Big Picture: 5 Storylines for Cowboys & Giants
Expectations are beginning to rise in Dallas. Three-straight wins surrounding a dominant offense and a league leading defense have the possibilities looking loftier every week.
However, a sneaky test lays on the horizon as the Cowboys (3-1) welcome in the New York Giants (1-3) following their first win of the season. A
ll eyes will be on Dak Prescott as this Sunday marks the one-year anniversary of his horrific ankle injury, suffered against the Giants, last season. Additionally, here are five additional storylines for each team heading into Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
- It took until Week 4 to finally see the Giants get into the win column, as they took down the Saints in dramatic fashion, 27-21 in overtime. New York trailed 21-10 with just over 12 minutes remaining in the fourth before a 58-yard touchdown throw to Saquon Barkley, along with the ensuing two-point conversion, cut the lead to just three. The Giants defense forced a big stop and the following 11-play drive allowed Graham Gano to hit a 48-yard field goal with 31 seconds left to force overtime. In overtime, Barkley found the endzone from six yards out, securing New York's first win of the season.
- There have been very few individuals as highly scrutinized as Joe Judge since he took his first head coaching job prior to the 2020 season. It seems like there have been more verbal altercations, training camp brawls, and questionable decisions than wins during his tenure with the Giants. But after an 0-3 start, it seems as if Judge's unique coaching tactics worked in their favor in Week 4. To prepare for the hostile environment of New Orleans' Superdome, Judge "blasted" music in all the team meetings throughout the week. It'll be interesting to see the preparation tactic to face the revamped environment around AT&T Stadium this Sunday.
- Jason Garrett's offense was seemingly kickstarted back to life on Sunday against New Orleans after being mediocre through Week 3. The former Cowboys head coach had been openly criticized for being too conservative with an offense that ranked 24th in scoring and 30th in red zone efficiency. That all changed with the Giants debut of receiver John Ross and a career-high 402 passing yards from Daniel Jones who each helped take the top off the Saints defense.
- One of the more memorable moments in the game happened prior to the overtime period, the coin toss. Safety Jabrill Peppers had been ruled out for the remainder of the game after sustaining an injury earlier in the afternoon. However, Peppers was so amped from the comeback effort and wanted to be a part of it so badly, he practically ran onto the field to take the coin toss. After his call of 'heads' landed true, he let out an uncensored celebratory expletive heard on the television broadcast. Multiple players and coaches that spoke following the game said that was the moment when they knew they would come out of the Superdome with a win.
- While it is uncertain whether Peppers will be out for an extended period with his injury, the Giants are happy with the return of Saquon Barkley to the starting lineup after a knee injury in 2020. It wasn't the start to the year he anticipated as he currently averages just 3.6 yards per carry and is the team's second leading rusher behind Daniel Jones. Barkley put together his best performance with a pair of touchdowns, the forementioned 'game-savers', and the longest play from scrimmage for the Giants offense this season (58 yards).
- Dallas didn't have nearly the come-from-behind effort that New York dealt with, but the Cowboys did overcome a one-point halftime deficit to defeat the Panthers 36-28 with a strong second half. The Cowboys finished with 245 yards on the ground and two takeaways on defense to hand the Panthers their first loss of the season. The win keeps them in first place in the NFC East and made it three-straight wins following the opening week loss to the Buccaneers.
- Sunday will serve as an anniversary that will both be loathed and celebrated for Cowboys fans as the one-year anniversary of Dak Prescott's gruesome ankle injury. An injury that was sustained on Week 5 of 2020, against the Giants, at AT&T Stadium will be remembered on Week 5 of 2021, against the Giants, at AT&T Stadium. Dak's incredible start to the season provide a positive spin on an awful moment in Cowboys history, which allows for Sunday to be a celebration of his monumental return from a horrid injury.
- Remember those two takeaways mention a few paragraphs prior? Yeah, those both belonged to Trevon Diggs, and no one is surprised about it. Diggs has been on another level with five interceptions over the first four games of the season and is the second Cowboys defender in history to match the stat. He currently leads the NFL in interceptions (5) and has half the takeaways (10) for a defense that currently sits with the second most in the league so far.
- Possibly the most encouraging storyline surrounding the Cowboys defense in 2021, has been the contributions from the unit's youth. According to PFF, Micah Parsons (16) leads all rookies in QB pressures, Osa Odighizuwa (15) ranks second while Chauncey Gholston registered his first professional sack in his debut. All three rookies have made contributions to Dan Quinn's defensive turnaround along with what Diggs has done in his second year. Other young pieces like Jabril Cox, Kelvin Joseph, Neville Gallimore, Nahshon Wright and Isreal Mukuamu have made little-to-no impact to start the season but have added an impressive amount of depth at every level.
- Most of the 245 yards in Sunday's win were thanks to the tough running for Ezekiel Elliott in his best statistical performance since 2018. Zeke finished with 143 rushing yards and a touchdown, marking the first time he has surpassed the 140-yard milestone since Week 10 of the 2018 season against Philadelphia. Against the NFL's best run defense (statistically), Dallas tallied over 160 yards on the ground for the third straight week and averaged 7.2 per carry against the Panthers. For comparison reasons, New York ranks 24th in yards per carry (4.5) and 21st in rushing yards per game allowed (122.8).