The Dallas Cowboys got to 2-0 on the young NFL season by defeating the New York Jets 30-10 to complete the Big Apple sweep. It was a story of the defenses as the Jets repeatedly stifled the Dallas offense in the red zone while the Dallas D harassed Zach Wilson all day and forced two turnovers. But the Cowboys had a clear advantage offensively with a huge disparity in time of possession and plays run while the Jets, while scrappy, just could not sustain drives and got their lone touchdown on a long pass play where the Dallas secondary had an uncharacteristic breakdown. Micah Parsons was the star of the defense for Dallas, while CeeDee Lamb had himself a day. And the Cowboys won the turnover battle with ease, never giving the ball up while taking it away four times. There will still be some discussion of just how much the quality of the opponents have played in the first two wins of the season, but this was another game where Dallas was just the better, deeper roster.
The Cowboys came into the game missing two starters, LG Tyler Smith and WR Brandin Cooks, who were both inactive as the team opts for caution before bringing them back, and S Donovan Wilson also was inactive for his second game. But CB Jourdan Lewis was active for the first time since his devastating injury last season to bolster the secondary. Chuma Edoga once again started in Smith’s place, while Jalen Tolbert moved up to WR3 behind CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup. Jalen Brooks was on the active roster for the first time in his career for WR depth. Across the line of scrimmage, of course, there was no Aaron Rodgers and Zach Wilson would be leading the Jets offense.
The Cowboys won the toss but elected to receive the ball to start the game. Starting at their own 25, they opened by running the ball with Tony Pollard. After getting a quick first down, Dak Prescott also completed his first pass to Pollard, then Rico Dowdle set them up with third and two. CeeDee Lamb got the first down as the Texas Coast offense seemed to be clicking. Then Prescott hit him again for 25. Mike McCarthy was also using a hurryup approach to try and keep the New York defense back on their heels. A couple of plays later, Prescott would use his legs to take it all the way to the five. They didn’t have any success on a couple of runs, but Jake Ferguson would catch the ball at the two and stretch it out to get the first score of the game, which was good to see after the poor showing he had last week. It was a coolly efficient drive against one of the best defenses in the NFL. Oh, and Brandon Aubrey made the extra point.
It was a solid start with Prescott going five for five and the touchdown. Now it was time to see what the defense could do against the Jets. DeMarcus Lawrence started things with a tackle for a loss of four, and Micah Parsons would end the drive two plays later with another one of his fast, powerful rushes to drop Wilson and force the punt.
It was a near-perfect start for the Cowboys. but Deuce Vaughn would bobble a pass before bringing it in on third down on the ensuing possession, costing him the first down. That brought Bryan Anger out for the first punt of the game. His punt left the Jets on their own 10-yard line. Osa Odighizuwa would stop Dalvin Cook just short of the first down marker, but New York would fake the punt and get the first down on a run by Ashtyn Davis. Then with the Jets facing another third and short, the Cowboys would stop them again a half yard short. This time New York punted, but between a 59-yard punt and a holding penalty, Dallas would be pinned at their own five. And a false start would leave them with 97 and a half yards to go.
CeeDee Lamb quickly got them in much better position with a 31-yard catch and run, although he was saved from disaster when he lost the ball and Tyler Biadasz, who always keeps going downfield, had his second fumble recovery of the season to keep his team’s drive alive. Lamb would get another first down as Prescott completed his tenth pass without an incompletion to start the game. Jalen Tolbert would catch his eleventh in a row to get to third and one, and they would get another fresh set of downs the next play. Prescott would get two more passes with Tolbert getting the first on a third and seven. Prescott would finally misfire a couple of plays later under heavy pressure. The drive would finally stall at the 17, and Aubrey would put the field goal between the uprights to give Dallas a 10-0 lead.
Thanks to the relentless pass rush, the Jets again failed to convert a third down, but the Cowboys also had to punt and on the first play after, the coverage would break down as Wilson hit Garrett Wilson for a 68-yard touchdown and suddenly it was a real fight at 10-7 halfway through the second quarter. Lamb would take a huge hit but hang onto the ball to get the first down at the 46, and he would go over 100 receiving in the game on the next play. Sauce Gardner almost picked the ball on the first really bad pass of the season, but that would allow Prescott to find KaVontae Turpin for another first down.
Deuce Vaughn would suddenly become a factor with an 11-yard catch and a 13-yard run to get Dallas into the red zone. It looked like the Cowboys would face a fourth down, but a roughing the passer play gave them a first and goal just outside the five. Prescott would be sacked for the first time this season, but another flag for pass interference in the end zone gave them a first and goal at the one. Luke Schoonmaker would get the first reception and touchdown of his career, and double penalties against the Jets would give the Cowboys the opportunity to get a two-point conversion for an 18-7 lead.
With less than two minutes, the Jets would finally get a drive going, marching downfield as Zach Wilson found his rhythm throwing and made some big gains with his legs to get into field goal range. Austin Siebert would knock through a 34-yard field goal, and Dallas would go into halftime leading 18-10. Prescott completed 21 of 26 of his first half passes for 165 yards, but New York had made it clear they weren’t going down easy, and would receive the ball coming out of halftime. And Chuma Edoga left the field with a medical staffer just before the two-point conversion, which put T.J. Bass in the lineup.
The Cowboys defense, with Parsons of course leading the charge, would assert themselves and force a three-and-out. Good pressure on the punt would give the ball to Dallas at their own 36. Bass was in at LG, and he had a big block along with Zack Martin to allow Pollard to get loose for 23 yards. But Quinnen Williams would beat Bass on the next play to drop Pollard for a four-yard loss. That would lead to a third and 14, but Lamb would continue his excellent afternoon to get the first down on a 15-yard catch. Turpin would continue to be a part of the offense with his own first down catch and run. Rico Dowdle would set them up with a first and goal at the one, but Prescott would misfire on a pass to Ferguson, and they had to settle for the point-blank field goal to push the score to 21-10.
Then Parsons struck again, meeting the runner behind the line and ripping the ball out. Live, it looked like he picked the ball up and scored, but that was overturned as he was ruled down on the recovery. It still gave Dallas the ball at the New York 37 with a great chance to put more points on the board. But they would be unable to move the ball from there, and had to settle for another Aubrey field goal, this one from 54. That was a real confidence builder for him and the fans both.
Odighizuwa would get another sack, his third for the season, and the Jets would have to punt again. Rico Dowdle showed up as a receiver on the drive to get the ball across midfield. Lamb would continue his outstanding game to set the team up on the NYJ nine-yard line. Once again, however, the Jets defense would stiffen in the red zone and Aubrey would come on for his fourth three-pointer of the game. That made it a three score game at 27-10. New York would have to strike fast to still be in it with just about twelve and a half minutes left to play.
But being chased by Parsons again, Zack Wilson threw an ill-advised ball that Jayron Kearse plucked from the air to put Dallas back in the red zone again. It looked for a moment that Pollard would get the third touchdown of the game for the Cowboys, but it was called back on a holding call. That pushed them back, and Automatic Aubrey would make it 30-10. Trevon Diggs and Malik Hooker added interceptions in garbage time.
As the game wound down, it was clear McCarthy was playing conservatively with a big lead and trying to just burn off the clock. That is a luxury that you get when you build a multi-score lead and repeatedly turn back the opponent. Things are going to get tougher as the season progresses, but so far, this looks like a real contender in Dallas.