The Dallas Cowboys went into Sunday afternoon's matchup with the New York Giants in need of a win with the hopes it could springboard them to a run over the final 12 games of the season. Well, they got the win, but the loss of Dak Prescott to injury for what looks like to be the rest of the season is absolutely deflating. Not only was Dak having a great start to the year (minus the turnovers), he's an emotional leader for this football team and his resilience has become a hallmark of the Dallas Cowboys over the last four plus seasons.
The Dallas Cowboys were still able to find a way to win the football game and take the lead in the NFC East, albeit with a paltry 2-3 record. Though the defense still struggled at times to slow down the Daniel Jones and Jason Garrett led offense, it was an improvement, and the Cowboys came away with the win. Remember, they don't ask you how, they simply ask you how many. And in the wasteland that is the NFC East in 2020, the Cowboys will likely end up with just enough to win the division and go to the playoffs.
As we do after every Dallas Cowboys victory, let's hand out the three stars from the game.
Andy Dalton, Quarterback
What a punch to the gut it was to watch Dak Prescott go down with his injury late in the third quarter. Prescott has played really well this season and was on pace to set new passing yardage records and career highs across the board. Now it's looking probable that he's out for the season.
Enter Andy Dalton who was signed to be veteran insurance against a Prescott injury. And boy has that insurance paid out handsomely. Dalton entered the game with 6:46 remaining in the third quarter with the Cowboys clinging to a one-point lead in the game. Over the final quarter and a half, Dalton was 9 of 111 for 111 yards.
Dalton was particularly impressive on the Dallas Cowboys' final two drives. After the New York Giants were able to take a 34-31 lead late in the fourth quarter, Dalton and the Cowboys offense responded with a 12 play drive that led to a game-tying field goal from Greg Zuerlein.
After the Dallas defense came up with a stop on the Giants next drive, Dalton was then impressive on a four play drive before giving way to Zuerlein for the game-winning field goal.
Dalton was accurate with the football and showed poise on those final two drives. On the final one he hit Amari Cooper for 15 yards, and then Michael Gallup for 19 and 38 yards to put the Cowboys in position to win the game.
The Dallas Cowboys will need Dalton to show that same level of efficiency week in and week out if they want to stay atop the NFC East and contend for the playoffs.
Michael Gallup, Wide Receiver
Speaking of “Big Gain” Michael Gallup, the two catches he made at the end of the game yesterday were absolutely incredible examples of body control and concentration. To stay in bounds on both receptions and put the team in position to win the game were absolutely clutch moments for Gallup.
Gallup finished the day with four receptions for 73 yards. Those two receptions at the end were huge. On the first one, Andy Dalton was forced to leave the pocked and found Gallup coming back to the football along the sideline. Gallup had to make a toe-touch catch to stay in bounds and after review upheld the call on the field of a completed catch, the Cowboys were in business on their attempt to get Greg Zuerlein in to field goal range.
The next catch that set up the game-winning attempt was arguably the best catch of Michael Gallup's young career. Running his patented go or 9-route, Gallup was able to get behind the cornerback who was left alone in one-on-one coverage. Andy Dalton placed the ball beautifully in front of Gallup and while he was, in essence, being tackled, Gallup was able to haul it in, stay in bounds, and complete the catch, setting the Dallas Cowboys up for victory.
Gallup was second on the team in receiving on Sunday behind CeeDee Lamb, but his final two receptions, which were the final two completions of the game, were the most important receptions on the afternoon.
Greg Zuerlein, Kicker
You get what you pay for in the NFL, we're seeing that play out on defense. The addition of Greg Zuerlein hasn't been perfect this season, but it's been clutch. He's now hit game-winning field goals in both of the Dallas Cowboys wins. On Sunday, he hit the game-tying and the game-winning field goals for the Dallas Cowboys and showed people “The Leg” they remember from his prime years with the Los Angeles Rams.
Cee Dee Lamb, Wide Receiver
CeeDee Lamb would have been the number two star for the Dallas Cowboys if not for the heroics of Michael Gallup at the end of the game. Lamb was incredibly impressive throughout the contest on each of his eight receptions. He showed incredible toughness several times taking big shots when going over the middle and made plays after the catch. He's Moreno than lived up to the hype as the Cowboys 17th overall pick. He's really thriving in Kellen Moore's offense as a middle of the field weapon.
Ezekiel Elliott, Running Back
Ezekiel Elliott was workman like in this contest. He showed good burst and was able to get sizeable gains running behind the Cowboys offensive line. On the day, Elliott carried the ball 19 times racking up 91 yards, two rushing touchdowns, and added a reception for 14 yards. With the injury to Dak Prescott, the Cowboys are going to lean even more on the running game. Elliott and the offensive line will need to be as effective and efficient moving forward to get the Cowboys where they want to go.
Jaylon Smith, Linebacker
Linebacker Jaylon Smith played his best game of the season on Sunday. Smith ended his day with 14 total tackles (seven solo), three tackles for loss, a half a sack, and two quarterback hits (tied for the team lead).
On the New York Giants' final drive of the game, Smith came up huge with a tackle for loss to put the Giants behind the chains in their attempt to drive for a game-winning field goal.
The Cowboys needed Smith to improve after what has been an underwhelming start to the season for their Pro Bowl linebacker. Smith was better in coverage and was physical in the running game. Though the team still had some issues with screens, they were better overall.