Football is back! Man, what a good feeling that is.
The Dallas Cowboys have played their first game of the 2019 NFL season, and boy was it a beauty. It wasn’t all that surprising that they beat the New York Giants in the opener, extending their winning streak against them to five games, but there were still things that happened in the game we weren’t quite expecting. Here are ten thoughts on the Cowboys 35-17 win over the Giants.
1. Not the start we were hoping for
The Cowboys offense was able to get a couple first downs when Dak Prescott hit Amari Cooper, but then sputtered at midfield. It was no big deal as a punt pinned the Giants inside their own 10-yard line. The defense missed a big opportunity when Xavier Woods knocked the ball out of Saquon Barkley on the Giants first play from scrimmages. The Giants were able to recover and Barkley then scampered off for a big 59-yard run. New York put together a 91-yard opening drive to give them a 7-0 early lead.
2. Picking up right where he left off
The last time these two teams squared off, Blake Jarwin went off, catching seven passes for 119 yards, and three touchdowns. It was as if the Giants had no desire to cover him. Well, they were up to their old tricks again because Jarwin was left wide open for a 28-yard reception over the middle. Prescott was so excited about how wide open Jarwin was that he didn’t even have a full grip on the ball when he released it.
When a guy is so wide open that you can't even wait to grip the ball correctly before throwing it. pic.twitter.com/QaeR96yG4k— Dan Rogers (@DannyPhantom24) September 9, 2019
3. Great timeout by Garrett
The Cowboys caught a huge break when it looked like a “12-men on defense” penalty was going to give the Giants a first down before a third-and-short play. Jason Garrett was able to get a timeout called just in the nick of time before it became a penalty. Giants coach Pat Shurmur was livid about the officials granting the Cowboys a timeout, but former Vice President of NFL Officiating, now turned FOX analyst, Mike Pereira, said they will error on the side of allowing the timeout.
It turned out to be huge as Eli Manning got called for an intentional grounding penalty that foiled any opportunity to go for it on fourth down.
4. The Dak attack
Dak Prescott did not enter this game any richer as there was no contract extension done prior to the game, but he has to be feeling pretty good now. After the first drive stalled, the Cowboys put together five-consecutive touchdown scoring drives to put the team comfortably in the drivers seat, 35-10 late in the third quarter. Prescott was sensational. He finished the game 25-for-32 for 405 yards and four touchdowns. Dak had a perfect passer rating of 158.3 for the first time in his career. Not only did he have a career-high in passing yards, but he was extremely efficient as his 12.7 yards per attempt was also a personal best.
Not only was Dak airing it out, but he was sharing the love. Check out the distribution of his throws:
5. The Moore Regeneration
Wow. Just wow.
There were a lot reasons to be excited about this Cowboys offense this season, and luckily for us - we got to see all of them on Sunday. New offensive coordinator Kellen Moore wasted no time putting his stamp on this team. Last season, the Cowboys only had two games where they scored at least 35 points (Giants and Jaguars). They only had one game where they had more than 490 total yards (OT against the Eagles). On Sunday against the Giants, they scored 35 points and had 494 yards. It only took Moore just one game to help Dak have career highs in passing yards and passer rating.
What a great start for the Cowboys young offensive phenom.
6. Career highs for Gallup
In this week’s fan Q&A session, we were asked who would lead the team in receptions in Week 1, and we chose Michael Gallup. Entering the game, Gallup’s career high for catches in a game was five and for yards it was 81. Both those career-highs are no more as the second-year receiver caught all seven of his targets for 158 yards, averaging 22.6 per reception. The great chemistry he had with Prescott in the preseason appears to have carried over into the regular season.
7. Defense gave up a lot of yards
While the offense was humming, the defense had their moments where they didn’t play well. Sure, they only allowed 17 points, but there were too many big plays allowed. In all, the Giants put up 470 total yards, which is more than the Cowboys defense allowed all of last season. There’s no denying that many of these yards came in garbage time, so it’s not as bad as the stats indicate, but against a better offense - those big plays can sting.
8. A little bit of everything from Vander Esch
The Cowboys second-year linebacker pulled down 10 tackles in this game, which was a modest figure for the All-Pro. That hardly tells the story though as Leighton Vander Esch was all over the field making plays. He got credit for half a sack when DeMarcus Lawrence ripped the ball away from Eli. Vander Esch was able to get his hands up in time to deflect a pass. He also was credited for the forced fumble on Daniel Jones that ended the game.
While those things showed up in the box score, other things he did on the field, did not. Vander Esch had a nice pressure that forced Manning into that intentional grounding penalty. The Cowboys young linebacker was impressive on Sunday.
9. Red zone perfection
The Cowboys offense was a perfect 2-for-2 in the red zone. With an offense that did very few things wrong, scoring points weren’t a problem. The field goal unit never got a chance to come on to the field, which also solves the whole Brett Maher shakiness issue. If they circumvent field goals all together, kicking won’t be problem.
Red zone inefficiency plagued the Cowboys last season as they ranked 29th in the league in touchdown conversion, so it was nice to see the team punch it in the end zone each time.
10. Prescott’s payday is coming
The Cowboys didn’t get deal done with their quarterback prior to the game, but bet your bottom dollar it’s coming soon. Don’t take my word for it. Take Jerry’s...
Jerry Jones said he expects deal with Dak Prescott in “days.” Called it “imminent” but said he wouldn’t define imminent.— Charean Williams (@NFLCharean) September 9, 2019
It didn’t take a big performance from Dak to escalate contract negotiations as it was always going to happen, but it has to feel nice to see what the sum of all these parts look like with Prescott and Moore working together. On Tuesday, Jared Goff just got his contract extension, and I’d say for far - the Cowboys are the team getting the better deal.