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Meaningful numbers from the Cowboys’ 40-0 whipping of the Giants

Let’s dig into the stats and see what it tells about the first game, and what it points to for the future.

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants
Look out, NFL, he’s coming for you.
Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It is a bit of a giddy feeling. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t just administer a severe 40-0 beatdown to the New York Giants on the road to start the season 1-0, they did so in historic fashion. As you might expect, the numbers from the game are mostly good. Great, even. But there are always some things you can dig out of the stats that also point to possible concerns. Admittedly, they are pretty few. Most of these things are incredibly positive. Here’s a look at some of the ones that struck me.

A record breaking defensive show

This is simply staggering.

This is a testament to how horrible the performance was by the Giants’ offense, but it is also a testament to just how dominant Dan Quinn and his defenders were. They came into this contest locked and loaded, and then just unloaded on a stunned New York offense.

Yes, it was a miserable job by the Giants. But this is the first evidence that this is an elite defense. We have to see if this carries over to the future.

We were looking forward to see how this defense stacked up against Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets, but that now looks like it is not going to happen. This bunch could dominate things until the week 5 matchup against the San Francisco 49ers - but they cannot afford to look ahead.

More defensive stats

The Cowboys just crushed it in sacks and takeaways, notching seven takedowns of Daniel Jones and getting the ball back for the offense three times. There were five fumbles by the Giants, although the wet conditions played a role. Still, that is a surefire formula for winning. They say that defense wins championships, and that bodes well for postseason hopes.

There were two notable absences on defense for the game, Donovan Wilson and Jourdan Lewis. But the backups came through in style. Markquese Bell led all defenders with eight tackles, and chipped in a forced fumble. DaRon Bland may be ahead of Lewis on the depth chart, and all he did was get a pick six, a tackle for loss, and a QB hit in the game. We thought the defense had good depth, and for this game that was certainly true.

The sack distribution was interesting, because Dorance Armstrong, a backup at defensive end, and Osa Odighizuwa each had two. Odighizuwa got his from the interior of the defensive line, a place where Dallas has not always seen much production. More of this, please. Micah Parsons, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Chauncey Golston contributed the other sacks, but for Parsons, that hardly reflects his true contributions. He was in the backfield all game, disrupting plays and forcing Jones into the arms of other pass rushers. All this came with very little blitzing. The pass rush is exactly who we thought they were.

It was a rainy game, and that usually forces teams to lean heavily on the run. But the Cowboys held a healthy Saquon Barkley to 51 yards on the night, and New York got a chunk of their rushing total from Jones scrambles. The QB accounted for 43 total yards, and designed runs were not very successful at all. You have to take the very poor performance of the New York offensive line into account, but that is still an encouraging start for the run defense, which only gave up a total of 108 yards on the ground even with the Jones escapes.

Meanwhile, the pass defense was just awesome. They only yielded 110 yards through the air, not the kind of balance any offense wants to be forced into. Jones only completed 15 of 28 attempts with two picks and of course no touchdowns, and a pretty sad 32.8 rating. Pressure and tight coverage doomed the New York attack.

Special teams had a big impact

The only consistent drive of the entire night for the Giants came on the initial possession of the game. They were marching steadily down the field, creating a bit of early nervousness before an errant snap forced them into a field goal attempt. That was when Juanyeh Thomas leapt through a gap in the line to block Graham Gano’s kick, and Noah Igbinoghene scooped the ball for a 58-yard touchdown. It was a body blow to New York, and they never really recovered.

There was a fly in the ointment, however, as Brandon Aubrey missed the extra point, creating a different level of concern for fans. But Aubrey would still those concerns quite a bit by making two field goals and the rest of his extra points. It will still be watched, but without such a high level of angst - for now.

The offense was pedestrian, but more than enough

Maybe it was the wet conditions, or still making the transition to the Texas Coast offense. The offense was not overpowering.

The best thing, however, was that they protected the ball. Dak Prescott didn’t come close to throwing a pick, and made one real thread-the-needle pass. Dallas only had one fumble, by Tony Pollard, but Tyler Biadasz was downfield looking for someone to block and pounced on the ball to keep the drive alive. That is rather good in the rainy weather. If they can keep protecting the ball like that, they can win a lot of games if the defense is getting takeaways. That looks likely.

Prescott only had 143 yards passing, completing 13 of his 24 attempts. CeeDee Lamb accounted for over half the yards, 77, catching all four of his targets, including the longest play of the game, a 49-yard catch and run. Brandin Cooks only had two catches in the game, but also had drew a pass interference call with his speed and veteran savvy that was the equivalent of a 37-yard gain. Michael Gallup only had two passes thrown his way, catching one for 10 yards.

But if you want the biggest red flag of the game, it was the stat line for Jake Ferguson. He is supposed to play a big role in the retooled offense as well as being Prescott’s safety blanket, but he caught only two of the seven passes targeted at him. That has to improve.

The running game was a bit of a bright spot, with 122 yards. That may not sound like much, but prior to the Monday night game, that was good enough for a tie for sixth in the NFL with the Chicago Bears. And Pollard proved he is up for the task of being the lead back with 70 yards on 14 carries, a nice 5.0 average. Rico Dowdle was a competent RB2, with six carries for 24 yards.

Something no one saw coming was KaVontae Turpin being a factor running the ball. He had three carries for 14 yards, as well as two receptions for 11. Many questioned last year why he was not being given more opportunities on offense, and Mike McCarthy seems to think the same way, making Turpin a de facto change of pace option.

We also saw the debut of Deuce Vaughn. He had little impact, playing just eight snaps, most of them with Cooper Rush as QB after Prescott was pulled long after the outcome was certain. We will have to wait to see if he will be the weapon we hope, but it is a long season with plenty of opportunities ahead.

No injuries

This is often the biggest stat of all, and it turned out very well. There was a momentary scare when Chuma Edoga, subbing for Tyler Smith at left guard, went down, but reportedly he just got poked in the eye, and returned to the field. He did a good job all game, which is highly encouraging.

Snap counts

Terence Steele was the only player on the team to see 100% of his unit’s plays, although Edoga would have joined him if he had not had the injury scare. The blowout nature of the win allowed the Cowboys to get some valuable game reps for lots of backups, including ones for backup offensive linemen T.J. Bass, Asim Richards, and Brock Hoffman. That depth needs to be improved, and live action in a real game is a valuable tool.

Every active player saw the field this game, and none of the defensive starters saw more than 79% of the snaps (DaRon Bland, with Gilmore and Trevon Diggs at 77%, and Jayron Kearse 76%). Quinn was throwing his players at New York in waves, especially up front. Leighton Vander Esch was the most used member of the front six/seven at 69%, and Parsons was just out there for 57%. That is all very important, both from the standpoint of protecting the stars, as well as keeping them fresh in the game. No other defensive linemen had even 50% of the defensive reps, and Damone Clark was much like Vander Esch with 66%. This defense is just incredibly deep, and it shows.

It was a great start to the season. Now to pile one good game on another and keep this going.

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