EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – At this point, finding things I've never seen before is rather rare.
I've covered the Cowboys the last 22 years and followed this team pretty close for about 20 years before that.
But it never fails – I can always find something each week that I've just never witnessed. On this day there were about three or four, but one just stands out like Will Ferrell in the movie Elf.
- For starters, I've never seen a team win three straight weeks on the road (hasn't happened with the Cowboys since 1969, so not many people really have.)
- I've never seen a player get 10 interceptions in one season.
- I've never had a player from the opposing team give me a hug before the game. (Thanks Jaylon!)
- I've never seen a kicker miss two extra points in one game. And if so, I'm pretty sure it would've been mattered a lot more than those two did Sunday.
But more than anything, there is something that happened Sunday that was a culmination of several weeks in the making. I think I just finally realized it at some point during this game:
The Cowboys have a must-watch defense.
I found myself going to the restroom with the offense on the field. Or grabbing something to drink during one of the kickoffs. Now granted, I'm not trying to miss any plays in the game, but I found myself hustling a little bit more when the Giants offense took the field Sunday.
I did the same thing last week in Washington and had the same thoughts at the end of the game in New Orleans. During these three road games, I've come to the conclusion that this defense can be counted on to make a play.
What's that, four turnovers in each of the last three wins?
And many of them are occurring in the fourth quarter. You can rank this defense in terms of yards or points allowed or turnovers or sacks or whatever. But when the Cowboys need a big play on defense, they've been getting it.
Not always at the end of the game, but early on as well. They set the tone in Washington last week. They did it again Sunday when DeMarcus Lawrence hit the quarterback and forced an interception to Jourdan Lewis.
You just get the sense that when the quarterback drops back to pass, he's getting sacked, getting hit or getting picked off. And even if the ball is caught, there's a chance a fumble is coming.
That's when you know you're watching a great defense. And that's what this is – a great defense.
Now, let me qualify a couple of things. This isn't a slap against the Cowboys offense. On Sunday, I thought that group played pretty well. Nothing perfect, of course, especially in the red zone. The Cowboys have their issues punching it in. But let's not forget, when you've got an advantage like the Cowboys do right now on defense, they do need to play it somewhat safe and just get the points.
I hear people say all the time, "You can't win NFL games with field goals." Well, you actually can. Not recommended, of course, but if you've got a catalytic defense like this one, then yes, you certainly can.
Was it me, or did it feel like the Cowboys won this game by way more than 15 points? I mean, that's a two-score game with a two-point conversion needed to tie. We've seen 15 points get erased in a few minutes.
But on Sunday, once the Cowboys got to nine points, it felt like the game was out of reach. That's because it was.
Any time the Giants even thought about getting back in this game, the defense shut the door. Lawrence was incredible, just all over the field doing anything he wanted. Micah Parsons wasn't exactly filling up the stat sheet, as he recorded just one tackle, but you just have to watch the game – every play – and you can see the difference he makes.
On the first interception, I think Parsons forced Giants quarterback Mike Glennon to step up into the pocket where Lawrence hit him and knocked the ball in the air. And later in the game, Parsons' rush flushed Glennon out to throw an interception to Trevon Diggs, who is just having some fun out there right now.
Yes, the 10 picks are amazing. But he's also shutting down his receivers, too. Getting lost in all of these stats is that Diggs is facing the No. 1 receivers and more than holding his own.
Also, it was good to see Malik Hooker rewarded with an interception. He's been playing well these last few weeks, even saying that he's much better now than a few years ago when he was playing at an elite level with the Colts.
All in all, everyone on this defense is showing out.
But let's also point this out: The Cowboys have beaten Taysom Hill, Taylor Heinicke and Mike Glennon here in the last three weeks. Those guys aren't the quarterbacks the Cowboys will be facing in the playoffs. I think we all understand that. If and when they're going up against guys like Rodgers and Brady, and even Stafford and Murray, it's probably not going to be just a four-quarter pick party like it has been here lately.
But whose fault is that? The Cowboys can't worry about the guys in front of them. All they can do is rush them, hit them, sack them and pick them off. That's what they're doing right now at an alarming rate.
Again, I'm not sure if I can even say this is the best defense I've seen the Cowboys have in the last 20 years.
I just know it's the only one that I'm making sure to watch every single snap.