In a near carbon copy of their Week 4 victory over the Carolina Panthers, the Dallas Cowboys rolled the New York Giants to cap an undefeated three-game homestand last Sunday. Like that Panthers game, Dallas had more ups than downs in a 44-20 victory over the depleted Giants.
Not only did New York come into the game missing several key starters, but they also lost some of their most essential contributors as the night went on. Still, Dallas did what good teams are supposed to do when playing an inferior opponent. They put up a season-high 44 points, and the defense continued to get takeaways, with Trevon Diggs intercepting his sixth pass and Anthony Brown capping the win with a pick-six.
Let’s take a look at the good and the bad from Dallas’s big win.
Takeaways From the Dallas Cowboys Week 5 Win
It didn’t take long for Dallas Cowboys to realize that running the ball to the right side of the line would result in success. On the first two drives, the Cowboys ran 16 plays and gained 80 yards. Seven of those plays were runs to the right, where Dallas gained 55 yards. In the end, the Cowboys ran 19 of their 37 designed runs to the right, gaining 127 of their 201 yards. That’s 6.7 yards per run, which is pretty darn good.
In addition, Dallas never gained less than two yards on a run to the right. Not only were Terence Steele and Zack Martin terrific on the right side, but Martin and Connor Williams were dominant pulling to the right.
They routinely bullied perimeter defenders to create space for Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard, and sometimes the Cowboys pulled them both. In addition, the tight ends and wide receivers did a great job helping in a dominant rushing effort. Most importantly, Elliott and Pollard are running with a ton of confidence, and it’s allowing the Cowboys to move the ball at will. The idea of La’el Collins returning from suspension after the bye week only makes things all the more exciting.
Kellen Moore has already come up with packages designed to get Connor McGovern in the game as a sixth run-blocker. How might he insert Steele when Collins is back? A run-blocking tight end next to Collins, perhaps? All I know is this running game is firing on all cylinders.
Prescott making them pay
Before the Giants game, opposing defenses have come in with a concrete defensive strategy to try and make the Cowboys one-dimensional. After Dak Prescott went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in Week 1, the Cowboys’ next three opponents came in with their minds set on playing two deep safeties to force Dallas’ ground game to be the breadwinner.
However, New York was a little more flexible with its pre-snap approach. Early on, they dared the Cowboys run game to beat them, and when it did, they moved an extra player near the box to counter it. In those scenarios, Prescott made them pay. He didn’t have to fire the ball downfield very often, but there were some sensational throws from him in this one.
On the touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb, Lamb barely broke stride when hauling it in and scoring to put Dallas up 10-0. On the touchdown pass to Amari Cooper, he fit the throw in beautifully to keep the safety from having any chance at getting a piece of the ball or Cooper.
However, it was the throw to Cedrick Wilson that was most impressive. Just like the touchdown pass to Cooper the week before, Prescott put the ball in a perfect spot where only his receiver could catch, and the tight coverage became irrelevant.
Plenty of Pressure
While the defense didn’t record a sack, fan should be pretty happy with the pressure this group generated during the competitive portion of this game. Yes, the Giants were able to move the ball down the stretch with little pressure on Mike Glennon. However, at that point, the Cowboys were more interested in allowing the Giants to throw underneath than giving up a quick score. Part of that strategy includes not taking chances with blitzes or tight coverage, although Brown did get a little aggressive with his pick-six thanks to Glennon’s intentions becoming evident that he was taking the quick throws.
Still, when Jones was in the game, Dallas did a good job getting him off his spot and forcing him to make throws on the move. That worked in their favor as Jones was 5-13 before exiting the game with a concussion.
More importantly, one of his two throws for decent yardage came on a prayer that was thrown off his back foot in hopes that his receiver would make a play. Fortunately for him, Toney did.
Randy Gregory was terrific with four hits on the passer as he was releasing the ball. The interior did a good job at times of not allowing Jones to climb the pocket. The Cowboys blitzes also sped the play up on several occasions. It looks good on paper when players are coming away with sacks, but when pressure forces poor throws, it’s an acceptable consolation.
Red Zone Creativity
It’s not often I’ve said this over the years, but I was pleased with the offensive play calling in the red zone against New York.
Yes, Dallas settled for two field goals in the red zone. However, on one, the Cowboys got what they wanted with Schultz over the middle. The ball was just dropped. On the other, the outcome was already decided with 1:24 left, and I can’t see Moore pulling out any special designs in that scenario.
Still, the play to Elliott was very unique. Not only do you get defenders taking false steps on the jet sweep fake, but you also had players getting frozen by the fake pitch to Elliott. At that point, more than a few Giants found themselves at a standstill, trying to figure out where they were supposed to be. Fortunately, Prescott gave them little time to recover with a quick decision for an easy touchdown. Those are the kind of plays Dallas has struggled to come up with in the past.
Another Flat Start
Not much went wrong for Dallas in this one, but there are examples of sloppy play, and they mostly came in the first quarter. The Dallas Cowboys can’t keep getting off to slow starts like this. Good teams aren’t going to let you get away with bad starts. They are going to help you dig your hole and then kick you into it. I’m not that frustrated with Prescott’s interception.
Elliott was open for the first down, and the defender just made a terrific play. However, I’m not thrilled with the first-down execution that led to that fourth-down turnover.
Schultz was open for a routine throw over the middle that would have kept Dallas ahead of the chains on that play. Instead, Prescott missed badly, and we were playing catchup. Schultz also had a blunder in this one when the Cowboys had to settle for a field goal on a touchdown pass that hit him square in the hands. I don’t care how bad New York is. They are a divisional opponent, and that needs to be seven points instead of three.
It’s also frustrating to fumble a good snap in the red zone. Once again, that needs to be points for this team in a divisional game. There is no reason Dallas shouldn’t have come away with points on each of their first three drives.
Considering the rash of injuries the Giants suffered from there, it likely crushes their spirits before the game even gets to halftime. This has to change, or a bad team is going to beat us. Good teams fix mistakes before those issues cost them. Dallas needs to fix it.
No Need for High Stepping
Maybe I’m just no fun, but I despise the sight of Ezekiel Elliott high-stepping into the end zone against a broke and beaten opponent. For starters, look what is Elliott risking in that situation? Did he not see Saquon Barkley step on another player’s foot and exit the game? Of course, it was an unforeseen accident, but it’s a possibility. When that linebacker started running full speed, that is all I could think about was the possibility of karma biting Elliott in the rear for what should be considered taunting.
For those that watched third-ranked Iowa beat fourth-ranked Penn State the day before, I’m sure you saw the Hawkeyes top cornerback pick off his NCAA-leading fourth interception only to suffer a knee injury on his way to the celebration.
Any Cowboys fan should have hated it when Terrell Owens was heading for the star in the middle of the field or when DeSean Jackson walks into the end zone after getting behind the defense. That is what Elliott is doing to his opponents, and he was fortunate the linebacker didn’t show the same amount of unsportsmanlike conduct following the touchdown. He certainly kept chasing after Elliott crossed the line like he was going to give him a shot.
It’s just unnecessary in a game that Dallas was in the midst of putting away. It builds the other team’s frustrations, and that’s when punches get thrown, and helmets get ripped off.
If someone gets hurt because of a scuffle like that, Elliott is a contributing factor in it. I know the Dallas Cowboys are playing well, and that makes the game all the more fun. Still, this is professional football, and I’d like to see Elliott act like a professional in that scenario.