Ten and they're in? Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't want to talk playoffs until the Dallas Cowboys reached their 10th victory of the season. Well, with a rather easy 21-6 win over the rival New York Giants, the Cowboys moved to 10-4 on the year and have all but officially secured the NFC East crown.
Once again it was largely thanks to what has become a downright scary defense. Led by DeMarcus Lawrence, who finished with five tackles, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a batted pass that led to an interception, the Cowboys held the Giants to only 15 first downs and a time of possession of just 26:37.
Overall, the Dallas defense recorded four takeaways on the day, marking the 11th games this season that the unit has forced multiple turnovers. The last time the Cowboys forced that many in one campaign came back in 1999. It was also the ninth time overall and the first since 1994 that Dallas has recorded four takeaways in three straight games.
Those Giants turnovers would go on to lead to 15 points from the Cowboys offense, which showed improvement but wasn't able to reach the end zone without the help of prime field position provided by the defense. Dallas totaled 328 yards of offense overall, converting 57 percent (8 of 14) of its third-down opportunities, but only 40 percent (4 of 5) of its red zone chances.
The ground game had a banner day with Tony Pollard running for 74 yards and Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 52, while in the passing game Dak Prescott completed 75.7 percent of his attempts for 217 yards and a passer rating of 98.6. He connected with eight different targets, tight end Dalton Schultz leading the way with eight catches for 67 yards.
A defense that was so dominant a week ago at Washington continued that trend when on the Giants' first possession Lawrence got to the quarterback, hitting his arm on the throw. With the ball popped up in the air, Jourdan Lewis came down with the easy interception and returned it 18 yards to the New York 13. The pick was the cornerback's third of the season, a new career high.
Two snaps later, Elliott charged through the line and into the end zone for the score, but although Greg Zuerlein pushed the extra point wide left, Dallas still had the lead for good.
The Giants were able to respond with three points thanks to an 11-play, 58-yard drive that featured running back Saquon Barkley reaching back to make a remarkable one-handed catch on a screen. Graham Gano would go on to get his team on the board with a 35-yard field goal.
Zuerlein thankfully found his form in the second frame, kicking field goals of 26, 42 and 27 yards to up the Cowboys' advantage to 15-3 at the break.
The first came after the Cowboys went 58 yards themselves on a 10-play series, Prescott completing four of his five pass attempts for 51 yards. But on third-and-7 at the Giants' 10-yard line, Dallas ran a draw play with Elliott that yielded only a gain of 2. With that, out came Zuerlein, McCarthy electing to play it safe.
That was followed on the Cowboys' next series with a 68-yard march that took 16 plays, the most on a Dallas drive this season. But despite reaching the red zone for a second time, a sack on third-and-4 lost 12 yards, which brought out Zuerlein again.
Lawrence then gave the Cowboys a chance to add to their point total just before the half when he punched the ball loose from Barkley, the 16th forced fumble of his career that moved the star defensive end into third place all-time in team history. The prize was recovered by defensive tackle Carlos Watkins who set the Cowboys' up at the Giant's 46-yard line with 41 seconds left.
That was enough time for the visitors, as Prescott turned to Schultz, the tight end hauling in three consecutive passes for 31 yards to give Zuerlein his chance with 3 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Giants opened the second half with three points of their own, Gano splitting the uprights from 42 yards out. Dallas appeared set to get off the field when New York went for it on fourth-and-inches at its own 34-yard line, but running back Devontae Booker broke loose for a 31-yard gain with 15 more yards tacked on for a horse-collar penalty on safety Damontae Kazee. The Cowboys defense stiffened up, but the damage was done, the Giants settling for the field goal.
That defensive unit, though, had a chance at redemption on the home side's next possession. With a fourth-and-1 at their own 29-yard line, the Giants decided to go for it again. This time, however, Dallas stuffed Mike Glennon's attempt at a quarterback sneak, the Cowboys taking over on downs.
Given the short field, the offense took advantage. Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb for 17 yards and tight end Jeremy Sprinkle for 10 more before a 1-yard dart to Schultz in the back of the end zone provided the touchdown. Zuerlein's up and down day continued as his extra point attempt missed, but the Cowboys still had a commanding 21-6 lead heading into the final quarter.
While the game was well in hand, the Dallas defense continued its dominant play, helped by an interception from safety Malik Hooker, his first of the season.
The Cowboys would have their own turnover when Prescott was sacked and stripped of the ball, which gave the Giants possession at Dallas' 27-yard line. But on New York's second snap of its series, Gannon tried to connect with wideout Kenny Golladay in the end zone only to have Trevon Diggs make a leaping interception, his 10th of the season. He's now only the third player in Cowboys record books to reach double digits in picks.
After Dallas wasn't able to convert this takeaway into points, the Giants came right back and threatened once again after third-string quarterback Jake Fromm connected with Golladay for 36 yards to the Cowboys' 14-yard line. But there Dallas held, the Giant's last-ditch pass on fourth-and-5 at the 9-yard line falling incomplete.
With the victory, the Cowboys have a slight chance of capturing the NFC East if Washington and Philadelphia tie in their game on Tuesday. But a victory by Dallas next Sunday against Washington would officially secure a division title for the first time since 2018.