The Dallas Cowboys (11-2) lost their second game of the year to the New York Giants (9-4). The Cowboys now have a much more interesting path to the postseason and may need to win 13 games this season to take the NFC East crown.
Offensively, the Cowboys were held in check, which ultimately doomed them in this game. New York should be a lock to at least be a Wild Card this season, which could spell doom for the Cowboys in the playoffs. Here are four takeaways from Dallas’ second loss of the season:
- Dak Prescott played the worst game of his career so far
A big reason Dallas was able to reel off 11 straight games was because Prescott’s ability to protect the football. Up until Sunday night, Prescott had only thrown two interceptions in his career. Prescott completed less than half of his passes (17 of 37) and threw twice as many interceptions (two) as he did touchdowns (one).
Aside from a beautiful 31-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams in the first quarter, Prescott looked like a stereotypical rookie against New York. Hopefully this game was a small hiccup for Prescott and not a sign of things to come in the future.
- Dez Bryant also had a forgettable performance against New York
Bryant will want to quickly erase this game from his memory bank. Not only was he ineffective in the passing game, he was also guilty of a crucial turnover. Bryant only caught one pass for 10 yards on the whole night, and he coughed up the ball for the Giants to recover, effectively killing any momentum Dallas was able to gather.
To add insult to injury, Bryant was the targeted receiver on both of Prescott’s interceptions. On fourth down with less than a minute to go in regulation and no timeouts, Bryant was unable to come down with a clean catch, which put the final nail in the coffin in this game.
- Dan Bailey’s missed field goal attempt before halftime came back to bite him
Knowing they would get the ball back after halftime, the Cowboys sent out their usually-reliable kicker to potentially increase their lead to 10-0. While Bailey’s kick possessed the accuracy necessary to make it in, his power wasn’t quite what it needed to be, as the ball bounced off the bottom of the goal post.
Bailey is undoubtedly an accurate kicker, but he doesn’t have the most powerful leg in the sport. Bailey’s career-long kick is 56 yards, which means he would’ve needed to deliver one of the best kicks of his career in the frigid New Jersey weather.
- Dallas’ defense showed up to play against the Giants
While the Cowboys’ offense looked out-of-sync the entire ballgame, their defense was lights-out. Going into this game, Dallas’ secondary was ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed and had tallied the second-fewest interceptions in the league (four). Dallas had also failed to get an interception in five straight games.
Those numbers went out the window on Sunday night. The Cowboys defense recovered two fumbles from Eli Manning, which helped prevent New York from putting more points on the scoreboard. Anthony Brown, who is filling in the injured Morris Claiborne, recorded a diving interception to give Dallas yet another chance to claw back into the game.
The Cowboys defense was dominant on third down, letting the Giants convert only twice on 14 attempts. As a result, the Giants sent out their punting unit nine times. Dallas also held Manning to under 200 yards passing, which isn’t easy to do with all the weapons he is surrounded with.
Sean Lee was all over the field against New York, registering 11 solo and seven assisted tackles. Lee is easily Dallas’ best defender and the Cowboys will be in serious trouble if he becomes a victim to injury.
Despite an overall great outing, one play Dallas’ secondary would like to have back is the 61-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Odell Beckham, Jr., which gave the Giants a lead they wouldn’t lose. With the exception of Beckham’s scoring play, Dallas’ defense can at least take pride in knowing they only allowed their opponent to score 10 total points on their own home field. The Cowboys’ defense held their own in this game.