ARLINGTON, Texas – Four days ago, the Cowboys went to Minnesota to face the hottest team in the NFL and embarrassed them in a way they've never done to a team on the road.
The 40-3 blowout win sent a message to the rest of the NFL just what the Cowboys are capable of.
And what happened only a few days later? They scratched and clawed and fought past a division team that has struggled of late and dealt with a rash of injuries and illnesses. The 28-20 win might not be as glamorous as the 37-point thrashing … OK, let's be clear, it wasn't at all.
But I'm going to say this and I truly mean it. It's not just a festive Happy Thanksgiving, everyone-have-a-turkey-leg type of statement:
This win was a better win for the Cowboys than last Sunday in Minnesota.
Yes, I really believe that. Not for the fans, and certainly not for the bettors (ouch, on that backdoor cover), but for the very big picture. Like, a picture that extends to 2023 and maybe deep into January. This is the type of win that can carry the Cowboys in the postseason.
To win in the playoffs, you have to grind. You have to fight. And more than anything, you have to adjust, especially when things aren't going as planned. That's probably the best part of the Cowboys' win here on Thanksgiving Day against the Giants, which also ended a three-game losing streak on this holiday.
But it was starting to look like four straight losses were in the cards, especially when the Giants grabbed a 13-7 lead at the half. Of course, that's definitely not insurmountable and, in fact, the Cowboys were winning the game the next time New York possessed the ball.
That happened, though, because the Cowboys came out and started to adjust on the fly. That's what halftime is for, especially an extended one on Thanksgiving. So while the Jonas Brothers were bopping around on the stage, the Cowboys were making a few changes on both sides of the ball.
On offense, the biggest change was limiting the risks. They turned the ball over twice and then had another turnover on downs. In the second half, Dak Prescott and the offense took better care of the ball, but they also attacked the sidelines a lot more. The passes to CeeDee Lamb and even Dalton Schultz were high and outside. Not good for a strike zone, but really good for receivers who can go make plays.
On defense, they pinched inside more against the run, and we know what that does – it allows the pass-rushers to eat, especially that "Lionbacker" named Micah Parsons. He got two more sacks in the second half, and when he makes plays, it just sends a jolt to the rest of the defense and maybe even the entire team.
You can call that adjustments, or maybe it's just not making mistakes in the second half. Either way, the Cowboys figured out how to win the game. And if you think back to Week 3 in the Meadowlands, this was basically what happened in that game. The Giants took a 13-6 lead in the third quarter before Cooper Rush and the offense woke up and the Cowboys ended up winning by a touchdown.
This time, they won by eight and had to grab an onside kick at the end to secure the win. But make no mistake, the Cowboys were the better team and they eventually showed it.
And that's what HAS TO HAPPEN in the playoffs. We've seen it too many times where the "better team" just messes around to start the game and you can't always rally like that in the playoffs against the good teams.
That's why I think this win was impressive in its own way. Short week, coming off a huge high, facing a team that is banged up and a team you've already beaten. But somehow, they figure out how to get the job done and move on.
In my book, that's more important than beating the Vikings by 37 points.
Either way, it counts the same. It's just like a boxer. Some fights are going to be first-round knockouts; others are going a full 12 rounds and you'll have to go to the judges. But regardless how it plays out, it's important to show you can play it either way.
On this day, the Cowboys needed to dig a little deeper. Maybe it wasn't so pretty, but it was "pretty much" what they're going to see in the playoffs.