Challenge accepted. Challenge met.
The pressure was on Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott coming into this Sunday night showdown against the rival Giants. New York safety Landon Collins had been blunt earlier in the week when saying that the visitor's game plan was to shut down the Cowboys' running attack and make Prescott beat them.
"Put the ball in Dak's hands and I think we have a better shot at winning," Collins had said.
But Prescott proved up to the task, as he led Dallas to a 20-13 victory over the Giants. Guiding an offense that showed more creativity to start the game, he finished with just 160 yards passing, but completed 64 percent of his attempts (16-of-25), and more importantly, didn't throw an interception on his way to a 95.4 passer rating. Seven different players hauled in throws from Prescott with a pair of newcomers leading the way. Tavon Austin finished with 79 receiving yards off two catches with Deonte Thompson posting four grabs and 33 yards.
And the Cowboys had help on the ground as well with Ezekiel Elliott earning a tough 78 yards rushing, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. In all, Dallas finished with 299 yards of total offense.
The Cowboys certainly didn't waste time changing things up with their play-calling. After failing to connect deep on a single pass in Week 1, Prescott dropped back on the third snap of the game and threw a perfect strike to a streaking Austin, who raced 64 yards to the end zone for a quick 7-0 lead. The touchdown was the receiver's first catch with the Cowboys and the longest completion of Prescott's career.
That was then followed on Dallas' next possession with an eight play, 64-yard series that ended with Brett Maher kicking a 37-yard field goal, his first career NFL points. This drive featured more ingenuity, as Prescott ran the read-option to perfection for a 15-yard gain with Austin also taking a flip from Elliott on a reverse for another 15, plays that weren't seen seven days prior.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys defense was outstanding, forcing the Giants to punt on each of its five first-half series. After two quarters of play, New York only had 79 yards of total offense, compared to 187 for Dallas, and quarterback Eli Manning had been sacked four times.
Make no mistake, however, until the waning minutes of the game, the Dallas D was dominant. The Giants were held to 255 yards of total offense with rookie Saquon Barkley limited to 28 yards rushing on 11 carries, an average of just 2.5 yards per carry. Linebacker Jaylon Smith led the charge with a game-high six tackles while six different defenders registered sacks. And the secondary took yet another step toward being a shutdown unit. Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie in particular shined as he finished with eight tackles and helped the group limit Odell Beckham to only 51 receiving yards on four catches.
As a perfect example of the defense's play, the Giants' sixth possession, which opened the third quarter, didn't end in a punt. This time linebacker Damien Wilson sacked Manning on a blitz and knocked the ball loose, Taco Charlton there to fall on it for the fumble recovery. Given great field position at the New York 27-yard line, the Cowboys couldn't make much progress, but out came Maher for his second field goal of the night, his 29-yarder pushing the team's advantage to 13-0.
Admittedly, the Dallas offense hit a dry spell through the third quarter, but that changed with the team's first drive of the fourth frame. Starting at his own 18-yard line, Prescott was masterful on the series, marching the Cowboys 82 yards on 14 plays while eating up 8:23 off the clock. The quarterback completed 5-of-6 passes for 34 yards, but also ran the ball three times for another 17 more, one of which was a fourth-and-1 sneak at the New York 46-yard line that moved the chains and came the drive going.
It was Elliott, though, who got the scoring honors, as he capped things with his fifth carry of the series, a 6-yard dart up the middle that gave the Cowboys a commanding 20-3 lead. The running back totaled 29 yards of his own on the possession.
The Giants did make things interesting at the end, as they responded with a touchdown off a Manning to tight end Evan Engram pass. They then recovered the ensuing onside kick to regain possession with only 1:25 left on the clock and quickly worked their way into field goal range, converting a 38-yarder to narrow the score to 20-13.
That brought it all down to one more onside attempt with 11 seconds remaining. But the Giants' attempt bounced out of bounds, Dallas gaining possession and, finally, the game. With the victory, the Cowboys moved to 1-1 on the season. They'll now head to Seattle to take on the Seahawks next Sunday afternoon at 3:25 p.m. CDT.