Behind a fierce defensive front and a fourth-quarter surge from their offense, the Dallas Cowboys defeated the New York Giants by a score of 23-16 at MetLife Stadium. With Micah Parsons battling an illness and the team shorthanded on offense, the Cowboys needed other stars to shine under the lights in primetime. Here are the stars who shined the brightest on Monday night.
Plenty left in the Tank
To put it plainly, there were no guarantees DeMarcus Lawrence would be on the Cowboys this season. Entering the offseason last year, it was speculated that Lawrence could be a casualty of the salary cap and be released by the team. Off to a slow start with less than stellar numbers, the whispers were beginning once again about what Lawrence had left to offer. Apparently, plenty.
After not having any quarterback pressures or sacks in the first two games, Lawrence was unleashed on the New York Giants. He sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones three times, to go along with three QB hits and three tackles for loss. A premier Dallas pass rush goes up a few notches if Tank Lawrence can continue to turn the clock back with games like this.
If nothing else, Terrence Steele is resilient. No matter the odds or rumors about his job security, Terrence Steele goes about his business unfazed. After a sloppy Week 1, Steele had come under fire and some were curious how long it would be until veteran Jason Peters would be starting in his place. Steele has kept his head down and continues to work. Very well too.
Much was made about the Giants getting back edge rushers Kayon Thibodeaux and Azeez Ojulari ahead of the game and Steele made them non-existent. He gave quarterback Cooper Rush plenty of time in the pocket and did a good job of getting to the edges in the run game. Most importantly, he didn’t the mental mistakes that have been an issue prior.
Thunder and Lightning, the perfect storm in Dallas backfield
Granted this column is limited to five players, but you can’t separate how good both of the Cowboys’ primary running backs were in this game. Tony Pollard and Zeke Elliott combined for 28 carries and 178 yards rushing for an average of 6.3 yards a carry. The keyword to define the performance of both players is balance. Balance in the stylings of both runners but also in the sense of how their success balanced the Cowboys offense.
The duo of Elliott and Pollard had 28 carries between them. That took a substantial burden off the shoulders (and arm) of Cooper Rush who attempted 31 passes. It was encouraging to see the team utilize Pollard’s speed and quickness outside the tackles and the same can be said for the Cowboys allowing Elliott to run downhill and bludgeon the Giants defense. Their contrasting styles complement not only each other well but the team as a whole.
Don’t forget about Dorance
With all due respect, Dorance Armstrong is easily forgettable. There’s nothing flashy about his game and you’ll never mistake him for Micah Parsons or DeMarcus Lawrence. However, that’s exactly why he’s one of the best kept secrets on this team. The sneaky-good Armstrong showed up big versus the Giants.
Armstrong recorded his third sack of the season (tied for second on the team) and would have had a second if not for a penalty in the Dallas secondary. Not only that, but Armstrong also blocked a Graham Gano field goal attempt to prevent the Giants from taking an early 3-0 lead.
What can Brown do for you?
Noah Brown continues to make plays in the passing game for a team that sorely needs it. For the second week in a row, Brown has been a reliable target for Cooper Rush and played well in his role as the #2 receiver in the Cowboys offense. Noah Brown totaled just five receptions for 54 yards but they were tough, hard-fought yards.
One example was Brown jumping up and then plucking a pass in the air near the right sideline and the second was Brown fighting for yardage as he barreled his way inside the Giants’ five-yard line. As Michael Gallup gets closer to his return to action, suddenly it appears the Cowboys have one more receiver they can rely on.