Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 34
Giants offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was back in Dallas facing off against his former employer of 13 years, 9 of which were spent as the Head Coach. The Cowboys offense came into the game leading the NFL in points scored. The Giants offense came into the game ranked 30th in points scored. As bad the NYG season has looked to this point, they were still very much alive in the divisional race. Not one team in it had more than a win and all three rivals had significant roster issues.
The Giants jumped out to an early 7-3 lead on an Evan Engram reverse that looked broken at the start. Remember, NYG tried a similar play two weeks ago against the Niners that resulted in a turnover. This time, Daniel Jones’ pitch was accurate, Engram evaded an Everson Griffen tackle, and dashed downhill into the end zone. This was the first touchdown in 21 offensive drives and it was the first time NYG had a lead since the first half against Pittsburgh on September 13. On the third play of the ensuing drive, Dak Prescott threw an interception to Kyler Fackrell. Fackrell came out of Utah State in 2016 known for his plus-athletic ability combined with a 6’5” / 245 pound frame. A player at that position doesn’t always get a chance to put on display his long speed plus agility with the ball in his hands but Fackrell took full advantage of the opportunity. He scampered his way to a 46-yard touchdown looking like a tight end who may have been playing his pro career on the wrong side of the ball. Not really, but it was an overly impressive play by Fackrell that put NYG up 14-3.
The Giants defense forced a three-and-out and took the ball back downfield via a balanced offensive attack. The running game found a constant positive flow for the first time of the 2020 season as they attacked a porous DAL defensive front. Graham Gano nailed a 55-yard field goal through the upright and it was 17-3 with most of the second quarter left to play. DAL then put together a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ended in an Ezekiel Elliott 1-yard touchdown. The Giants were still up by 7 and their offense was finding a flow. This was yet another test for Jones and this young NYG team. The response? On the fourth play of the drive, rookie left tackle Andrew Thomas allowed a sack to Demarcus Lawrence that jarred the ball loose out of Jones’ hands. DAL cornerback Anthony Brown scooped it up and scored a touchdown to tie the game up at 17-17. Jones’ 22nd fumble in in his 17th game. His record-setting rate continues to lengthen.
NYG responded with a march down the field on a drive that lasted 9 plays. Head Coach Joe Judge, who has a special teams background, had some tricks up his sleeve. As the NYG field goal unit marched onto the field, Engram stopped his retreat to the sideline by just a few yards. The DAL defense did not see him out there and holder Riley Dixon took notice. He rushed the snap, threw it up to Engram, and NYG had another touchdown on the board. Unfortunately, the flag came out as a result of an illegal shift penalty, as Cameron Fleming was not set in his stance. Had Dixon waited one more second to call for the snap, NYG would have went up by 7. Instead, Gano was forced into another 50-yard attempt in which he nailed through the uprights. DAL had just 51 seconds left but they only needed 35 of them. Two chunk pass plays from Prescott to rookie CeeDee Lamb and a trick play of their own resulted in the third DAL touchdown of the quarter. This one was a “Philly Special” as wide receiver Cedrick Wilson threw a perfect pass to Prescott for the 11-yard score. DAL was up 24-20 at halftime.
NYG opened the second half with a quality drive, but the frustration only grew. After two successful third down conversions, Jones hit Darius Slayton on a 3rd-and-6 deep ball that resulted in a touchdown. However, a questionable offensive pass interference was called on Damion Ratley at the line of scrimmage. Instead of the touchdown, NYG was moved back to the DAL 41-yard line and their 3rd-and-16 attempt failed. They were forced to punt, but DAL left 12 men on the field which moved NYG up 5 yards, enough to put Gano on the field for yet another 50+ yard attempt. He nailed it making him the first NYG kicker ever to hit three 50+ yarders in the same game. NYG was down by 1.
The DAL offense marched down the field again, but this drive came with a price. Prescott was tackled by Logan Ryan in a way that ended up causing a compound fracture to his right ankle. It was as gruesome as it sounded. Prescott was taken off on the cart in tears, not knowing if that would be the last time he would wear the DAL uniform. He was playing under the franchise tag and the debate surrounding whether or not he would be given a long term deal has been discussed for years now. Andy Dalton, the 9-year starter signed from Cincinnati came into the game to try and finish off the drive. DAL still scored a touchdown, this one a 12-yard run by Elliott. The home team went up 31-23.
The two offenses traded three-and-outs as the third quarter came to an end. NYG’s opening play of the fourth quarter was a 39-yard gain on a pass from Jones to Slayton. However, their losing tendencies appeared on the next play as they were forced to use their second timeout. They were late out of the huddle in addition to an alignment miscommunication between Jones and Golden Tate. They ended up putting another 3 points on the board via another field goal by Gano, this one from 28 yards, to make the score 31-26.
On the first play of the next DAL drive, rookie center Tyler Biadasz and the second-string quarterback Dalton mishandled the snap and it was recovered by Blake Martinez. NYG began their drive on the DAL 17-yard line and it took just 5 plays to get in the end zone via a Devonta Freeman 4-yard power run. Jones then found tackle Andrew Thomas in the end zone on a trick two-point conversion play. NYG now had a 34-31 lead against an offense that was missing three starting offensive linemen and their starting quarterback.
DAL rode on the backs of Elliott and backup Tony Pollard with help from a 15-yard facemask penalty by Markus Golden and a badly missed tackle by rookie cornerback Darnay Holmes to get into field goal range. Greg Zuerlein hit a 40-yarder to tie the game up. Jones and the Giants offense had their shot to win this game.
They gained 15 yards on 5 plays including a near-interception and were forced to punt and the Cowboys got the ball back with 52 seconds left. Those 52 seconds were all DAL needed, an offense playing with an offensive line that was mostly made up of backups. Consecutive completions to Michael Gallup that highlighted his top-tier ball skills and playmaking potential both warranted reviews. Both catches that combined for 57 yards were upheld, putting DAL in easy field goal range. Zuerlein barely put one through the uprights from 34 yards as time expired.
NYG loses, 37-34.
Daniel Jones: 20-33 / 222 yards / 0 TD-0 INT / 80.6 RAT
Start number 17 for Jones. Loss number 15. Fumble number 22. I sound like a broken record with my talk about the turnovers, fumbles in particular, but this cannot go on at this rate. We are giving Jones this season to trek through the peaks and valleys, but we need to see progression, not regression. It is that simple. Right now, Jones is not progressing, and he is turning the ball over at a record rate. There isn’t much else to say about this game. He did make a couple of nice throws, but he continues to show too much hesitation especially when he steps up in the pocket.
–Devonta Freeman: 17 att-60 yards / 1 TD / 2 rec-27 yards
-In Freeman’s third week with the team, in fact his third week on any NFL team without any preseason action, we saw a glimpse of some of his former pop in Atlanta. We knew it would take a few games for him to catch up to speed, and here we are. Freeman only averaged 3.5 yards per carry but I thought he ran really well. He showed two jump cuts in traffic that we hadn’t seen yet and that is a sign to me that his legs are under him and the confidence is back. I think it is possible we see a small trade market for him in the coming weeks if a contender loses their top back.
-Wayne Gallman rushed for 24 yards on 5 carries, averaging a team high 4.8 yards per. He broke tackles on 4 of his carries and continues to show consistent ability as a complimentary back. I think his upside is tapped out but he can get the job done in this role and seems to always be close to breaking a long one.
-Darius Slayton: 8 rec / 129 yards
Slayton also had a 31-yard touchdown taken away by a questionable offensive pass interference call on Damion Ratley. It was a strong day for the Giants most talented receiver after a few poor games. His greatest trait, dating back to his days at Auburn, is found downfield when he tracks the deep ball. We need to see more deep shots to him. Slayton isn’t a guy who will strongly impact the game via slants and yards after catch. Send him downfield more often and see what happens.
-Golden Tate was the only other wide receiver to catch a pass. He brought in 4 passes for 42 yards on 5 targets. The lack of receiver depth on this team is scary-bad in an era where dozens of quality receivers enter the league via the draft each year. The draft presents so much every year at this spot, yet NYG is starving for more talent there. I get the national scouting list every August for the upcoming draft database. Which position has the most talent? Wide receiver. The supply is more than the demand but NYG can’t find guys to make things happen when injuries arise.
-Evan Engram was targeted 2 times and had 2 carries. It is hard to imagine what NYG has planned for him. I watch the Steelers rookie wide receiver (Chase Claypool) score 4 touchdowns and simply wonder “What if?” I bring that up because I brought up Engram’s name all over Claypool’s scouting report, as they had so many similarities in college when it came to their skillset and tools respectively. Claypool is a wide receiver who some were labeling a tight end during the pre-draft process. Engram is a tight end who some continue to label a wide receiver. We know Engram can’t routinely block in-line well enough, but any time he touches the ball, it’s hard not to imagine the possibilities he brings to the table. No matter where you stand with him, he can’t be targeted just twice in a high scoring game where you throw the ball 33 times.
-The rough stretch for rookie Andrew Thomas continues. He allowed 2 pressures and 2 sacks. He is now approaching the league lead in sacks allowed with incredibly difficult tests coming up against Washington and Philadelphia. It seems like Thomas has a tough test each week. You know what it is? Most teams have high quality pass rushers and if you want to succeed at tackle in this league, you have to be really, really good. Thomas is not that right now. He is overextending, he isn’t sustaining hand contact, and he losing the width of his base. It’s ugly.
-Cameron Fleming was a disaster on the right side, allowing 3 pressures and a TFL. His clock is ticking as the starter.
-Inside, the trio of Will Hernandez, Nick Gates, and Kevin Zeitler had their best game as a group. In the running game, they got more push than we’ve seen in any contest this year, albeit against a poor Dallas defensive front. Gates was flagged twice (one for a hold and once for a block in back) while Zeitler and Hernandez both allowed 1 pressure each. There seemed to be more lateral pulling of the guards which worked out well for the rushing attack. I expect to see more of that in coming games.
-Lorenzo Carter suffered a season-ending Achilles’ injury on the initial drive. In what was perhaps a career-defining season, this was very unfortunate.
-Markus Golden woke up for the first time in 2020. He had 3 tackles, a half-sack, and 2 pressures on a season-high 57 snaps. He will now be the feature edge guy with both Carter and Oshane Ximines out (Ximines may return from IR at some point). It is possible we start to see some Carter Coughlin on the edge and/or Cam Brown inside if they opt to move Fackrell to full-time starter outside.
-As stout as this defensive line can be at times, I was disappointed with their performance against a beat up DAL offensive line. Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams both lacked difference-making plays and came up short in key situations. Neither got any pressure on the passer either.
-Dalvin Tomlinson was solid. He had 6 tackles, 2 TFL, and 1 sack. He really is a fine player who would be getting a lot more attention if this team was winning games. He lines up in multiple spots, has a lot of contact presence, and makes plays away from the ball often.
-Kyler Fackrell was the highlight of the defense in this one. He finished with 3 tackles, 1 TFL, and an interception that he returned for a touchdown. The athletic ability he showed on that play was big time and it made me think if he had some potential as a tight end back in the day. Obviously that isn’t a move you make now, but his speed and agility combined with that power and his frame just gave me that impression. Solid game for him that and he has the tool set to make a full time move to the spot vacated by Carter.
-Blake Martinez has been lights out since signing with NYG. You can’t expect a good game every single week, thus this was his first negative grade. He finished with 7 tackles and did recover as fumble, but elsewhere he just gave up too much in the running game. He was also targeted in the middle of the field multiple times. DAL had a lot of success throwing at him.
-Tae Crowder got the start and finished with 5 tackles, playing 74% of the snaps. With Carter out, I think we are going to see more of him as Fackrell will see more snaps at OLB. I expect to see some Cam Brown and Carter Coughlin as well. The only thing that could get in their way is the return of David Mayo, which is still up in the air.
-James Bradberry shut down Amari Cooper (2 rec / 23 yards) as well as anyone we’ve seen since Cooper was acquired via trade in 2018. Really good game by him when watching the All-22 angle. He was never fooled or off balance.
-Darnay Holmes continues to play fast and physical. He had 3 tackles, 2 pass break ups, and a half-sack. As aggressive as he plays, he is still missing tackles that really hurts this defense. He needs to clean that up.
-Ryan Lewis had an up and down game. He was beat by Michael Gallup late, which led to the DAL game-winning field goal, but he did an OK job in coverage. He simply got beat by a perfect throw and outstanding play on the ball by Gallup. Lewis was beat by Lamb a couple times but overall it was a solid game. He just seemed to get beat when it mattered most.
-Jabrill Peppers was back on the field after missing a game early with an ankle injury. His snaps were limited, playing just over a third of them. He ended with 5 tackles including 1 TFL. He was really active and explosive against the run and made some plays late to keep DAL from making gains outside.
-Logan Ryan is a player you really appreciate if your team is winning. He does so many little things that other defensive backs do not. He led the team with 9 tackles and came up with a few really tough solo tackles on Elliott. He is smart, instinctive, and versatile.
-Adrian Colbert started for Julian Love, but continued to give NYG lackluster play at that position, notably in coverage. He also added 2 personal foul penalties. Love appears to have fallen out of favor with this coaching staff rather quickly.
-K Graham Gano: 4/4 (Made 55, 50, 54, 28). Gano is now 13 for 14 on the year.
-P Riley Dixon: 2 punts / 52.0 avg / 50.5 net
-WR Darius Slayton, LB Kyler Fackrell, K Graham Gano
-OT Andrew Thomas, OT Cameron Fleming, WR Damion Ratley
3 THOUGHTS ON DALLAS
- It was really tough to see Dak Prescott to go down the way he did. Competitive advantage aside, you hate to see a guy like that in a year where he has had some documented off-field issues, go down the way he did. The question will be asked in the coming months: Is that the last time we see him in a Cowboys uniform? Initially my thought is he will be back on a one-year prove-it deal, but when you look at how big the QB market may be this upcoming offseason, someone may still offer him a multi-year deal.
- There may not be a team that has been bit by the injury bug harder than DAL. Three starting offensive linemen, a starting tight end, their best linebacker, a starting corner, a rotational LB, and both starting defensive tackles. Now they lose their starting quarterback? Ouch. Mike McCarthy will get a pass for whatever happens this season in his first year as their head coach. If they still end up winning some games, he will look like a genius.
- I’ve always been a fan of having a legit, quality backup quarterback behind the starter. As much as it hurts to lose Prescott, Dalton is going to keep this team on a similar level. Watch. He has 72 career wins (with CIN) including a 41-26 career record at home. Dalton never really regressed over his career. He simply just couldn’t seem to take the next step up to elevate players around him. However, he was never a guy who just couldn’t get it done. DAL will shift their offensive focus and overall plan a bit, but that side of the ball is still loaded with weapons.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- Let’s not give the Giants offense credit for putting up 34 points. 7 of them came from Kyler Fackrell’s interception and another touchdown scoring drive started at the DAL 17-yard line. This team still averaged 3.3 yards per carry (the worst rushing team in the NFL averages 3.5 per game). This team still averaged 6.7 yards per passing attempt (the 10th worst passing offense in the NFL averages 6.8 per game). This kind of production against a banged-up defense that had allowed the most points in the NFL is just awful.
- I will give the Giants coaching staff some credit for at least trying to get a little innovative, trying to create points from outside of the normal game plan. The flea flicker, the fake field goal attempt, the reverses to Engram, etc. It did not help them win but I do like the idea that these coaches will think outside the box. Remember, Joe Judge is 38 years old and has never been a head coach. This is a growing experience for him as well.
- The trade deadline is coming really fast and everyone knows how strongly I feel about the draft and doing it right. If there is a way to get extra picks (even if they are day three), this is the way to get them without selling your competitive integrity. There are three guys I would strongly consider trading who I also believe will have a market for their services. First is Engram. During the game, I again thought “if a real offensive mind got their hands on Engram he could be a monster.” (BUF?/ARI?/SF?) I feel strongly about that and if someone offers a 3rd- or 4th-round pick, I say pull the trigger. Second is Peppers. He is locked in for another year at a decent cap rate. If a defense can find a run-and-chase role for Peppers (BAL?/IND?/NE?), he can be an important role player. He isn’t someone you build a defense around or give too much to assignment wise, but he is a guy who brings energy and will make things happen on talent alone. You can hide his issues if you have a good defense around him. Lastly, I do think there is a market for Tomlinson. The question remains, however, if you want him here long term to build around. He won’t be a game-changer, but he is a really solid and reliable player. I bet someone offers a middle round pick for him. If NYG thinks they don’t want to add more money resources to the DL spot with Williams and Lawrence already here, I think a contender with DL issues could take him (KC?/LV?/DAL?).