It was a game that was far too close for most of the way. But the Dallas Cowboys finally pulled away from a feisty New York Giants team to win a crucial NFC East matchup and stay in control of the division. It was a game that felt all too close to getting out of hand until the fourth quarter, when you might say that Dak Prescott took things over to get to the final 37-18 score.
Fittingly, one of the memorable moments of the game came when a black cat got on the field in the first half. Up until that point, the Cowboys had frankly been outplayed by the Giants. They certainly were making the kinds of mistakes we had seen in the three game losing streak, with Dak Prescott throwing a frankly horrible interception to Antoine Bethea on the first play of the game. It was deep in Dallas territory, because Tony Pollard misplayed the opening kickoff and put his team at their own 11 to start the drive. And Randall Cobb coughed the ball up early in the second quarter as well. But from the brief visit by the feline (who escaped safely) on, things took a turn the Cowboys’ way. First, trailing 12-3 with less than a minute until halftime, Prescott found Blake Jarwin, who has been a true nemesis for New York, for a 42 yard touchdown to pull within two. Then, after the Giants tried to go deep to get a shot at another score, Xavier Woods picked Daniel Jones off and returned it to the Giants’ 39. The Cowboys took a shot at the end zone, but had to settle for a 52 yard Brett Maher field goal to take a one point lead into halftime. It was the narrowest of margins, but they never trailed again.
Partly, that was because Prescott, who of course is famed for not being able to take a game over late the way Carson Wentz does, took the game over as mentioned with two touchdown throws in the fourth quarter. The first was a 15 yard score by Michael Gallup, who made an Olympic-quality vault to get into the end zone. Then, nursing just a five point lead midway through the fourth and facing a third and twelve, Prescott found Amari Cooper, who had been relatively quiet until that point, for a 45 yard touchdown that stretched the lead to 12. The final score was padded when, with just seconds left, Daniel Jones had the ball knocked from his hand by Dorance Armstrong and Jourdan Lewis, playing the extra reps he has earned, scooped and scored to push it to the final margin.
The Cowboys had certainly more than their share of errors to overcome, and not just the turnovers. They allowed not one but two long kickoff returns by Cody Latimer, who wound up with 181 return yards in all. The special teams were just not good for most of the night in coverage, but they did make Latimer pay a bit with some hard hits later in the game. The defense also allowed Saquon Barkley one long play, a 65 yard reception that got all the way to the Dallas 11. And there were far too many penalties, which just made the whole game harder than it should have been.
But the defense also was very stout in the red zone, only allowing one touchdown on five trips by the Giants. Having to settle for field goals so many times instead was the real killer for New York. And they tallied three total takeaways, with Jones losing an earlier fumble that was knocked loose by Lewis and Woods and fallen on by Darian Thompson. The pass rush was also quite effective on the night, notching five sacks and eleven quarterback hits. There were also several tackles for a loss, including a vintage Sean Lee diagnose and destroy play to help snuff out any comeback by the Giants. DeMarcus Lawrence had another good game, and it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys handle the half sack credited by ESPN to Robert Quinn, as he was one sack away from earning a big bonus coming into the game. Oh, and Michael Bennett worked out just fine, with three total tackles, including a sack.
Ezekiel Elliott didn’t score a touchdown in the game, but he amassed 139 yards rushing. Prescott had the three touchdown passes to offset his interception, and 257 yards passing plus a couple of key runs. The Cowboys offense had 30 points and 400 plus yards again.
Brett Maher missed a 54 yard field goal on a night that reportedly was rather windy, but he redeemed himself with a 52 yarder, and had no problem on the shorter kicks, two other FGs and four extra points. It was a better night than his counterpart, Aldrick Rojas, who clanked one PAT off the upright.
The win was good and the final score looks impressive, but this was a very flawed game by the Cowboys, with another slow start on the road and all those miscues. But unlike the trip to the New Orleans Saints and that still inexplicable loss to the New York Jets in this same stadium, they pulled themselves together and overcame it all. They have a lot to work on, including too many drops, but this was really just a case of the superior team being able to overcome things, while the opponent couldn’t.
Most importantly, Dallas is still on top of the division, and showed they could move the ball and get crucial stops. At 5-3, they are in much better shape than last season at the same point (when they were 3-5 for those with short memories). And that led to the playoffs. That dream is still very much alive for Dallas.