This is the problem in a year with no truly great teams: Even the teams with great records will gag up a game or two. On a day when the Seattle Seahawks looked incompetent ant the Pittsburgh Steelers were one Leveon Bell gem away from an ugly cry of a loss the NFL-leading Dallas Cowboys simply could not get going against a far inferior Giants team. New York beat Dallas 10-7, and suddenly the NFC East isn’t quite so sewn up.
There are always subplots aplenty in every Dallas-New York tilt, and this Sunday’s game
was no exception. A sampling:Dak Prescott finally settled back to earth, having his worst game of the season. The vaunted Cowboys offensive line collapsed around him all night, and Prescott had difficulty throwing on the run.
He ended the night 17 of 37, with two interceptions and three sacks. Only a pretty deke-and-throw touchdown to Terrance Williams kept Prescott’s night from being a total washout:Ø The Giants have now beaten Dallas twice. No other team has even beaten the Cowboys once.Ø Odell Beckham Jr., as is his style, went from infuriating to transcendent in the course of the game.
He dropped two key passes early, then put the Giants ahead in the third quarter with one of the finest plays of the season, a 61-yard bolt in which he flat-out outran — not juked, not faked, outran — three NFL cornerbacks.
Ø Dez Bryant had exactly zero catches on seven targets before finally catching one with less than three minutes left in the game … and he promptly fumbled it away, effectively allowing New York to salt away the win. On the final, last-gasp play of the game, Bryant couldn’t secure a low pass from Prescott, and Dallas lost its remaining chance at victory.
Ø Eli Manning has a way of coming up big in big games, but perhaps this one was too early in the season for him to show any theatrics. Aside from the one pass to Beckham, which was a short slant that Beckham turned into art, Manning was fairly dreadful, coughing up two fumbles and throwing an interception. He suffered three sacks and could only manage 17 completions on 28 attempts.
Ø New York spent big on its defense this past offseason and the results showed on Sunday night. Even without Jason Pierre-Paul in the lineup, the Giants effectively shut down Prescott and kept Ezekiel Elliott to a quiet 107 yards.
Ø Neither team was any good on third down. The Giants were two of 13, and the Cowboys somehow even worse at 1 of 13. Both teams punted nine times. In other words, this wasn’t an offensive fiesta. And when you’ve built your identity and your team around two offensive would-be MVPs, as Dallas has, that’s a bad sign for the night and, potentially, going forward.
Ø In the coming weeks, New York draws Detroit and Philadelphia before wrapping with a crucial New Year’s Day game against Washington, one which could determine a wild-card berth. The Giants defense will keep the team in all three of those games; it’s up to the offense to get its act together and try to win a couple of them.
It’s far too early to worry much about the Cowboys, but a loss to New York following an unspectacular performance against Minnesota has to be raising the tiniest concerns. Dallas will close with two potentially difficult matchups: a Tampa Bay team hunting a playoff berth, followed by that surprisingly strong Detroit squad, before closing with now-battered Philadelphia.
The Cowboys are headed to the postseason, likely with a bye week to start, so now’s the time for the Cowboys to make sure “very good” is good enough to play into February.