Recent history on Thanksgiving Day games have not been very kind to the Dallas Cowboys. Since 2012, including this year, the Cowboys have won just four times. The last three victories have all come against division rivals. You have to go back to 2013 to get a Cowboys victory on Thanksgiving against a non-divisional opponent where Dallas defeated the Raiders 31-24.
Thankfully America’s Team bucked the very recent trend for Thanksgiving Day games by defeating the New York Giants 28-20. Obviously it is great to add another victory into the win column, but at times it didn’t look pretty.
A mixed bag on offense caused the Cowboys to get behind before the half, but the second half was another story
It was a slow start for the Cowboys offense as they only were able to muster seven points through two quarters. That seven points came on a drive that took over six minutes and the offense essentially went length of the field when Ezekiel Elliott capped off the drive with a touchdown run. Aside from that great one drive, the rest of the half on offense wasn’t exactly what Coach Mike McCarthy was looking for. Still, credit to the coach for being aggressive and going for it on fourth down on the Dallas side of the 50. It didn’t work out as the Cowboys turned it over on downs, but given how well the defense has played all year, it wasn’t a bad call.
Speaking of bad, what a bad sequence of events where Dak Prescott thought that the Giants had jumped offsides which made Prescott think he had a free play, but the referees did not call it and he ended up throwing an interception. That sequence wasn’t his finest moment, as this mistake happened on a promising drive, but again the defense had his back and forced a three and out. Prescott again, a short time later, made another mistake towards the end of the half where he threw another pick on a drive that was surely going to end up with points heading into the halftime break, but the Giants had other plans.
With a bad half of football behind him, Dak Prescott came out in the second half and balled out as he led the Cowboys to 21 unanswered points with three consecutive touchdown drives. Elite quarterbacks know how to bounce back, and Prescott certainly showed why he is considered one of the best quarterbacks in the game today. In Week 12 Prescott would complete 70% of his 30 passing attempts for 261 yards and two touchdowns. 30 passing attempts seems to be in the magic range for this Cowboys offense as having balance is very much a key to this offense’s success.
With Dak keeping his passing attempts to a more reasonable figure, this opened up more opportunities for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard to ground and pound. Elliott and Pollard most certainly pounded the rock as they combined for 34 carries, 152 yards and one touchdown. Their combined efforts resulted in nearly 4.5 yards a carry which is a good average to have every time a run play is called.
From a receiving perspective, CeeDee Lamb put up WR1 numbers as he had another 100-yard performance. Dalton Schultz caught both of Prescott’s touchdown throws. Michael Gallup is starting to look like the player we’ve been accustomed to seeing prior to his injury which is a promising sign of good things to come from Gallup going forward. Given how things started on offense in Week 12, by game’s end the narrative changed for the better.
The defense once again lends a hand to a slow starting offense
As 11 games have come and gone, the Cowboys defense has shown up much more then not. Week 12 wasn’t any different, as they were constantly put in tough spots and only gave up 13 points in the first half. Three of those points came off of a turnover on downs where the Giants were given solid field position. On this particular drive, the defense only gave up a single yard, yet three points were scored given the field position the Giants were given. That was a huge win given the circumstances.
Aside from that, the Giants were pretty inept on offense and only had two quality drives on the afternoon. The dominant Cowboys pass rush was able to sack Giants quarterback Daniel Jones three times, two by Micah Parsons and the other by Dorance Armstrong. We all know how special Parsons is, but Armstrong has been the surprise of the year on defense as he is having a career year, and already has eight sacks to his credit through 11 games. Currently Dallas has four players with at least five sacks on the year. Two of whom we just mentioned in Parsons and Armstrong, but credit also needs to go to DeMarcus Lawrence and Dante Fowler as well. This pass rush is arguably the deepest and most talented in the NFL today, and is the catalyst as to what makes this defense go.
The rush defense, which has been spotty at times, was once again protected by the game script as Daniel Jones threw 35 times which led to Saquon Barkley only getting 11 carries on the day. On those carries, Dallas only allowed an average of 3.5 per carry which, against a talent like Barkley, is a promising sign going forward. No turnovers were caused this week by the Cowboys defense, but Daniel Jones did fumble once in the game only to recover it.
The special teams unit as a whole had a quiet afternoon, but was OK when called upon
The Cowboys electric return man, KaVontae Turpin, was held in check as he wasn’t able to return a ball all game long. It was clear from the get-go that the Giants wanted no part of Turpin returning the ball, and who could blame them as he has been close on multiple occasions to breaking off one to the house.
Punter Bryan Anger was also quiet on the day where he only had to punt the ball once. He made his lone opportunity count as he booted it for 51 yards.
Brett Maher had the busiest game of this group where he made all four of his extra points in the game. Maher, however, missed a 46-yard field wide right but thankfully it wasn’t needed to help get the Cowboys to victory. The missed kick by Maher wasn’t ideal, but given the season he has had in 2022, it’s okay to let him slide on this one. Let’s just hope it isn’t a trend as the Cowboys will certainly need him to continue being consistent, especially come playoff time.