The Dallas Cowboys got into the winning column for the first time this season by defeating the New York Giants 20-13 on Sunday night. The offense finally showed some life while the defense continues to suck the life out of their opponents. It was a strong collective team effort and there was a lot of good in this game. Here are my 10 thoughts on the Cowboys victory over the Giants.
1. Quick out of the gate
After failing to score any points in the first three quarters last week against the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys struck quickly against the Giants. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, Dak Prescott hit Tavon Austin deep for a 64-yard touchdown. Dallas drove down again on their second drive and kick a field goal. Just like that, the Cowboys offense had 139 yards of offense and a 10-0 lead.
It was exactly the start Cowboys fans needed to see.
2. Taming the Nittany Lion
Star rookie running back Saquon Barkley was held to only 28 yards on 11 carries for an average of just 2.5 yards per rush. The wait was on for him to break a big run, but that time never came as the Cowboys defense did a great job containing him. Barkley was very productive for the Giants as a receiver, leading the team with 80 yards on 14 catches. Every time he would get out in space, he would elude a defender and took a small gain into a bigger gain.
It was a great performance by the defense and the Giants are lucky that they got what they did from their rookie star.
If the Cowboys could tackle #26, the Giants would have about 15 yards if offense.— rabblerousr (@rabblerousr) September 17, 2018
Barkley would consistently make the first guy miss and turn no gain into a good gain. Fortunately, the Cowboys were able to keep him from breaking out a huge play.
3. Zeke was sleek
Barkley wasn’t the only running back that couldn’t get things going on the ground. Ezekiel Elliott was held to just 78 yards, which is his fourth-lowest rushing total of his career. Coming into Sunday night’s game, anytime Zeke has been held to under 80 yards, the Cowboys have lost, but Elliott ended that streak.
While the yardage totals wasn’t impressive, you have to tip your cap to Elliott for how well he ground out his yards. Elliott had several nice runs where he was initially stopped for little gain, only to keep those legs churning and get a bigger gain. It was this type of fight that helped him score the touchdown that sealed the win for the Cowboys.
Final nail in the coffin. Touchdown Zeke! pic.twitter.com/pyx9PF9MDR— Bruce Matson (@BMatz08) September 17, 2018
4. Challenge accepted
Giants All-Pro safety Landon Collins led it be known that they weren’t going to let Elliott and the Cowboys running attack beat them. It would all come down to the arm of Dak Prescott. While Dak did a good job protecting the ball and had a couple nice strikes early, he really didn’t do much in the air. Prescott finished 16/25 with only 160 yards, which is his sixth-worst yardage total of his career. Fortunately, there is more to Prescott than his arm as Dak would rush for a career high 45 yards.
It wasn’t a large amount rushing yards, but Prescott made great decisions when he chose to run the ball. These plays were big in helping the Cowboys offense keep the chains moving and told us that the coaching staff plans to use every bit of Prescott’s skills to help them win the game.
5. It’s a sack party and everyone’s invited
The Cowboys defense would sack Eli Manning six times on the evening. Many figured that Giants tackle Ereck Flowers would be a huge liability and that DeMarcus Lawrence would be in for a big game. Tank played well and sacked Manning, but he was just one of six different Cowboys plays that brought the Giants quarterback down. Taco Charlton, Tyrone Crawford, and Antwaun Woods were the defensive linemen who joined Lawrence with a sack, but both Damien Wilson and Kavon Frazier would also get in on the action when they blitzed from the edge.
It was a rough day for Eli.
When you finally see the ghost Scooby was talking about.... pic.twitter.com/yatc3h6oi1— "The Big D" Rusty Shackleford アダム (@TwoBitWhackJob) September 17, 2018
Ruh roh raggy!
6. Rebound game for the offensive line
The Cowboys sacked Eli six times, but it seems like just last week that Prescott was the one getting sacked six times. Because he was. But this week was different as the Cowboys quarterback was never sacked on Sunday night. The offensive line did a good job blocking for Prescott.
Connor Williams played much better than he did in his debut last week. Both Tyron Smith (false start) and La’el Collins (holding) had penalties, but it wasn’t an epidemic this week. They had one series where holding penalties wiped out two first downs that the offense had converted, forcing them into a 3rd and 21, which ultimately wasn’t converted.
7. No Lee, no problem
The Cowboys selected Leighton Vander Esch in the first round of April’s draft and the decision was met with criticism. And with the improved play of Jaylon Smith and the entire linebacker group, it started to look like it wasn’t the best use of that top draft resource. But the Cowboys aren’t thinking about need and they believed Vander Esch would be a good piece for their future. After losing Sean Lee to injury many times throughout his career, having a top young linebacker could come in handy. And sure enough, Lee would come out against the Giants as he was dealing with a hamstring injury. It doesn’t seem severe and the team held Lee out late in the game for precautionary reasons, but the Cowboys defense didn’t flinch.
Not only is this Cowboys defense playing at a high level, but they don’t seem to be dependent on their biggest defensive playmaker from season’s past.
8. Web-back extraordinarre
The Cowboys actually used Tavon Austin about as much as they did last week, but it sure didn’t feel like it. And that’s because they plays he was used for turned out to be big ones. Austin not only had the big touchdown catch on the first drive of the game, but he also had a nice run on a reverse play that netted 15 yards and helped move the chains in the Cowboys second scoring drive.
It looked promising that he was going to be a bigger part of the offense based on his success early, but then the team just stopped using him. It’s hard to understand Scott Linehan’s thinking on Tavon’s usage, but we’re just glad he had some big plays against the Giants.
9. Rico was open
The Cowboys activated Rico Gathers, allowing him to make his NFL debut. We didn’t see much of him, but he would’ve had his first career touchdown pass if Dak would have made an accurate throw.
Rico got loose in the end zone and Prescott was looking his way. Unfortunately, Dak’s feet weren’t set when he threw the ball and the pass sailed out of the end zone. Will we see more of Rico next week?
10. Cowboys lead the East
Last week was filled with gloom and doom as the Cowboys were facing a potential 0-2 start if they didn’t beat the Giants Sunday night. Well, not only did they win the game, but thanks to a loss from the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins, the Cowboys now hold the division lead. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Redskins are all tied with a 1-1 record, but Dallas is 1-0 in the division which gives them the tiebreaker.
It’s early, but as of now - our Cowboys lead the East.