At times, it was far more difficult than it should have been. But with a great advantage in who was available for the game that only increased as things progressed, the Dallas Cowboys banged out a 44-20 win over their division rival the New York Giants to tighten their grip on the NFC East.
There certainly was a lot of ugly in this game, but after a slow start Dak Prescott started to cook while Trevon Diggs kept his interception streak alive. Greg Zuerlein was kicking well on a day when there were missed field goals and extra points all over the league. The superiority of the Cowboys roster against a depleted New York team that kept seeing players drop finally exerted itself. But this was one where the score is somewhat an indictment of the mistakes made by the winner, as it should have been a game that was put away even earlier than it was.
The game would finally start to feel comfortable for Dallas when they managed a stop on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line in the fourth quarter, where Anthony Brown and Kadarius Toney tangled up but the refs kept the flags in their pockets. That gave the ball back to the Cowboys with a fourteen point lead in the final quarter. An Ezekiel Elliott run, a long completion to CeeDee Lamb (with a penalty costing field position), and a pass from Cedrick Wilson to Noah Brown (that would have been a touchdown if not thrown low) got them out of the shadow of their own goal posts. Then Wilson was on the receiving end of a 35 yard pass. That set up a vintage 13-yard touchdown for Zeke. The lead was up to 21, and this game was effectively over. The Giants would score a late touchdown, Zuerlein would get his third field goal of the day, and Anthony Brown would get a pick six to get to the final total and the coveted 40 burger, but those were rather meaningless in the final outcome as the final few minutes of the game were really the definition of garbage time.
The Giants were already short-handed coming into the game, and it just got worse for them. Saquon Barkley twisted his ankle when he stepped on Jourdan Lewis’ foot as Daniel Jones overthrew a pass. That happened with over five minutes left in the first quarter. Then Jones himself dove to try and get into the end zone with about three minutes left into the first half. He came up short and basically drove his helmet into the helmet of Jabril Cox. He staggered when he got up and would not return. That left Mike Glennon to quarterback the team and Devontae Booker their lead runner. Kenny Golladay also did not return after the half, which meant New York was without the three wide receivers that were set to be their starters for the year.
Dallas should have been able to just stonewall the Giants and run up the score, but they were making multiple mistakes. There is nothing worse than letting a team that is out-manned like that hang around. The Cowboys did just that with sloppy play on offense. Prescott had a ball batted in the air and intercepted on the first series of the game. He barely missed having it happen again in the second quarter. Tyler Biadasz continued to have issues snapping the ball, and Prescott lost a fumble on one that was a bit off line, but should have been fielded. Another interception was just dropped.
Still, Prescott managed to connect on a 49-yard touchdown to Lamb and another to Amari Cooper from 24 yards out. That was necessary as they stalled on their two trips to the red zone in the first half, netting only three points. Still, they managed to get to halftime with a 17-10 lead. Credit is due the defense for holding the Giants to a missed 54-yard field goal after the early interception. And Elliott ran for 71 yards in the first half, with Tony Pollard chipping in 31. But Elliott had his own injury scare on Dallas’ first drive of the second half, grabbing his back after he went down hard driving for the end zone. He stayed down for a minute and got up wincing, but was able to return. On the next play, Cooper came up limping but stayed in the game. Elliott apparently just was momentarily stunned as he scored a receiving touchdown on a brilliant play call by Kellen Moore that left him wide open inside the ten-yard line, where he showboated his way to the touchdown that opened an eleven-point lead midway through the third quarter.
While the defense made some strong plays, and Trevon Diggs twice flirted with his sixth interception of the year before getting it in the third quarter. they still fell prey to long plays. That included a big gain on a pass from Glennon to Toney that set up a field goal, cutting the lead to just four points at the time. But as noted by Joe Buck, the Giants were missing 70% of their offensive production from the first four games. This was ridiculously tilted in the Cowboys’ favor. Still, Toney certainly did his best as he had another big play later in the game, but Lewis landed on his foot as he came down and he had to go to the bench, but would return. It would not be an injury that took him out before the final whistle, but a clear punch after he was shoved.
This game will give the coaches plenty to work on. There were far too many miscues by Dallas. They pulled away in the end, but it was like outrunning a car with three flat tires. Still, the things that led to the previous three wins finally emerged in the second half. The running game was too much for the Giants. Elliott had 110 yards and a touchdown running, plus a receiving score, and after his bad moments earlier Prescott got things going. He would have over 300 yards passing with three touchdowns against the one interception. The offensive production, exceeding 500 total yards, allowed the Cowboys to overcome their turnovers. Down the stretch, the game just got sloppy, with penalties on every other play, it seemed like.
But importantly, the Washington Football Team lost earlier in the day to the New Orleans Saints, dropping them to 2-3 (which ties the Philadelphia Eagles) and leaves the Cowboys with a two-game lead in the NFC East after only five games. Clean up the mistakes and sloppiness, and the Cowboys could cruise into the playoffs. They just have to clean up a lot of the mistakes we saw in this game if they hope to get far. The good news is that they have a lot of time to do so, and still got this win.
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