ARLINGTON, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys haven’t made it easy on themselves recently on Thanksgiving, and Thursday’s outing was no exception. After losing three straight Turkey Day games, the Cowboys finally found something to be thankful for with their 28-20 victory over the New York Giants.
The contest was a mess early on as the Cowboys looked like they were reading from the upset playbook while playing right into the Giants’ hands. On their first possession, a failed 4th & 2 attempt gave New York a short field. The execution was a carbon copy of how the Cowboys played things in Green Bay a few weeks ago.
The offense got two yards on first down, then threw on the next two plays to bring up the fourth down. Mike McCarthy made the decision to be aggressive and go for it, but the play call to run the ball from a jumbo formation failed. The criticism of the decision wasn’t that Dallas went for it; the issue is that the playcalling left a lot to be desired.
The Giants took the gift and got three points off the turnover on downs as they started their first possession on offense in Dallas territory.
The Cowboys’ next mistake came on the very next possession when quarterback Dak Prescott thought he had a free play and then had a miscommunication with wide receiver Michael Gallup. Prescott threw to where he thought Gallup would be and the ball was intercepted.
Luckily for Prescott and the Cowboys, the Dallas defense stiffened and gave the ball back to the offense where they marched down for the game’s first touchdown.
Still, the errors continued piling up as Prescott’s second interception came following a Giants’ touchdown and with time running out in the second quarter. Prescott forced a throw that went off wide receiver CeeDee Lamb’s hands and into the arms of a New York defender when the Cowboys were in position to get three points and tie the game before halftime.
Couple those mistakes with the seven first-half penalties and the recipe for an upset was brewing. The Cowboys were down 13-7 after 30 minutes. The game was still close, but after playing so poorly, Dallas was lucky to be down just one score with Thanksgiving woes casting a shadow.
The second half was a totally different story, however. There were still some maddening penalties – the Cowboys had 13 in total – but Prescott was sharper, and the offense scored touchdowns on each of their first three possessions.
On the first scoring drive, Prescott bailed the Cowboys out of a 3rd & 12 attempt with a 14-yard strike to Lamb. Later in the drive, Prescott came to the rescue again on 3rd & goal play from the 15-yard line as he tossed a perfect pass to tight end Dalton Schultz for the touchdown. The score gave the Cowboys a lead they would never relinquish.
The Prescott to Schultz connection resulted in another touchdown on Dallas’ next possession after the defense forced the Giants to turn the ball over on downs.
After a quick three-and-out from the Giants, and up 21-13, the Cowboys’ offense went to work again. The ensuing 10-play, 80-yard drive that started the fourth quarter concluded with a 2-yard touchdown run from tight end Peyton Hendershot and milked nearly seven minutes off the clock.
With Cowboys now up 28-13, the game was essentially over, but Micah Parsons had to put his stamp on it with a sack that eventually led to a turnover on downs. The tackle of QB Daniel Jones cost the Giants ten yards and was Parsons’ second sack of the game, putting him at 12 for the season.
As rough as things were in the first half, the Cowboys turned it on in the last 30 minutes. Dallas made things tougher on themselves than they needed to be early, but they put away a depleted Giants team late.
Overall, Dallas had 430 yards of total offense, went 7 for 11 on third downs and scored touchdowns on all four of their red zone trips. Those are all things a good team does and when a good team does them all in a game, they can overcome sloppy play.
Perhaps the Cowboys will lay off the pregame turkey to avoid a first-half food coma going forward. Most of Dallas’ damage on offense was done in the second half. The Cowboys started the final 30 minutes by going 4 for 4 on third down conversions, three of which the offense needed more than 10 yards to keep the chains moving. That’s not easy to do, but Prescott and the offense got it done when it was necessary.
The offense was also 3 for 3 on their red zone trips in the second half as the team cashed in on their opportunities to come away with a season sweep of the 7-4 Giants.
It never seems easy for the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, but McCarthy rallied his team and made the right adjustments to take the game over. At 8-3, the Cowboys will now have a mini-bye before their next game which will take place at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 4 against Indianapolis.
What are you most thankful for when it comes to the Cowboys in Week 12? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.