The Dallas Cowboys have made AT&T Stadium a miserable place to play for opposing teams this season, averaging 40 points a game and allowing a total of just 50 in four wins. Their most recent win felt like a formality on Sunday, lining up against an undrafted quarterback making his first ever start in Tommy DeVito. This made the Cowboys overwhelming favorites to complete a season sweep of the Giants and bounce back in divisional play after a close lose at the Eagles. The Cowboys defense held up their end of this matchup against an offense they already shut out in week one with starter Daniel Jones in, but with more eyes and pressure on the offense to show progress, the Cowboys saw a historic performance from Dak Prescott, CeeDee Lamb, and their full supporting cast.
The Cowboys put up the most yards they ever have in franchise history against the Giants, Prescott surpassed the total number of 400 yard passing games in team history by himself (Romo, Meredith, Moore, and Aikman combined for nine), and Lamb became the first player in NFL history to record three straight games with at least ten catches and 150 yards.
This ongoing pattern of the 2023 season showing the Cowboys can put up gaudy numbers and look incredible against bad competition may have continued, but in a way that was absolutely necessary to set the tone for equally winnable games ahead. Anything short of a decisive win would have brought unneeded scrutiny towards Mike McCarthy’s team, which found some consistency and sustained success on offense with McCarthy calling plays to get everybody involved in this win.
The Cowboys owning NFC East play under Prescott shouldn’t go unnoticed, nor should the consistency they’re seemingly building under McCarthy, so let’s take a closer look at some of the key moments against the Giants.
- There wasn’t much of a window where the Cowboys allowed the Giants to feel like they were competitive in this game, but turning the ball over on downs on the opening drive was still not an ideal start. Rico Dowdle put the Cowboys in the red zone easily with a big run of 21-yards, getting north-to-south and following his blocks on the second level. The Cowboys went back to Tony Pollard on fourth and goal, and his struggles running for tough yards between the tackles continued. The play became a footnote on the type of high-flying performance the Cowboys offense would put up in spite of this early mistake, with Prescott’s interception being another, but this game was at least a small step in the right direction for this team figuring out their usage out of the backfield.
On two of Dallas’ seven touchdowns, they saw the benefit of how outside play fakes to Tony Pollard can open up easy throws. The Giants defense was so worried about Pollard getting the edge on them, they flowed hard to the left and allowed Jake Ferguson to slip behind them for his third touchdown in as many games. This gave the Cowboys an almost insurmountable 14-0 lead against DeVito and a limited Giants offense, as CeeDee Lamb was also the beneficiary of an easy walk-in touchdown as a fake to Pollard opened up plenty of open turf for Lamb to score on a reverse. Paired with the flashes Dowdle showed bringing the physicality this team has lacked, the Cowboys have waited long enough to figure out their run game, but showed hope that at this crucial point in the season they’ll finally be able to play with more balance on this side of the ball.
- For the second straight home game, Brandin Cooks scored a touchdown on a similar type of deep crossing route. This was far from Cooks’ only contribution on the day, more than doubling his previous season high of four catches with nine for 173 yards. Whether it’s Cooks taking advantage of the insane run Lamb has been on to get himself open, or a more concentrated effort by McCarthy and Brian Schottenheimer to feature him, the Prescott-to-Cooks connection may just be getting started. Cooks has made a career out of taking advantage of defensive leverage with his speed, a core concept in this Texas Coast offense that’s starting to find a rhythm with downfield throws. Between Cooks and Lamb creating separation while also coming down with nearly every contested catch against the Giants, Prescott is playing with the confidence and poise that a change in play-callers was supposed to bring.
- In somewhat quiet fashion, the Cowboys defensive interior has started to set the tone for this entire unit up front in recent weeks. There were some negative plays against the Giants like Osa Odighizuwa’s holding penalty and Neville Gallimore’s personal foul late in the fourth for kicking a Giants lineman, but this pair has stood up against the run while providing a consistent pass rush. The ongoing task of Dan Quinn’s defense showing more toughness and being able to exist in base sets against physical, run-first teams starts with this deep group of defensive tackles.
Besides Gallimore and Odighizuwa, Jonathan Hankins and Mazi Smith have made plays against the run, while Chauncey Golston provides size and versatility, all of which helps these edge rushers make the more memorable plays. Most noticeably in this game, Micah Parsons did not record an official stat, but the pressures and sacks on DeVito still piled up while the Dallas defense held up inside against Saquon Barkley to not allow easy yards.
- This game was shaping up to be a negative one for veteran receiver Michael Gallup, who after losing snaps to Jalen Tolbert in recent weeks also saw rookie Jalen Brooks cut into his playing time while KaVontae Turpin was inactive against the Giants. Gallup made up for it by making the most of his playing time though, bringing down a 41-yard touchdown pass on a rope from Prescott to beat single man coverage. Gallup has remained a valuable target on scramble drills and with Prescott outside the pocket this season, and if he can add any consistency as a deep threat that wins jump balls, this pass offense becomes even harder to play against. Prescott’s confidence to push the ball downfield and expect to complete these passes at a similar rate to the short and intermediate throws featured earlier in the year gives the Cowboys plenty of options to stay ahead of defenses, with Gallup still being a potential key player that can line up in multiple spots.
- Any concerns over the Cowboys starting slow in this game were mitigated by just how little the Giants could throw the ball with DeVito, or get any push up front to run it, but Dallas faces a similarly winnable game next Sunday with much different circumstances. On the road for an early kickoff against a Panthers team desperate to get head coach Frank Reich and first overall pick Bryce Young a signature win, the Cowboys passing this test against the Giants with flying colors is a great sign they’re refocused after the loss in Philadelphia for a run of games that should make Eagles at Cowboys on December 10th the heavyweight rematch fans deserve.