In the most watched regular-season NFL game ever, the Dallas Cowboys handled the New York Giants 28-20 on Thanksgiving to start a new win streak and claim sole control of second place in the NFC East. This is the second year in a row the Cowboys have swept the Giants, a team they’ve owned with Dak Prescott as the starting quarterback. Having already won at the Giants this season without Prescott, the Cowboys settled into this game after trailing in the first half and let their defense take over again.
After a short week filled with nothing but praise for the Cowboys following their 40-3 blowout win in Minnesota, Mike McCarthy’s team showed they still belong at the top of the conference with a complete effort in all three phases of the game.
Thanksgiving food and Cowboys wins always make the holiday extra special, with the Cowboys setting themselves up favorably for another division rivalry game on Christmas Eve in four weeks vs. the Eagles.
Here are a few notes on the team’s performance against the Giants.
- The Cowboys defense having to earn opportunities to rush the passer was the theme after losing to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, and they did that by stopping Dalvin Cook last week. In this game, they were able to get after Daniel Jones by taking away his check downs and making him hold the ball. With a depleted cast of receivers, Jones was looking to his tight ends throughout this game, but Leighton Vander Esch and Damone Clark did a good job taking them away. Even a mobile quarterback like Jones couldn’t outrun Micah Parsons or DeMarcus Lawrence, as the Cowboys offense had time to build the lead and force the Giants to play from behind without Saquon Barkley making much of an impact.
On the other side, the Cowboys own tight ends were heavily involved, with all four on the field for multiple snaps. Dalton Schultz’s touchdown to cap off a 15 play drive at the start of the third quarter gave the Cowboys a lead they never lost, and he’d score again quickly after the Cowboys forced a turnover on downs to follow. Peyton Hendershot put the game away in the fourth with a rushing touchdown, sparking the best celebration of the season for the Cowboys featuring the Salvation Army kettle.
The long drive in the third quarter was sparked by Prescott making standout defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux miss for a first down run. Prescott has made easy work of defenders on the edge, but here Tyler Smith got beat inside and he was still able to get away. On the very next play, Prescott found himself as the lead blocker for an Ezekiel Elliott run to the outside, getting in the way of former Cowboy LB Jaylon Smith downfield.
- The Cowboys edge defenders may get all the attention for being the stars on this defense, but Quinton Bohanna and Osa Odighizuwa were stout against the run in this game. The Giants didn’t want to just rely on Jones dropping back every snap to move the ball, but found it hard to run inside with Barkley. Odighizuwa’s speed to quickly beat blockers and create penetration paired with Bohanna’s strength as the one-technique shortened this game for the Cowboys defense, which just needed to keep throws in front of them and not allow big plays downfield in the second half.
- The effort by Kellen Moore to get Michael Gallup more involved in the game plan each week was clear on Thursday. Gallup’s five catches for 63 yards were both season highs in his return from ACL surgery, running crisp routes over the middle and high pointing the ball with ease. The Cowboys also targeted CeeDee Lamb on these deep in-breaking routes, trusting their offensive line to hold up and develop the types of layered throws that Prescott has been accurate on since his return.
The Odell Beckham Jr. talks won’t stop this week with the Cowboys on a mini-bye week before playing again next Sunday, but whether or not he signs with Dallas, the Cowboys have what they need at receiver, tight end, and running back to sustain drives - with the added big play potential from Beckham still being a missing piece.