There were plenty of things for Dallas Cowboys fans to be excited about after Sunday night’s dominating Week 1 performance against the New York Giants. The defense was outstanding, limiting the Giants to 233 yards of total offense and just a field goal in the Cowboys’ 19-3 win. The offense was good at times but showed some room for improvement before the Week 2 tilt on the road against the Denver Broncos.
Dallas Cowboys Week 1 Report Card
Dak Prescott played decently in his first game as a second-year starter. He completed 24-of-39 of his passes for 269 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. He didn’t exactly light it up, but he also didn’t have to with the Cowboys defense handcuffing Eli Manning and the Giants offense, who was missing star receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Prescott also missed a few throws, perhaps riding on a little adrenaline in the first game of the year.
A 3rd-and-10 pass on the opening drive to Dez Bryant squirted out of Prescott’s hand and sailed out of bounds. Later in the first quarter, Prescott then missed a fairly easy throw to Bryant on a slant route in the end zone. Perhaps overlooked on that amazing catch by Cole Beasley, pinning the ball to his nameplate on the back of his jersey in the fourth quarter was how easily that throw from could have been intercepted and gone the other way for a New York touchdown.
Prescott made plays when he had to, looked more comfortable running the offense and was more assertive using the audible to change plays. The offense was able to rely more on good field position and a solid running game to outlast the Giants.
In an interesting turn, last year’s leading rusher in the NFL, Ezekiel Elliott, was able to play in the game, despite having his six-game suspension upheld in an appeals hearing just before the season started. With the punishment still tangled in a legal battle and potentially still looming, the Cowboys took advantage having its best offensive player on the field. No touchdowns for Zeke in the contest, but a solid 24 carries for 104 yards helped Dallas control time of possession and offensive plays from scrimmage (47-19 in the first half). Elliott looked spry hitting the holes, bouncing outside, cutting and breaking tackles. He also served as a safety valve for Prescott with 5 receptions for another 36 yards.
However, Dallas better hope that Elliott’s legal troubles drag on for the rest of the season because the cupboard is bare behind him. The Cowboys’ number two back, Alfred Morris, could only muster one yard on four carries behind their stout offensive line. Darren McFadden, expected to be Elliott’s backup, didn’t dress and Rod Smith only played sparingly. Elliott is expected to play Week 2 at Denver, but Dallas owner and general manager Jerry Jones would not comment on his availability any further than that. The Cowboys better make it count while Elliott is still suited up.
Dez Bryant was held to just two catches for 43 yards as he was shadowed by Giants shut down corner Janoris Jenkins for the entire game. Bryant nearly made a spectacular grab in the corner of the end zone in the first quarter, but just didn’t get a second foot down. Late in the game, Prescott just missed Bryant on a diving effort in the end zone. Bryant missing quite a few games last season also contributed to him and Prescott not clicking just yet, but it was just game one.
Jason Witten, who passed Michael Irvin as the Cowboys all-time leading receiver in the game, helped pick up some of the receiving slack. He hauled in seven passes for 59 yards and Dallas’ lone touchdown of the game. Terrance Williams shook off an early injury and accounted for 68 yards on 6 receptions.
The protection did its usual thing, even against a tough front seven boasted by New York. La’el Collins looked good sliding over to the right tackle spot and Chaz Green served well getting the start at left guard. Prescott was only sacked once and was seldom under pressure. A big question mark in the off-season was how this group would hold up after a couple of changes and it got off to a good start.
The Cowboys front seven stole the show on Sunday night. Demarcus Lawrence was fabulous, with two sacks and absolutely destroyed a screen play. Charles Tapper also got in on a sack as Manning looked panicked and pressured without his best pass-catcher Beckham Jr. to throw to.
No Anthony Hitchens, no problem. Sean Lee flew all over the field, leading the defense with seven solo tackles. Having to take on a much bigger role earlier than anticipated, Jaylon Smith was solid in his regular season debut with seven total tackles. New York’s leading rusher, Paul Perkins, had a pedestrian 16 yards. The defensive pressure was relentless and the tackling was smothering.
Not having to face one of the most dynamic players in football in Beckham Jr. was a huge break and the Cowboys secondary took advantage. Manning was held to 220 yards passing, zero touchdowns and one interception. Anthony Brown had the pick, nicely undercutting a route and wrestling it away from the receiver. Also, newly signed veteran receiver, Brandon Marshall, was held to just one catch that came on the second to last play of the game.