Dallas Cowboys 37 – New York Giants 18
A national primetime game against a division rival. Throwback all-white uniforms. A new defensive weapon acquired via trade. This was a game that generated at least some excitement in the middle of yet another failure of a season. It was hard to look past the fact this team had lost 5 in a row to Dallas and 11 of their past 15 NFC East match-ups, though. Even in the unfamiliar blue uniforms, the Cowboys entered this one as a 7-point road favorite with little fear of a broken NYG squad.
The night started off in favor of NYG, as Dak Prescott threw an interception directly to safety Antoine Bethea, his first since 2017, on the very first play of the game. The Giants began their initial offensive drive inside the DAL 8-yard line but could only muster 3 points. Essentially they were starting this game over with the Giants getting a 3-point head start. DAL quickly tied the game back up after an 11-play drive that saw chunk gains from Ezekiel Elliott and the 37-year old Jason Witten. The same Jason Witten who has been torching NYG for what seems to be fifty years. The same Jason Witten who was a Monday Night Football color analyst at this time a year ago.
After a NYG three-and-out, DAL took the ball back into NYG territory and lined up kicker Brett Maher for a 54-yard field goal attempt. The wind pushed it wide left and NYG began their drive at their own 44-yard line. Two key plays that brought NYG down inside the DAL 5-yard line were a 16-yard run by Daniel Jones and a 17-yard pass to Golden Tate that converted a 3rd-and-14 situation. It took them three plays to get the one yard needed for a score, but a Jones-to-Cody Latimer pass put NYG back in the lead. Aldrick Rosas missed the extra point, thus the score was 9-3.
The momentum stayed on the NYG side, as receiver Randall Cobb had the ball jarred loose by a violent Jabrill Peppers hit and Bethea came up with his second turnover of the game. The next drive injected more and more juice into the stadium. Tate gained 16 yards on a reverse aided by a lead block by Jones, who got lit up on the play but he contributed to the yards and there is something about toughness that gets everyone excited. Evan Engram then exploded for 15-yard gain after a short pass. A black cat then ran onto the field and caused a delay. It was about a minute or two and it created the thought that maybe this would be one of those good-luck turning points. NYG would go onto win out, get to 10-6, and into the postseason because of this black cat. That idea rapidly disappeared as Saquon Barkley had a likely big-run stopped by his own center Jon Halapio, who for some unknown reason was just standing there not blocking anybody. The two collided and went down. It was Halapio’s best hit of the season. NYG got inside the DAL 10-yard line but couldn’t punch it in, relying on 3 points again off the foot of Rosas.
The score was 12-3, but the missed opportunities created an aura of pessimism. And with that, Prescott connected with tight end Blake Jarwin for a short gain that he turned into 42-yard touchdown. This is the same Blake Jarwin who scored 3 touchdowns against NYG last December and the same Blake Jarwin who scored a touchdown against NYG week 1. He has 6 career touchdowns in his 3-year career, 5 of which are against NYG.
Momentum was slipping through the fingers of NYG and they shot themselves in the foot on the next drive with under a minute left. A drop by Darius Slayton and an interception by Jones gave the ball back to DAL. They were able to get 3 more points on the scoreboard and entered the half with a 13-12 lead.
Latimer opened the half with a kick return that gave NYG starting field position at midfield. Penalties and a sack killed any hope of starting the second half with a score, but they forced a three-and-out when DAL got the ball. The offense didn’t take advantage of it though. I talked about Daniel Jones massive fumble issue during preseason and the only thing I can say about it now is that the issue is nearing catastrophic levels. On a 3rd-and-6, Jones scrambled up the middle and had the ball jarred loose as he approached the first down marker. The fumble was recovered by safety Darian Thompson, former NYG 3rd-round pick. This was Jones’ 7th fumble of the year, tied for the league lead.
DAL turned that into 3 more points, which put their lead at 16-12. Latimer once again had a big return that brought NYG to midfield. Overall, this was the best starting field position the team has had all year from a game-perspective. However, once again, NYG was only able to create 3 points out of it despite getting inside DAL 10-yard line.
The fourth quarter began with a DAL touchdown-scoring drive. Prescott found Michael Gallup near the sideline and the explosive 2nd-year pro made Janoris Jenkins miss, as Jenkins did on the Jarwin touchdown as well, and acrobatically made his way into the end zone. 23-15 DAL at this point.
Saquon Barkley, who was quiet for most of the game, brought NYG all the way to the DAL 11-yard line with a fresh set of downs. However, three straight incomplete passes and no looks to Barkley led to, you guessed it, another field goal by Rosas. NYG was down 5 and a stop on the ensuing drive was near-mandatory. However, a shaky-at-best pass interference call on Deandre Baker on a 3rd-down incompletion kept the drive alive. Six plays later, Baker or Bethea blew his coverage assignment, leaving the DAL number one receiver Amari Cooper wide open across the middle for a big gain and touchdown. NYG was now down 12 with under 8 minutes left and most hope had left the stadium.
NYG put together one more drive with time dwindling and the DAL defense in a prevent, half-effort approach. It would have made those who bet the +7 line happy at least to see NYG get a cheap touchdown but they couldn’t even do that. From the DAL 24-yard line, Jones was sacked and had the ball knocked loose. Jourdan Lewis scooped it up and returned it for a 63-yard touchdown. Jones left the night as the lone leader in the NFL with 8 fumbles.
NYG loses, 37-18.
-Daniel Jones: 26/41 – 210 yards – 1 TD / 1 INT – 74.2 QBR. Jones also added a team-high 54 yards on the ground via 6 carries. Jones lost 2 fumbles, one of which was on a passing attempt, and threw an interception. It can be debated that that interception wasn’t solely on Jones, but at the end of the day he didn’t put it where it needed to be. Jones’ fumbles are going to lose games for this franchise if he doesn’t clean it up. While it may not be a big deal right now because expectations are so low, that can be a game changer and a season changer by itself. The guy who holds the ball the most can’t be giving it away like he is right now. His toughness and athletic ability did impress and he continues to show an even-keel approach, but those fumbles will end it for him and this team if it stays this way. Clean it up.
-Saquon Barkley: 14 att / 28 yards – 6 rec / 67 yards. Don’t mistake the receiving line for anything impressive, one of those catches went for 65 yards. So his other 5 catches accrued 2 yards. That is actually hard to do if you think about it. As one of the biggest Barkley supporters during the 2018 draft, I will say this: Barkley is running soft and scared. Is it the fear of injury? Is it the offensive line? Is it being used to not getting to the line without defenders in his face? Or worse, is it him wanting to make it to his Zeke-contract, AKA avoid injury at all costs? I will give him credit for better blocking this week, much better, and the 65-yard gain was what this kid can do every time he touches the ball. But I want to see more grit in his game. Show it to me, kid. You haven’t accomplished that much yet.
-Golden Tate: 6 rec / 42 yards – 1 rush / 16 yards. Tate caught all 6 of his targets, one of which was an incredible catch that he almost got into the end zone. I like how this guy competes and I can see why past fan bases of the teams he played on loved and hated him. Tate is who he is: a really good complimentary player but will never be THE guy. If anything, he may be best suited for the #3/#4 option on a good offense.
-Cody Latimer made a big impact and had this team scored on just a couple more touchdowns of their multiple redzone opportunities, we may be talking about him more. He caught the lone NYG touchdown and returned two kicks to midfield. His separation as a route runner has been minimal but I do think there are things you can do with him. There is a ton of straight line athletic ability and he has proven he can make the tough catch.
-Really poor night for the rookie Darius Slayton. He dropped a pass, allowed a TFL, and tracked the ball really poorly on the Jones interception. He could have been where the ball landed but he was late to turn and didn’t control his body well enough.
-Evan Engram: 6 rec / 48 yards. Engram has regressed as a blocker. DAL has given him issues a few times in his young career, in particular DeMarcus Lawrence, but some of the tackles he allows are unacceptable. On a run to the opposite side, Engram’s man is coming across his face and still making the play. That isn’t a difficult assignment. Maybe TE should be elevated on the NYG needs list and Engram needs to be a wide receiver who, every now and then, starts the play on the line. Year 3 and he still stinks in there, that won’t change.
-Mike Remmers continues to show he can’t play right tackle in the NFL for a team that wants to compete. He allowed 2 sacks and 2 pressures. His run blocking received a below average grade and that adds up to, if you want to call it that, his second-worst grade of the year. He is regressing. Nate Solder actually had a decent game. He did allow a sack-fumble at the end, and he did allow a pressure, but he kept the blind side relatively quiet, in particular on the deep attempts.
-Will Hernandez spent most of the night fighting the entire DAL defense. He relishes the role of personal protector and bodyguard, which is fine. It seemed to get a little over the top and I would much rather see him not allow a TFL and sack against an interior DAL defensive line that is average at best. Kevin Zeitler also allowed a sack late in the game, although he was solid otherwise.
-Center Jon Halapio didn’t get any push against a defensive line that is known for being undersized. I’m not sure why he continues to get the nod even though I am not a fan of Spencer Pulley either. He just looks slow. DAL sent a couple long-developing stunts and blitzes right up the middle and he barely even acknowledged them. His reaction time isn’t good enough. I can’t imagine this OL going into 2020 with him on the roster.
-Lorenzo Carter and Markus Golden both had 1 TFL and 1 pressure each. Neither were able to come up big on 3rd down, which is always the time I am looking for them to step up. In fact, Golden got called for offsides on a 3rd-and-7 that moved DAL up 5 yards which they converted. Carter was rangy against the run but he was far from stout. He and rookie Oshane Ximines were getting blown off the ball and easily moved, creating some of the massive running lanes Elliott was running through.
-In his first game with NYG, Leonard Williams not only got the start but was also on the field more than both B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. He had 3 tackles and 2 pressures, including a solid hit on Prescott that was just after he threw the ball. He didn’t do much to standout and he did get washed out a couple times on big Elliott gains. The one thing I see with him that the others don’t have is the ability to create on his own. Williams can bend, run, turn, and burst better than any of the other down linemen. I can see the attraction in him. Time will tell if he can turn it into consistent production.
-B.J. Hill appears to be the odd man out when it comes to playing time. He was on the field for about a quarter of the plays. Interesting to see but I think it has more to do with his position more so than his performance. Dalvin Tomlinson was in at the nose and they have repeatedly said that is a spot they just don’t want to see Hill play.
-Dexter Lawrence already looks to be the leader of the defensive line. From a performance and emotional standpoint, he is rising and rising as the year goes. He had 2 tackles and a QB hit. I re-watched him specifically to see if he was a culprit for Elliott running wild and he played just fine, it had more to do with the linebackers (again) and inconsistent play from Tomlinson.
–Alec Ogletree continues to be one of the most inconsistent players on this defense. He had 6 tackles and 1 missed attempt. But his play in coverage was tight and slow, as was David Mayo. These guys are attacked on 3rd down and neither are showing the ability to cover laterally. It is pretty easy to exploit and when a good offense needs to make something happen, they are easy targets.
-Deone Buccanon saw his playing time uptick a bit from last week, but he didn’t make much of an impact. Just one tackle and he allowed 2 receptions.
-Janoris Jenkins will take heat for the missed tackles and he should, but lets not act surprised here. His tackling has been a weak point since the day he signed with NYG. In addition, I don’t know many corners who would have been able to tackle Jarwin on that touchdown.
-Deandre Baker had a pretty typical night for a rookie. He was picked on early because of how much cushion he gave on the quick slant routes, then made a couple plays on the ball where his ball tracking and aggressiveness were on point, and then was beat deep and both mentally and physically when the game was on the line. More of the same with Baker, a kid who is trying to learn on the fly. It is easy to tell there are mental lapses that are inhibiting his physical ability.
-Corey Ballentine got the snaps at nickel and he moved really well. I like the speed he brings to the table and he has more size than Grant Haley. One of the things we can really keep an eye on in the next seven weeks is how well he can keep it together and improve, as it could cross off a need for the 2020 offseason.
-A quick look at the box score and one will think Antoine Bethea had a good game. Interception / fumble recovery / 9 tackles. Well, the interception was (literally) thrown right at him because Prescott didn’t know he was there, fumble recoveries are often luck-based, and the tackles don’t include his 2 misses and poor angles.
-Jabrill Peppers was a stud in this one. The up-and-down player had 12 tackles, a pass breakup, and a forced fumble. I’ll say this about Peppers, his versatility and value is overlooked because of how bad this team is. He brings a lot to the table and if this team were better elsewhere, I think many would be pointing to how much he impacts the game.
-K Aldrick Rosas: 4/4 (Made 21, 25, 26, 29). Rosas also missed an extra point, his second of the year.
-P Riley Dixon: 3 Punts – 47.3 avg / 39.3 net
-Cody Latimer returned 6 kicks for 181 yards
-S Jabrill Peppers, WR Cody Latimer, WR Golden Tate
-OT Mike Remmers, WR Darius Slayton, LB David Mayo
3 THOUGHTS ON DAL
- It’s hard not to admire what Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table. I don’t love who he is off the field but this guy balls as well as anyone in the league. He is so dependable as a runner with the way he runs with a forward lean, falls forward, and breaks through initial contact. But what I admire most about him is how dominant he is as a blocker and how consistent he is as a pass catcher. Barkley could learn a thing or seven from really studying his game.
- One assistant coach in the league who doesn’t get enough publicity in regard to future head coaching gigs is the DAL assistant defensive coordinator, Kris Richard. He was on the SEA staff when they were dominating the NFC and he has the kind of persona that really gets to the players and brings out the best. All of this talk about offense and getting a fresh voice for Daniel Jones can make you overlook a guy like Richard, someone who I think can be the next Mike Tomlin.
- How far can DAL go? Are they in the class of the NFC discussion? Other than PHI, they haven’t beat anyone good. Their other wins are against WAS and MIA, with losses to playoff contenders NO and GB. I think they are a playoff team, but I don’t trust them against a legit opponent. I still question their pass rush and Prescott still needs to prove himself in the biggest moments.
3 CLOSING THOUGHTS
- I don’t want to talk down on Barkley. As most of you know, I was the first and biggest supporter of drafting him early back in 2018. But I have to say the poor offensive line, the ankle injury, and his desire to score a touchdown every play is making his game a lot worse than what we saw last year. He can’t control the injury and the line, but he does need to improve his own performance. He is playing soft. There is no denying it. That can’t happen.
- Speaking of Barkley, how come NYG is the only team with a dynamic back like this that can’t seem to get him the ball in space? Go watch CAR, LAR, NO, MIN…and see how they get their dynamic backs the ball in several different spots on the field to maximize their talents. Barkley is at his best when there is plenty of green around him, yet the vast majority, borderline all touches, are either runs between the tackles and little dump offs/screens. Why not triangle route concepts? Why not up the seam? Why not slants from the slot? Maybe the situations make it tough, but Pat Shurmur you are an offensive-minded head coach being paid millions of dollars. Figure it out.
- Evan Engram is injured again. There is no denying the talent and upside he brings to the table and there are things he can do that no other tight end can. But at what point do you say he doesn’t fit the offense because of his poor blocking? At what point do you say now is the time to trade him and get back real value? He can be had at a very reasonable price because he won’t be an unrestricted free agent until 2022. Some team that runs a different offense could get a lot out of him for 2 years. I don’t like shipping out real talent like this, but guys, he hurts this offense as much as he helps it and now he can’t stay healthy? Something to ponder.