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The Dallas Cowboys’ 23-16 win over the New York Giants.
wasn’t exactly a thing of beauty, the team was its own worst enemy with occasional incendiary misdemeanors, but the Cowboys’ talent came out on top in the end.
And some of that talent, perhaps unexpectedly, was found behind center. For all the Cowboys’ concerns about taking the field again with a backup quarterback, Cooper Rush once again showed more than just handling the spotlight, leading three first-quarter or overtime game-winning drives since the 1970 merger. Became the first player to do so. His first three career starts.
Rush was steady all night, completing 67.7 percent of his passes for 215 yards, no interceptions for a touchdown and a 98.2 passer rating. CeeDee Lamb, in a true up-and-down effort, finished with eight catches for 87 yards, while Noah Brown added another 54 yards on five receptions.
The ground game also played a role, with Tony Pollard rushing for 105 yards and Ezekiel Elliott adding another 73. Together, they averaged 5.9 yards per carry.
Leading the defense in this showdown, at least in the early going, was defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, as the veteran tallied three sacks, his first multi-sack game and fewest in Atlanta since Nov. 18, 2018. It was also his third career attempt. Three sacks. Unfortunately, a leg injury forced Lawrence to leave the game midway through the third quarter.
Despite Lawrence’s absence, his defensive teammates again proved formidable, surrendering more than 19 points in any game so far this season. The unit sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones five times in the game, but actually pressured him with an impressive 24 snaps. Overall, he held New York to just 196 yards.
After his first drive stalled after a holding penalty, the Cowboys got a spark from their special teams when Dorrance Armstrong burst down the right side of the Giants line to block a 47-yard field goal attempt. It was the first field goal blocked for the team since Tyrone Crawford did so on October 29, 2017 at Washington.
Dallas quickly drove deep into New York’s field before deciding to chip-shot for a 26-yard field goal to take the early lead.
The game was soon tied when the home team took the ensuing kickoff and drove 51 yards in 14 plays to the Cowboys’ 24-yard line. There the Dallas defense stopped, forcing the Giants to punt a 42-yard field goal.
In his Cowboys debut, nine-time Pro Bowler Jason Peters entered the game at left guard and opened a hole for Pollard in his first snap to allow New York 46 yards to 37 runs. Dallas moved closer to the 10.-yard line, but after a missed interference call in the end zone by the Giants, the Cowboys had to settle for a 28-yard Brett Maher field goal.
Again, the Cowboys made their way to midfield on their next possession, but a golden opportunity was missed when Rush found a wide open lamb up the middle, only for the receiver to pass. Without a big advantage, and maybe even a touchdown, the Cowboys stopped punting.
However, in a lucky bit of clock management, the Cowboys gave Maher a crack at a 59-yard field goal on the final snap of the half. But their effort was short-lived, with the visitors entering the break with a 6-3 lead.
With the Cowboys controlling the first half but unable to build a comfortable lead, the Giants came out in the second half and capitalized on Dallas’ missed opportunities.
After going 42 yards on 10 plays on their opening drive of the third quarter, kicker Graham Gano broke it 51 yards upfield to tie the score. The Giants then drove 77 yards into the end zone on New York’s next possession, with the scoring blow coming on a 36-yard run by Saxon Barkley. The first rushing touchdown allowed by Dallas this season gave New York a 13-6 lead.
The Cowboys responded, however, by reaching pay dirt for the first time in the game. Rush started things off with a 17-yard connection from Lamb and then later added 29-yard and 12-yard completions to Peyton Hendershott and Brown, respectively. But it was Elliott who took the honors, threatening his way from the 1-yard line for his first touchdown of the year.
And then the lamb got its much-needed redemption.
On their first drive of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys started at their own 11-yard line, but thanks to four completions at No. 88 for 48 yards, Dallas again crossed the goal line. Rush connected with Lamb for a gain of 17, then on fourth-and-4 at the New York 41, the quarterback went back to Wadout for a first down.
The drive was halted when Lamb ran as close as 26 yards before making a spectacular one-handed catch and moving his feet inside the left side of the end zone for a 1-yard highlight-reel touchdown.
Punt return specialist, with full speed behind the Cowboys