’t exactly an afternoon of bad news either. And that in itself is the best news that football fans have heard of Hardy in a long, long time.