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Cowboys beat the Giants 21-6 but showed they're still not quite right

Dallas easily beat a bad Giants team but didn't engender much confidence that they're back.
Credit: AP
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) hands off the ball to running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. At times this season, they have looked like a great football team.

Right now is not one of those times. But perhaps(?) they're getting closer.

The defense, at least, looks just like they should. They posted a third straight game causing four turnovers, as Trevon Diggs recorded his 10th interception of the season, and they held a bad New York Giants offense to just six points. 

Demarcus Lawrence played a monster football game, including a tackle for loss, a deflection of a Mike Glennon pass that led to a Jourdan Lewis interception, and a forced fumble that led to a Cowboys field goal. Malik Hooker also intercepted a pass, as the Cowboys defense held the Giants to a pair of field goals.

The offense, though? Not nearly as great.

There were moments where quarterback Dak Prescott looked okay. And then there were moments where he looked quite shaky. Overall, an unsurprisingly middling stat line -- 28-37, 217 yards, and a touchdown. He also fumbled the ball after taking a bad sack, when he inexplicably thought he had more time than he did.

The run game looked better on Sunday than it has in weeks. Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott both had solid days, combining for 126 yards on 28 total carries. They had 101 of those rushing yards before halftime.

Perhaps most concerning for the Cowboys is the protracted struggle they have had finishing drives. On Sunday, they were 2-5 in the red zone. In a second quarter that Dallas effectively dominated from a yardage standpoint, they only mustered nine points, settling for three consecutive field goals.

Dallas has now scored just one touchdown in their last 21 offensive possessions, dating back to the mid-point of the Washington game, last week.

Let's not forget that the Cowboys are in a tremendous spot. They are 10-4. They are now the #3 seed in the NFC, thanks to the Cardinals inexplicable loss to the Lions on Sunday. 

And they are all but assured of an NFC East title and a home playoff game in January. The list of things that would have to happen to prevent a Cowboys division title is so absurdly long an unlikely, it would take 1,000 words just to explain. 

That's not a bad place to be on Dec. 19.

But this is a team that has shown championship promise in 2021. This is a team that at moments this year, has looked like the best team in football. Those moments are a good beat in our rear-view mirrors, though.

The defense playing as it has is incredibly promising, as Dallas approaches the stretch run. The old adage of 'defense wins championships' still has merit, even in the current, offense-happy state of the NFL. Having a unit led by the likes of Micah Parsons, Lawrence, Diggs, and Randy Gregory is an incredible boon for a team that entered the year just hoping to have an average defense.

But the offense still just isn't there. Some aspects of today imply that they're closer than they were a week ago. But this is not the offense of September and October. And until they find that, they are not a championship contender.

They still have time. But it's dwindling.

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