The Dallas Cowboys came into their game with the 2-0 New York Giants needing a win to keep from dropping to the bottom of the NFC East. Some good defense and an offense that seemed to find some rhythm late in the game let them notch a 23-16 win. Now they trail only the 3-0 Philadelphia Eagles in the race for the division crown.
In a game featuring an inexperienced starting quarterback for Dallas and one for New York who has a history of being careless with the ball, it was surprising that there were no turnovers until the very end. What was expected was the relentless pressure the Cowboys put on Daniel Jones, led by a three-sack performance for the often maligned DeMarcus Lawrence. Only Jones’ ability to scramble and make something with his legs offset the way he was under constant attack.
Offensively, Dallas had its struggles early, but put together three consecutive scoring drives after falling behind by seven. That staked them to a ten-point lead. The Giants would carve into it with a late field goal, but the offense burned off enough time to force New York to burn its timeouts. The G-men got the ball back at their own nine-yard line with 1:45 to play. And then Trevon Diggs sealed the win with his first interception of the season. It was a perfect ending for the Cowboys whose defense was so stout for so much of the game.
The first half was mostly a defensive struggle with only three total field goals between the two teams. The Cowboys got to halftime with a 6-3 lead only because Dorance Armstrong got both hands on a 47-yard attempt, killing the first Giants scoring threat after Dallas had to punt on the opening possession of the game. Cooper Rush and the Cowboys responded with a 55-yard drive that got to the three-yard line, but penalties pushed it back to the eight. Brett Maher knocked the chip shot through from there.
The Giants would answer with a three-pointer of their own. On their next possession, the Cowboys inserted Jason Peters in at LG to replace Matt Farniok, and immediately found something as Tony Pollard cut right off his block to race 46 yards to set them up in the red zone. They would stall again, however, and settled for another short Maher field goal. The would have a chance to push the lead just before half, but this time Maher was wide left on a 59-yard attempt.
The biggest play of the half may have been the one that failed when CeeDee Lamb dropped a wide open pass inside the red zone. He looked like he was trying to body catch it, and it just bounced through his hands. He was seen on the sidelines obviously upset with himself for the missed opportunity.
Further hindering Dallas was a return of the penalties, with five in the first half alone. They would continue to bedevil them as they gifted New York with a first down coming out of half when they almost forced a punt. Jones started using his legs to good effect, with back to back runs of 13 and 15 yards. The drive would stall, but a second Graham Gano field goal would knot things up at six with just two ticks over nine minutes left in the third quarter.
One player who was consistently making plays for the Cowboys was DeMarcus Lawrence, who had two sacks in the first half and added a third right after the intermission. But he would go down with an injury on a play when Donovan Wilson got in on the action with an eleven-yard sack of his own. He walked off without help after having his ankle examined and would later return.
Micah Parsons seemed to be a bit slowed after dealing with illness all week, but he was still close to Jones on many plays and affecting the throws even though he didn’t record a sack. Jones was under pressure the entire game, but he kept getting yards with his legs by evading the run. It made up for Saquon Barkley largely being held in check. And Jones did make some key throws at times to keep New York moving, while Rush had some trouble connecting with his receivers. Then Barkley finally broke one with a 36-yard touchdown run to put the Giants up for the first time with 5:31 left in the third quarter. That one run almost equalled his entire output for his previous eleven carries.
It was a big drive for New York, and Dallas needed an answer. The offense responded with an efficient 75-yard drive featuring a 17-yard catch by Lamb and Payton Hendershot’s first NFL catch for 30 yards. Noah Brown chipped in a couple of catches and Ezekiel Elliott would punch things in from the one to tie things with under half a minute left in the third.
Another flag would help the Giants get quickly out to the 50, although this one was a shaky unsportsmanlike conduct on Donovan Wilson, who batted a ball headed at his face when he walked between the New York player and a the ball intended for a referee. But the defense got more good pressure and forced a punt.
The Cowboys needed another good drive, and had to start from their own 11. The Cowboys got their initial first down courtesy of an offsides on a hard count, then moved it to their own 41. They faced a fourth and four, and one thing Mike McCarthy is not afraid to do is go for it. From there on, it was the CeeDee Show. They succeeded on the fourth-down try with a pass to Lamb just past the line to make. Then two plays later Lamb would get free for a 26-yard gain down to the one. And just as Tony Pollard got to score after his big gain last week, Lamb was the target for a beautiful one-handed grab in the back corner of the end zone. From being down seven, Dallas was now up by a touchdown.
The next Giants possession would see their first three and out. With just a bit over half the fourth quarter left, the Cowboys had a chance to put the dagger in. They almost did so on the ensuing punt as KaVontae Turpin was one tackler away from a touchdown. He still got 28 yards and set his team up on the NYG 35. After failing to convert a third and one via the air when the refs missed another call as Lamb was clearly held trying to get free, Maher gave them a two-score lead with his third field goal of the night.