Although the Dallas Cowboys 23-16 victory over the New York Giants wasn’t quite a work of art, the team’s brilliance ultimately prevailed despite self-inflicted mistakes from time to time.
And some of that brilliance was discovered behind center, perhaps unexpectedly. Cooper Rush proved once more that he can handle the spotlight, becoming the first player since the 1970 merger to lead three fourth-quarter or overtime game-winning drives in his first three career starts, despite all the worries that the Cowboys would once more have to take the field with a backup quarterback.
Rush maintained consistency throughout the whole game, finishing 67.7% of his passes for 215 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions for a passer rating of 98.2. Noah Brown added 54 yards on five grabs, while CeeDee Lamb finished with eight catches for 87 yards in a genuine up-and-down performance.
Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott combined for 105 and 73 rushing yards, respectively, which contributed to the success of the ground attack. They carried the ball 5.9 yards on average as a group.
DeMarcus Lawrence, a defensive end, led the defense in this matchup, at least early on. The seasoned player recorded three sacks, his first multiple-sack game since Nov. 18, 2018, at Atlanta, and his third attempt with at least three sacks in his career. Unfortunately, Lawrence’s foot injury forced him to exit the game midway through the third quarter.
Lawrence wasn’t there, but his defensive teammates still excelled; they haven’t let up more than 19 points in any game this season. The group pressed Giants quarterback Daniel Jones on an outstanding 24 snaps while also sacking him five times during the contest. They restricted New York to just 196 passing yards overall.
Dorance Armstrong broke through the right side of the Giants’ line to stop a 47-yard field goal attempt for the Cowboys after their first drive stalled as a result of a holding penalty. Since Tyrone Crawford blocked a field goal on October 29, 2017, at Washington, the team hadn’t blocked one until that moment.
Dallas immediately droves into New York territory before opting for a chip-shot field goal from 26 yards out to grab the lead.
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Soon after the next kickoff, the home team advanced 51 yards in 14 plays to the Cowboys’ 24-yard line, tying the score. The Giants were forced to shoot a 42-yard field goal because the Dallas defense held up there.
Jason Peters, a nine-time Pro Bowler who started the game at left guard for the Cowboys and opened a hole for Pollard on his first snap, helped the running back gain 46 yards to New York’s 37. Dallas went as near as the 10-yard line, but the Cowboys were forced to settle for a 28-yard Brett Maher field goal after the Giants failed to capitalize on a pass interference call in the end zone.
On their subsequent possession, the Cowboys once more moved the ball across midfield, but a huge opportunity was missed when Rush connected with a wide-open Lamb deep across the middle, only for the receiver to fumble the throw. The Cowboys were forced to punt since they failed to make a significant gain or perhaps even a score.
Fortunately, the Cowboys did give Maher a chance to attempt a 59-yard field goal on the last snap of the half. However, his attempt missed slightly to the left, giving the visitors a narrow 6-3 lead going into the half.
The Giants came out in the second half and capitalized on Dallas’ lost opportunities despite the Cowboys appearing to control the first half but failing to establish a comfortable lead.
Graham Gano split the uprights from 51 yards out to tie the score after their first series of the third quarter saw them travel 42 yards on 10 plays. On New York’s subsequent possession, the Giants traveled 77 yards to the end zone, with Saquon Barkley scoring on a rush of 36 yards. New York now leads Dallas 13-6 after Dallas’ first rushing touchdown of the year.
But the Cowboys answered by scoring for the first time in the contest. Rush connected with Lamb for a 17-yard gain to get things going before adding completions of 29 and 12 yards to Peyton Hendershot and Brown, respectively. But Elliott, who forced his way through, received the attention. Lamb subsequently attained his much-needed redemption.
The Cowboys’ first drive of the fourth quarter began at their 11-yard line, but after four completions to No. 88 for a total of 48 yards, Dallas once more crossed the goal line. When it was fourth-and-4 at the New York 41, Rush connected with Lamb for a gain of 17 before going back to the wide receiver for the first down.
Lamb completed a fantastic one-handed grab and got his feet inbounds on the left side of the end zone for a 1-yard highlight-reel touchdown to cap the drive. Lamb had previously caught a pass for 26 yards.
Punt return specialist KaVontae Turpin gave his team the ball at the Giant’s 35-yard line with an explosive 28-yard bring-back as the Cowboys gained full momentum. Maher then converted a 44-yard field goal to extend his lead to 10 points, 23-13.
It was only a one-possession game after New York successfully made a 51-yard field goal in response. They just had one more opportunity to try to tie the game, and that was it.