EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Dak Prescott has now won 11 straight games against his divisional-rival New York Giants.
But the Dallas Cowboys’ season-opening victory didn’t rely on only, or even primarily, their quarterback.
None of the 40 points scored were credited to Prescott on the box score (or in your fantasy league).
Touchdowns came from all three phases of the road team.
The 40-0 victory was resounding.
The first drive of the game seemed to spell trouble for the Cowboys defense, as Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and running back Saquon Barkley each repeatedly escaped upfield. But chaos ensued when Giants kicker Graham Gano attempted a 45-yard field goal. Cowboys safety Juanyeh Thomas blocked the attempt, while Cowboys cornerback Noah Igbinoghene returned it for a 58-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys had acquired Igbinoghene from the Dolphins 12 days prior.
Cowboys pass rusher Micah Parsons took care of the next possession with a drive-killing sack, star receiver CeeDee Lamb then fueling a drive with a 49-yard catch from Prescott. Ultimately Dallas stalled in the red zone and settled for a field goal. They’d need under a minute before returning to the end zone, this time on defense.
Credit cornerback Trevon Diggs with the physical tackle of Saquon Barkley that doubled as a pass breakup, and fellow corner DaRon Bland with the ultimate interception and 22-yard touchdown return.
Both offenses continued to struggle on a rainy night. But when veteran cornerback Stephon Gillmore caught a diving interception that came as Parsons pushed Jones out of bounds, Dallas’ offense found themselves with a 25-yard field. Tony Pollard, in his first game as the Cowboys’ lead running back, punched in a 2-yard touchdown.
Pollard would score his second touchdown, a 1-yarder around the right end, a play after fumbling in the red zone. Cowboys center Tyler Biadasz recovered the fumble that allowed the Cowboys to keep driving.
Even KaVontae Turpin, largely a special teams player for the Cowboys, would rush for a touchdown before the Giants found the end zone.
What does blowout mean for Cowboys, Giants?
The Cowboys should feel confident about a few things coming out of this opener: Their defense is dangerous. Their offensive line is respectable. And they’re well-positioned to defend their takeaway crown if the two-fumble, two-interception, blocked-field goal night is any indication.
Undrafted rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey also deserves credit for his 10-point night, Aubrey connecting on three of four extra-point attempts as well as 21- and 38-yard field goals.
The Cowboys also should not have concerns about the run game without Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard’s 70 yards and two touchdowns highlighted a 122-yard night on the ground.
Prescott played a savvy if unspectacular game. The Cowboys will likely need more from him in later-season contests, perhaps as soon as next week vs. Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets. But avoiding mistakes is a valuable skill. Prescott didn’t force anything as the rain threatened mistakes.
The Giants will need to seriously ask themselves what went wrong. They’ll need to find more than one answer. How can they better use tight end Darren Waller? Waller flashed his ability on an airborne, spinning 22-yarder to convert on fourth-and-5 but in whole only moved 36 yards, catching three of five targets?
How can the Giants threaten when they get behind, and thus can’t lean on Barkley as heavily?
The Giants need to improve on both sides of the line of scrimmage – their talented defensive linemen managed no sacks on Prescott, while their offensive line allowed seven on Jones. It’s not surprising thus that Jones completed just 15-of-28 for 104 yards and two interceptions.
New York will return to action quickly with a Thursday night visit to the Arizona Cardinals, who may be just the detox opponent they need before facing one of the NFC’s best in the San Francisco 49ers.