The Dallas Cowboys came into their NFC East showdown vs the New York Giants a little banged up on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch was inactive due to a neck injury he suffered during the Cowboys 37-10 beat down of the Philadelphia Eagles two weeks ago.
This would be a huge and potentially impossible hole to fill for most teams. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have the best backup linebacker in the NFL in veteran Sean Lee. The Cowboys were looking to keep the Eagles in their rearview mirror and stay atop the NFC East. “The General” as Lee is referred to put on a vintage performance reminiscent of his younger days in Metlife Stadium on Monday night.
The key to stopping the Giant’s offensive attack is to neutralize Saquon Barkley as much as possible and with the help of Lee, the Cowboys defense did just that holding him to just 28 yards on 14 carries.
The video below is an example of how much football is still left in Lee’s tank. He doesn’t hesitate for a second as he recognizes the play quickly, shoots the gap and stops Barkley dead in his tracks. Even in year 10 he still has the instincts he displayed during his All-Pro/Pro Bowl days of 2015 and 2016.
Sean Lee the Cowboys LB playing well tonight. But I’m also just happy for Sean the person, who’s been active and healthy in all 8 games this season. https://t.co/96oL2dYbhj
Lee can also still be valuable in defending running backs in the passing game. The Cowboys held a 23-15 lead early in the fourth quarter when Barkley took a short pass 65 yards down to the Cowboys 11 yard line leading to a Giants field goal. Late in the quarter, however, Lee would have no more of it.
The Giants were looking to make it a one-score game with about seven minutes to go. In the video below Lee recognizes the screen to Barkley, avoids Guard Will Hernandez, and stops him for a seven-yard loss. As mentioned earlier his instincts are still elite after a decade in the league.
Hello there Sean Lee https://t.co/MpIvqxY5z9
In total, Lee had 12 tackles (which tied Jaylon Smith for the team lead), a tackle for loss and a pass defended. Just two weeks prior vs the Eagles, he had seven tackles that tied Smith and Jeff Heath for the team lead.
If the Cowboys have to be without Vander Esch again this Sunday vs the Minnesota Vikings their linebacker core will still be extremely formidable with Lee playing alongside Smith. Lee has turned back the clock the last two games and reminded everyone he’s still a top-notch linebacker in the NFL.