The Dallas Cowboys defense wasn't asked to do a lot on Sunday because the offense took the NFL world by storm putting up 35 points in a beatdown of the New York Giants. The Cowboys may have allowed a lot of yards, but they did what they had to to keep the Giants from scoring points, and staying in the game. Ultimately, that's all that matters.
After allowing an opening drive touchdown, which was helped by a big run by Saquon Barkley, the Dallas Cowboys held the Giants to 10 points the rest of the game. The final score coming with 2:54 remaining with the Cowboys up 35-10 and playing prevent defense.
Eli Manning was solid, going 30 of 44 for 306 yards and a touchdown, but a lot of that yardage came with Dallas up big and the Giants attempting to mount a come back.
Saquon Barkley had a really nice game, carrying the ball 11 times for 120 yards against a defense that finished in the top 10 in rushing yards allowed in 2018. His efforts didn’t really amount to much as the Cowboys were able to get off the field regularly after the second drive.
The Cowboys’ defense forced two turnovers and were able to get to Eli Manning for one sack. They had Manning under pressure on 10% of his dropbacks, which certainly had an effect on the Giants' ability to sustain drives and score points.
The Cowboys have been a bend don't break defense for years now, generally tightening up when the opposition crosses the 50-yard line. On Sunday, the Giants crossed into Dallas territory seven times but were only able to come away with points on three occasions. One of those being the Wayne Gallman touchdown run when the game was already decided.
The Dallas Cowboys defense isn't completely up to speed with Byron Jones and DeMarcus Lawrence playing less than 50% of the defensive snaps on Sunday. It's not surprising as Lawrence missed most of training camp and Jones didn't start practicing until last week. The Cowboys were also without Robert Quinn who isn’t available until their week three matchup against the Miami Dolphins.
As the season progresses, Lawrence and Jones will be in better shape and playing a greater percentage of the snaps, which will have a tremendous effect on the play of the defense. Getting Robert Quinn back will help as well.
Anthony Brown is a really good slot cornerback but struggles a bit when asked to play on the outside. Though I've been impressed with the secondary this preseason, Byron Jones presence immediately upgrades the defense. In 22 coverage snaps, Jones was only targeted one time. That's what happens when receivers aren't getting open on your side of the field. Jones may not have the reputation of being a shutdown cornerback yet but he's one of the better players in the NFL. Once healthy, we'll see that again.
While Dorance Armstrong had a nice training camp, there's no replacing DeMarcus Lawrence at left defensive end. Lawrence is one of the best in the NFL and as he gets into better game shape, he'll begin to have a bigger impact on the game. Lawerence was credited with two tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. The fumble stopped the Giants on 4th and 1 in the red zone during their attempt to bring the deficit from 18 points to 11.
There were some rough moments for the Dallas Cowboys defense on Sunday but they played well enough to get the win. Despite the amount of yards they gave up, the defensive unit played excellent. They are a group of players that has the potential to be great. After the first drive of the game, the defense stepped up and made plays when they needed to make a play.
If the Cowboys are able to hold opponents under 20 on a regular basis, with this offense, they’re going to be able to win a lot of games this year and make a deep playoff run. Sunday was just the first step for the Cowboys in their quest to be playing late in January and early February.
Everything kn Sunday, including the play by the defense, indicates that those championship aspirations are very attainable.
The next step on the journey takes them to Washington, the only team to beat them in the NFC East in 2018.