Football is often full of drama and suspense. Twists and turns can lead to surprising outcomes. That is what makes it such a popular sport.
That is not what we got from the Dallas Cowboys’ 49-17 obliteration of the New York Giants. No, that game was comedy, and not really good stuff, either. Fortunately, we were the side that got to laugh. We just need to understand that this does not paint a true picture of this year’s Cowboys.
Before you get all fired up, this game accomplished a lot for Dallas. They corrected a whole basket of issues that had been plaguing them. There was almost no doubt about this game from the very beginning, with only a failed fourth and goal on the opening drive, and an early interception, really marring things.
But the talent disparity between the Cowboys and the hugely-depleted Giants was so great, you can’t take away too much beyond that cold reality. This was the first start for UDFA rookie and former member of the New York practice squad Tommy DeVito after they lost both Daniel Jones and Tyrod Taylor to injury. DeVito had a six-year college career, a data point you can do with what you like. The Giants have placed a total of fourteen players on injured reserve this year, and their roster was hardly impressive to start the season. We saw clear evidence of that in the season-opening 40-0 mauling Dallas delivered.
Outscoring a team 89-17 in the two divisional games is about as irrefutable as proof of the superiority of one team over the other can be. Once they got rolling in the first quarter, the Cowboys offense was unstoppable, amassing a staggering 640 yards of offense. Even the second string, led by Cooper Rush in the fourth quarter, marched down the field on a 75-yard scoring drive against a dispirited defense. Brian Anger only made two punts in the game, and Brandon Aubrey never attempted a field goal.
The term “garbage time” is often overused and can give a mistaken impression, but clearly the 17 second half points New York scored were of no importance for this game. The first half painted a true picture of things when both teams were fielding their starters. The Cowboys had 368 yards, scored 28 points, and amassed 20 first downs while the Giants were throttled, only mustering a single first down and 27 total yards of offense. It doesn’t get more lopsided than that, and could easily have been worse had Mike McCarthy been a little more effective with his play-calling at the end of the initial drive when the team failed to score after four tries from within the five-yard line.
Why Dallas should just ignore the video record of the game is about getting too cocky. This was an historic performance against a truly bad team. But there were still warts. Twice they went three and out, and when those happened is something the coaches need to look at. The first was on their second possession, when the game was still scoreless after that failed opening drive. The second came on their first possession after halftime. There is a disturbing trend for the offense to need two or three drives to fully get going each half. That is going to be trouble once they face teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Detroit Lions later in the season. Those teams all have winning records, and all but the Bills have as many or more victories than the Cowboys. The Washington Commanders cannot be overlooked either, as they have lost some close games and divisional match ups are always potential trouble. There is also a concern with how the defense allowed the Giants to score on their first possession of the second half, something that has cropped up before. This team just seems cold to start halves, and it still needs to be fixed.
There were some clear areas of improvement for Dallas, even if we have to take the struggles of the opponent into consideration. Let’s start with the quarterback. Dak Prescott was incredible outside of one really bad throw that led to an interception, amassing 404 yards and four touchdown throws in just three quarters. His passing chart is fun to look at.
The offense is attacking the deep part of the field. The touchdown to Micheal Gallup traveled about 50 yards through the air, and was right on target. Prescott had three other completions that traveled 25 or more yards in the air, and he did attack the middle of the field on a few occasions, although that might be something he should do more. But this is a beautiful chart to behold. It was clearly his best game of the season.
The receiving corps was also in great form. TE Jake Ferguson was his usual reliable self with four catches and a touchdown, but the wide receivers really stepped up. CeeDee Lamb set records with his eleven catches for 151 yards and a touchdown. Brandin Cooks finally broke out with nine grabs for 173 yards and his own TD. Micheal Gallup only caught two balls, his only targets in the game, but one was that long touchdown. Cooks was not the only player to finally show us something after a disappointing first half of the season. Rookie Jalen Brooks was active, and responded by hauling in all four of his opportunities for 39 yards. Even Deuce Vaughn got a chance to chip in with an eleven-yard reception late in the game.
The running game finally got on track with 168 yards. Tony Pollard had a fair performance with 55 yards on 15 carries, but the real star running the ball was Rico Dowdle. He had 79 yards and a touchdown, but his 6.6 yards per carry is the number that really jumps out. The coaches need to make sure they continue splitting the carries between the two, and maybe leaning a bit more toward Dowdle.
Besides the failure to start the game, the Cowboys thrived in the red zone, finishing up with six touchdowns on seven trips. They only converted on 50% of their third down opportunities, but with the way they were succeeding on early downs, it hardly mattered.
The defense deserves a lot of praise, amassing five sacks, seven QB hits, relentless pressure, seven tackles for a loss in total, six passes defended, and another DaRon Bland pick. They did not allow the opponents to convert a single third down all game. It was pure domination throughout the contest even with the scoring by the Giants in the second half when it really didn’t matter. One of the most amazing stats of the entire game is that Micah Parsons didn’t even register on the stat line despite playing 68% of the defensive downs. It wasn’t that he was having a bad game. Everyone else was just getting there first.
It still leaves us with the reality that New York was hardly able to put up a fight due to their many roster issues. Beating up on less capable opponents has been a trend this year, but the mystifying flop against the Arizona Cardinals is a cautionary tale. Things will be harder later in this season, and that will be the real measure of the Cowboys. Enjoy this dominant win, but don’t read too much into it.