With Cooper Rush starting on primetime Monday night at the Giants, the Cowboys faced their first divisional test under circumstances they never expected. Dak Prescott has historically dominated the Giants, Eagles, and Commanders, but instead the Cowboys lined up with Cooper Rush coming off a home win versus the Bengals.
The Cowboys confidence under Rush carried over into week three, as they stuck to a similar game plan that’s spurred a two-game win streak. The Dallas defense got after Daniel Jones for five sacks and sealed the game with Trevon Diggs’ first interception of the season, making CeeDee Lamb’s one-handed touchdown catch the game-winning score.
Before the Cowboys put their seven game win streak against the division on the line again next Sunday versus the Commanders, here are some thoughts on their win at the Giants.
- The Cowboys knew Tyler Smith’s best trait was his run blocking when they drafted him out of Tulsa, and so far playing him at left tackle hasn’t taken this out of their offense. Smith is able to catch defenders by surprise when he pulls from tackle, and it’s helped Kellen Moore get both Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard on the edge. Elliott had a key 27-yard rush on third and 12 to extend a Cowboys drive in the second quarter.
The Giants weakness defensively was on the second level, and Kellen Moore did a great job of stretching the field horizontally with outside runs and play-action that set up Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson for big plays.
- Dan Quinn started a converted safety in Keanu Neal at linebacker last season, and so far in year two his best hybrid linebacker has been safety Donovan Wilson. The Giants were able to take advantage of the Cowboys aggressiveness on defense with read-option throws for Daniel Jones, who was having one of the best starts to his career before meeting this Dallas pass rush.
After Anthony Barr and Leighton Vander Esch gave up plays in coverage, both blitzed Jones on a third-down incompletion that led to Dorance Armstrong’s blocked field goal. The Giants didn’t play one snap on offense in the red zone this game, putting the big plays this aggressive Cowboys defense gave up in perspective as they kept this game in reach for Cooper Rush. Wilson’s pass breakup on another third down came with Lawrence pressuring Jones, as the Cowboys took the league lead in sacks with 13 combined against Tom Brady, Joe Burrow, and Daniel Jones this season.
- With Tyler Smith more than holding his own at left tackle so far, the Cowboys tried Jason Peters at left guard in place of Matt Farniok. Peters made an immediate impact, combining on a block with Smith that produced the Cowboys longest play of the season. Tony Pollard’s 46-yard run once again proved he can get the job done between the tackles, and as the Cowboys welcome back Michael Gallup and James Washington in the coming weeks, Pollard needs to remain a point of emphasis.
- Kellen Moore continues to prioritize the tight ends in this offense, more than making up for the loss of Dalton Schultz in this game. Some of Schultz’s best career plays have come against the Giants, but the Cowboys didn’t miss a beat with Peyton Hendershot and Jake Ferguson. Hendershot’s 30-yard catch after a hard run fake by Rush set up Elliott for a goal line touchdown, where rookie TE Jake Ferguson was his lead blocker at fullback.
The Cowboys moved on from Jeremy Sprinkle this offseason, a veteran blocking tight end that was presumed to have a role in the run game. Instead, the Cowboys are creating matchups that keep their run and pass looks similar by playing dual-threat tight ends in Schultz, Hendershot, and Ferguson.