Entering the Thanksgiving Day game against the New York Giants, the Cowboys were the much healthier team and were expected to have a strong advantage over New York. Unfortunately, the Cowboys’ struggles to sustain drives and early turnovers had them trailing at the break.
Luckily for them, as the game progressed their talent was able to separate itself from the competition. Uncomfortable at first, the Cowboys were able to overcome their mistakes and pull away late in the second half to secure the win. Led by their premier talent, here are the stars that were integral in stuffing the Giants on Thanksgiving.
Zeke feasts on the Giants
Owner Jerry Jones said a few weeks ago, the team goes as Ezekiel Elliott does. This met some ire from the fanbase. However, it’s hard to argue when the results are what they were against the Giants. For the criticisms of no longer having the same explosiveness as he once had, Elliott had a throwback performance. He was able to bounce runs to the outside and his lateral quickness and change of direction were very good.
It’s another chapter in the book of Ezekiel terrorizing the New York Giants. Thursday was the seventh time in his career that Elliott rushed for at least 90 yards against the Giants. His 5.8 yards per carry were the second-highest yards per carry in his career against the division rival. Elliott’s 92 yards rushing was a season-high for the seventh-year running back.
While Elliott’s counterpart Tony Pollard will get most of the fanfare these days, Elliott demonstrated the value of his role on the team. Whatever you want to call him, the straw that stirs the drink, the heart and soul of the team, it doesn’t matter as long as he answers the dinner bell as he did on Thanksgiving when it’s time to eat.
A lion and his pride
Heading into Thursday’s game, Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas had yet to allow a sack. It’s fair to assume Micah Parsons is unlike any other pass rusher Thomas has seen all year. On one of his two sacks, Parsons was able to use his elite agility to bend around the edge past Thomas before tracking down Daniel Jones.
With Parsons recording his eleventh and twelfth sack, he joins an elite company in NFL history. According to The Score, Parsons is only the third player in NFL history to record 12 sacks in each of his first two seasons, joining Aldon Smith and Reggie White in that distinction. Parsons currently leads the NFC in sacks and he’s on a blistering pace.
At his current rate, Parsons is on track for 18 sacks. The second-year linebacker is (not so) arguably the front-runner for the Defensive Player of the Year award. If there was any concern about Parsons’ health, those worries should subside with how explosive he was against the Giants. Nevertheless, the Cowboys’ well-earned break before their next game should give Parsons plenty of rest to recover.
Prescott continues dominance over the Giants
Early on, it wasn’t pretty, and things weren’t looking so good for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys’ offense. Prescott has earned a bit of a reputation for being a gunslinger over the past few weeks. High risk, high reward. Lately, the riskiness of his decision-making has put the offense in adverse situations before being able to dig themselves out of a hole. Fortunately for the Cowboys, the latter of that trend continued Thursday.
After throwing his second interception, Prescott cooked the Giants’ secondary, hitting one impressive throw after another. Prescott’s unflappable mindset is what makes this team so formidable. They just keep playing. Take one play for example.
The Cowboys are holding a 14-13 lead and have crossed midfield. On 2nd and 10, Prescott takes the snap from under center and bobbles it. Instead of falling on the ball and giving up on the play, Prescott gathers the ball and fires it to Jake Ferguson for a 15-yard gain. Plays like that are what instill confidence in the offense.
Dak Prescott completed +17.7% of his passes over expected, the highest CPOE by any QB in a game with 30+ pass attempts over the last three seasons.#NYGvsDAL | Powered by @awscloud pic.twitter.com/0QQWgAb3FW— Next Gen Stats (@NextGenStats) November 25, 2022
Not only that, but Pinpoint Prescott was also lethal. Prescott’s CPOE was the highest of any quarterback with 30 passes or more in the last three years. Whether it was delivering the ball in tight windows, or placing the ball where undeniably only his receiver could make the play on it, Prescott was exceptional.
If you’re still unsure of the value of Dak Prescott and what his return from injury means to the Cowboys, consider this. According to Bob Sturm of the Athletic, since his return from injury, the Cowboys, are ranked first in the NFL in points, and first in points per drive. Thursday marked Prescott’s tenth consecutive win over the New York Giants and his 26th win over an NFC East opponent. Prescott now has a winning percentage of .812 against the NFC East.
A tight-knit group
Admittedly this is an excuse to mention the genius whack-a-mole touchdown celebration by the tight ends, but it speaks to the cohesion of the tight ends in general. The Cowboys’ tight ends are a three-headed monster that teams struggle to account for. At times, the Cowboys opt to play with all three of them on the field and it creates confusion in the defense. Together, they’re so dynamic that teams aren’t sure what to do.
The tight end group was spectacular on Thanksgiving. When targeting his tight ends, Prescott was seven out of seven for 88 yards and two touchdowns (Dalton Schultz). The tight ends combined for three scores, while also producing the longest play from scrimmage.
They’re all very good pass catchers and sneakily athletic. Among the group, Jake Ferguson might have had the highlight of the day. After catching a pass on a crossing pattern, Ferguson hurdled over a would-be tackler before barreling over another Giants defender for a 30-yard pickup. Plus, Peyton Hendershot’s touchdown on a motion end around was play-calling perfection.
Working back from an ACL injury that cut his 2021 season short, wide receiver Michael Gallup has been coming along gradually. In spurts, we’ve seen the Gallup of old that makes contested catches and plays through contact. On Thanksgiving, Gallup’s toughness at the point of the catch was front and center.
Gallup has some of the strongest hands in the game. He routinely can hang on to passes with the defense all over him. Several times a Giants defender was closing on him as the ball was coming into his hands, Gallup was able to hold on to the football and it was timely.
Facing a 3rd and 4 at their 13-yard line, Prescott threw a pass to Gallup where the defender was draped all over him like a tablecloth. Gallup was able to secure the pass. They were able to extend that drive and avoid punting to potentially give New York good field position. Gallup made another third-down catch on the drive before Elliott scored on a six-yard run.
More than a few times, Gallup was able to adjust to passes high above his head and snatch them out of the air with ease. Although Prescott and Gallup couldn’t quite connect on a few opportunities, it was also encouraging to see Gallup with a few steps on a defender deep down the field. Little by little, Gallup is rounding back into form.