EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – There's nothing wrong with the tried and true option.
It is the holidays, and it's the time of year for focusing on the exciting, new thing. And why wouldn't the Cowboys be excited about the new? After all, they've got a rookie and a second-year starter currently pushing each other in the NFL Defensive Player of the Year race.
And yet, in Sunday's suffocation of the Giants' offense, it was their most veteran defender – DeMarcus Lawrence – who led the way.
Having missed the majority of this season with a broken foot, Sunday was Lawrence's third game back in the rotation, and the Cowboys' coaching staff had a simple game plan.
"Coming in this week, just cut him loose," said Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy.
Needless to say, it worked. For the third-straight outing, Lawrence didn't look like a guy who sat on the shelf for two months. He made his presence known on the Giants' sixth play from scrimmage, as he drove a solo block into the backfield and crushed Mike Glennon, whose errant pass popped into the air for an easy Jourdan Lewis interception.
That was a theme for the day – and honestly, has been a theme since Lawrence and all these other pass rushers have returned from injury. Glennon was only sacked once on the day, a combined effort between Neville Gallimore and Dorance Armstrong, but he was hit five times on the afternoon.
Lawrence has long been the Cowboys' best pass rusher, but he acknowledged the presence of guys like Gallimore, Randy Gregory and Micah Parsons can do wonders to help the pass rush as a whole.
"I believe I told y'all this once: if I'm one-one-one, I feel like I'm going to win every time," Lawrence said. "Being able to have those guys, they get one-on-ones, too – so I have to win faster now."
As we saw the last two weeks against New Orleans and Washington, that type of pressure can lead to interceptions – three on Sunday against the Giants, to go with five in the previous two games. To hear it from the members of the Cowboys' secondary, it's not a coincidence that this is happening after guys like Lawrence, Gallimore and Gregory have returned to the lineup.
"It's a significant difference," said Trevon Diggs. "They've got to throw the ball quicker, if they don't they've got guys coming after them – DeMarcus is coming, Randy is coming, all those guys are coming."
Lest we focus too much on his abilities as a pass rusher, Lawrence also showed off his ability as a run defender. He finished with five tackles and a tackle for loss on the day. Most impressive, though, was when he punched the ball out of Saquon Barkley's grasp just before halftime. It was just the second fumble of Barkley's career, and it led to a Dallas field goal before the break.
"The fumble was a huge play and obviously -- someone that doesn't fumble very often, too," McCarthy said.
It only serves to emphasize the growing point that this unit is far more formidable than anyone outside its own meeting rooms could have realized. Micah Parsons was relatively quiet by his lofty standards on Sunday, and it didn't remotely matter. With the rookie eating up so much opposing attention, Lawrence and others capitalized to the tune of four takeaways and just six points allowed.
That helps explain why Lawrence said this is "hands down" the best defense he's been a part of. It also leads one to wonder just what the ceiling could be.
"It ain't about one player," Lawrence said. "When you come to play the Dallas Cowboys, you've got to play all 11 of us."