On a drizzly Sunday night in front of a prime-time television audience, the Dallas Cowboys opened the 2023 season in perfect fashion. With every facet of their game firing on all cylinders, the visitors dominated in a 40-0 victory at the rival New York Giants.
And despite the high score in the Cowboys column, it was actually the Dallas defense that really earned the glory in this one. Coordinator Dan Quinn's men were nearly unstoppable, holding New York to just 171 yards of total offense, including a paltry 63 yards through the air.
How good was the defense? The Giants only crossed midfield into Cowboys territory twice during the whole game and both of those drives ended in failed field goal attempts.
Chief among those leading the charge was Micah Parsons, who began his quest for Defensive Player of the Year honors with an impressive performance that saw him harass Giants quarterback Daniel Jones all night. He officially finished with just one sack, but his constant pressure and the double-teams he faced opened the door for the Cowboys to record seven sacks overall in the game.
Five different players earned sacks with Osa Odighizuwa and Dorance Armstrong each owning two. That pressure also helped secure two interceptions for Dallas, and cornerback Trevon Diggs, known for his pick-off ability, also posted two forced fumbles.
Offensively, quarterback Dak Prescott didn't exactly fill up the stat sheet, but then again, he didn't have to. Working with a wet ball, he completed 13 of 24 pass attempts for 143 yards, and while he didn't throw a touchdown pass, he more importantly didn't have a turnover or a sack.
In all, the Cowboys finished with 265 yards of total offense of which 122 came on the ground. Tony Pollard led the way with a 5.0 yards per carry average for a total of 70 yards.
Who would have guessed the Cowboys' first score of the season would come from a player who has been with the team less than two weeks. But when Juanyeh Thomas broke through the line to block a 45-yard field goal attempt, there was Noah Igbinoghene to scoop up the bouncing ball and race 58 yards down the right sideline untouched for the touchdown. The young cornerback had just been acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on Aug. 29.
Unfortunately, rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey pushed his extra point try to the left, no good, but Dallas still had the early lead.
Aubrey would find his form shortly thereafter, though, when the Cowboys traveled 72 yards in nine plays on their first offensive possession of the game. The big blow came with a long pass to CeeDee Lamb that picked up 49 yards with Dallas eventually reaching the New York 2-yard line. Unable to punch it in, the team settled for a chip-shot 21-yard field goal.
So why not get the defense involved in the point parade. The Giants' very next series saw Diggs lay a big hit on Saquon Barkley, popping the ball out of the pass-catcher's hands and into the arms of DaRon Bland. It was then an easy 22 yards for the cornerback to cross the goal line, the Cowboys going up 16-0 after Aubrey's extra point.
Aubrey stayed busy as the Cowboys' first possession of the second frame ended with another field goal, this from 38 yards out. Newcomer Brandin Cooks did the heavy lifting to get there, drawing a 37-yard pass interference penalty and then taking a tough hit but picking up the first down on a fourth-and-3 at the Giants' 38-yard line to keep the drive going.
There was no easing up, however, as on New York's very next snap, fellow newcomer Stephon Gilmore corralled an interception to set Dallas up at the Giants' 38-yard line. Five plays later, Pollard was in the end zone for his first touchdown of the year.
A half where nothing went right for the home team just continued when the Giants were able to work their way down to the Cowboys' 14-yard line just before the end of the quarter, only to have kicker Graham Gano miss his 36-yard attempt to the left.
Although the outcome was essentially already decided, there was still, of course, another 30 minutes to play. So why not come right out and march 75 yards in 10 plays to the end zone. Pollard had runs of 7 and 25 yards before eventually capping off the drive with a 3-yard shot off right tackle for the score, marking the sixth multi-touchdown game of his career.
The Cowboys began the fourth quarter just like they began the third – with a touchdown drive. Starting at the 50-yard line after the Giants failed to convert a fourth-and-8, the Dallas offense took its time, using eight plays to reach pay dirt. And this time it was KaVontae Turpin, no longer just a return specialist, taking the handoff and speeding 7 yards around left end before diving into the end zone for his first NFL score.
When Diggs then forced his second fumble of the night, this time recovered by safety Israel Mukuamu, the Cowboys offense took the field with Cooper Rush behind center, Prescott's night done. This also allowed rookie Deuce Vaughn to gain some valuable running back experience over the remaining 11-plus minutes of the game.
Once the clock finally struck zeroes, the Cowboys had their first season-opening win since 2019. This also marked their fifth straight victory over the Giants and their 12th triumph in the two teams' last 13 meetings.