The Dallas Cowboys opened up the 2016 campaign with plenty of question marks as they would feature a fourth-round rookie quarterback as well as a decent, at best, defense. It was clear that Ezekiel Elliottshould have grand success behind The Grand Wall of Dallas, but very little else was certain. Dez Bryant was coming off of an injury-filled season, Tony Romo was out for the foreseeable future, Jason Witten was getting older, and concern rightfully remained about the poor pass rush and marginal play in the secondary. Fast forward one year and we all know how last season went. Dallas set multiple franchise records on their way to a 13-3 mark which was good enough to win the NFC and earn them a home game against the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round. During the course of the season, Dallas opened up with a home loss to the Giants, then saw their 11 game winning streak end in New York, then lost a meaningless game in Philadelphia and had a heartbreaking loss against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to end their season.
Both losses to the Giants had a few things in common. The following statistics do not take the final regular season game in Philadelphia into account given that it was predominantly played by backups.
- Two of the three worst offensive showings of the season, in terms of yards gained, were against the New York Giants. Additionally, during the second Giants game, it was the only time all season that the Cowboys had three turnovers. As a result, Dallas tallied two of its lowest three games in terms of points scored versus the Giants.
- While the offense struggled mightily against the Giants, the defense actually played quite well. In terms of yards allowed, the Cowboys defense limited the Giants for two of their top five defensive performances of the season. While the Giants are best known for the offensive attack with their trio of wide receivers, Dallas limited Eli Manning to only 203 yards (first game) and 167 (second game) yards. During these games, Dallas forced four total turnovers against Eli Manning and Co.
- The stars for the Dallas Cowboys did not come out to play. Dez Bryant was targeted 14 times but only had 2 catches for 18 total yards. In addition to his poor play, Dez recorded a fumble. It was clear all season that Dak Prescott was excellent under pressure but against the Giants, he recorded two of his four interceptions, both of which came with forced passes to Dez Bryant. This is all consistent with Dak recording his lowest QBR and completion percentage against the Giants this season.
What remains the case for these two heavyweights is how potent both offenses are, and how great the Giants defense is. After this recent draft and acquisition of defensive talent, the Cowboys appear to be better equipped in the secondary and along the defensive line. What is interesting is that both Cowboys losses were highlighted by a blitz-heavy New York team that limited Zeke’s rushing attack and Dak’s down-field attack. While Dallas did improve their ability to defend the Giants, it remains to be seen if the Cowboys did anything to combat the Giants defensive onslaught. With the losses to two of the five starters along the offensive line, can the 2017 season be any different for the Cowboys against the Giants?