The Dallas Cowboys just got their biggest win so far in 2022 against the New York Giants. The 23-16 victory on Monday Night Football was impressive on every level, making it easy and even delightful to hand out grades to all three units.
I should note that we grade on a curve in this environment. Should a backup quarterback playing behind a makeshift offensive line be judged the same way as a veteran starter protected by multiple Pro Bowlers? Past performance and the general belief of where players and units fall among their NFL peers all play a factor here.
This is about how Dallas’ offense, defense, and special teams handled the current circumstances and performed against consensus expectations. Let’s get to it!
Cowboys Offense: B
It was a tale of two halves for QB Cooper Rush, WR CeeDee Lamb, and the rest of the offense. After squandering redzone opportunities and getting just two field goals in the first half, Dallas scored touchdowns on back-to-back drives in the late 3rd and early 4th quarters. For really the first time all season, the Cowboys found a rhythm on offense and used it to tie the game and take the lead in the clutch.
Cooper Rush only threw for 215 yards and one touchdown but stood out for his efficiency. He completed 68% of his throws and had a 98.2 passer rating on the night. As we all saw and furiously tweeted about, Rush’s numbers could have been much better if CeeDee Lamb hadn’t dropped a likely touchdown in the 2nd quarter. There was also a missed deep ball to WR Jalen Tolbert that had potential if the rookie had made more of an effort.
Lamb had a full redemption story in a single night. He went from goat to hero over a few hours, getting destroyed on social media for the big drop early but then showing up big late to help Dallas break the tie. Eventually snagging a one-handed touchdown like the special talent he is, CeeDee also caught a critical 4th-down conversion and had a 26-yard reception to set up the eventual score on the drive.
WR Noah Brown and TE Peyton Hendershot were less lauded heroes in the passing game. Brown continues to come up big in Michael Gallup’s absence, getting 54 yards on five catches and serving as Rush’s security blanket when he’s under duress. Hendershot stepped up with Dalton Schultz sitting out, pulling in three receptions for 43 yards and showing some athletic moves in runs after the catch.
It was also a nice outing for the running backs. Tony Pollard had 105 yards on just 13 carries and Ezekiel Eliott ran it 15 times for 73 yards. Zeke had the Cowboys’ other touchdown with a tough goal-line carry, pushing through tackles to find the endzone. Overall, Dallas averaged 5.9 yards per carry and had some big plays on the ground, helping make things easier for the backup quarterback.
The offensive line certainly contributed to that as well. Cooper Rush wasn’t sacked all night and didn’t even seem pressured too often. Rookie Tyler Smith continues to impress at left tackle and Jason Peters made an impact in his debut at guard. Dallas seemed to find consistent running success behind them and it will be interesting to see how long Matt Farniok can fight off Peters for the starting LG spot.
Cowboys Defense: A-
There really isn’t much you can criticize about Dallas’ defensive performance in Week 3. They terrorized Giants QB Daniel Jones all night and kept RB Saquon Barkley contained outside of one play. We even finally got CB Trevon Diggs‘ first interception of 2022, which came at the perfect time on New York’s final drive with a chance to tie.
Jones was sacked five times and pressured or hit plenty of others. Amazingly, none of those sacks were by LB Micah Parsons. Three came from DE DeMarcus Lawrence in a stunning performance and the other two were from DE Dorance Armstrong and S Donovan Wilson.
Still, despite a quiet night statistically, Parsons’ presence was evident with consistent pressure and backfield disruption. And with the way his teammates were showing up, Micah should take credit for making their lives easier by commanding so much focus from the opposing offense.
The one knock on the defense in this game was how much damage Daniel Jones did as a runner. He eluded pressure well and punished Dallas several times for its aggressive approach, rushing for 79 yards on just nine carries. It was certainly the lesser of evils to other ways New York could have attacked, and didn’t translate to touchdowns, but it’s something the Cowboys will hopefully learn from before they meet with Philadelphia QB Jalen Hurts in a few weeks.
That one wart aside, it was another strong showing from what appears to be one of the NFL’s top defenses this season.
Cowboys Special Teams: A
I’m not downgrading the group for Brett Maher’s missed field goal at the end of the first half. The 59-yarder, kicked outdoors in New Jersey, was more of a prayer than anything. Otherwise, Maher continued to be shockingly reliable with 3/4 field goals and 2/2 on his extra points. He’s been nearly perfect so far in 2022.
Bryan Anger has continued his Pro Bowl-level play from last year. He didn’t allow any returnable punts against the Giants and changed field position multiple times to make up for some of the offensive struggles.
KaVontae Turpin nearly housed one on a 28-yard punt return and helped set up one of the early field goals with a nice kickoff return. It feels like just a matter of time before Turpin hits paydirt on one of these touches, having been arguably just one more man away from a couple over these last two games.
Cowboys Coaches: B+
Given everything about this game, from the injuries to the rivalry to being the visiting team, you can’t find much bad to say about the job Mike McCarthy, Kellen Moore, Dan Quinn, John Fassel, and their helpers did. Every unit contributed and the offense overcame obvious obstacles to get a critical division win on the road.
For all the deserved hits he takes at times for clock management and Dallas’ high number of penalties, McCarthy has earned credit for keeping this roster engaged and motivated after Week 1. They are fighting and supporting each other like true comrades. You see it in how the defense keeps going even when the offense is struggling. You see it in how Trevon Diggs came and talked to Sam Williams after a dumb penalty, or how teammates rallied behind CeeDee Lamb after his big drop.
There’s been a lot of talk through the years about culture issues with the Cowboys, thanks largely to the Jones family’s influence. Over these last two weeks, you have to be impressed with what the coaches have done to have the team ready to overcome weaknesses and keep fighting.