Like many of us fighting a tryptophan slumber following a celebratory Thanksgiving meal, the Dallas Cowboys were a little sluggish out of the gate in their holiday showdown against the New York Giants.
But the longer the game went on, the more the Cowboys seemingly awoke from their doldrums. A first half that saw them stumble their way to a deficit eventually led to Dallas surging in the second half to earn a 28-20 victory over their NFC rivals.
Much like the Cowboys themselves, Dak Prescott's day was a tale of two halves. Through the first two quarters, he was a pedestrian 6-for-10 for 116 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 44.8 passer rating. But he would complete 15-of-20 passes for 145 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the second half to finish the day with a respectable 91.1 passer rating.
CeeDee Lamb topped the century mark in receiving yards for the second time this season, mixing in some highlight-reel catches on his way to 106-yard effort. Michael Gallup also had his best game of the year with some strong grabs that led to 63 receiving yards. Tight end Dalton Schultz got in on the act as well, equaling a personal best with two touchdowns on the day.
The Cowboys did some work on the ground as well, totaling 170 rushing yards, the fourth straight game they've surpassed 150. Ezekiel Elliott led the way with 92 yards on 16 carries while Tony Pollard chipped in 60 more on 18 attempts.
Similarly, the Dallas defense improved as the day went along. Linebacker Micah Parsons added another two sacks, his sixth multi-sack game of the season, with defensive end Dorance Armstrong adding to his already career high in sacks, now totaling eight. Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch led his side with eight tackles.
The Cowboys held Saquon Barkley, who came into the game ranked second in the NFL in rushing, to a paltry 39 yards, while allowing the Giants to convert only 27 percent of their third-down opportunities. For the second straight week, Dallas also dominated the time of possession, 34:09 to 25:51.
The Giants got on the board first thanks to a 57-yard field goal on their second possession. When the Cowboys failed to convert on a fourth-and-2 at their own 40-yard line, New York was set up with great field position. A 23-yard connection got the Giants to the 17-yard line, and then Dallas caught a break when an apparent touchdown was called back due to an illegal man downfield penalty. Soon after, the visitors had to settle for the field goal.
Some apparent confusion on the offense led to a Prescott interception, but a quick three-and-out and a punt put the Cowboys right back in business at their own 7-yard line. The third time was the charm as this time Dallas kicked its offense into gear. Gallup corralled three catches for 24 yards with Prescott then shooting a 25-yard dart to Lamb to move the Cowboys to first-and-goal at the Giants' 6-yard line on the last play of the first quarter.
They only needed one more snap to get into the end zone. Elliott capped off the 11-play, 93-yard drive with a dash up the middle for his seventh rushing score of the season. That was Elliott's 75th career touchdown overall, tying him with Dez Bryant for the fourth most in Cowboys history.
The lead didn't last long, though, as the Giants immediately answered by going 75 yards in nine plays to the goal line. Wideout Darius Slayton provided the big blow, leaping high over cornerback Anthony Brown to haul in a 44-yard reception at the Cowboys' 1-yard line. Two plays later, Barkley charged up the middle to move New York back in front, 10-7.
Then disaster struck again. For the third time in the team's last four games, Prescott threw an interception down the middle just before the half. Again, he tried to go to Lamb, but cornerback Darnay Holmes tipped the ball and safety Julian Love came down with the pick to give the Giants the ball at their own 27-yard line with 1:50 left in the quarter.
Dallas appeared to return the favor when safety Donovan Wilson intercepted a Daniel Jones offering, but cornerback Trevon Diggs was called for illegal contact, the turnover nullified. Their drive still alive, the Giants then went on to reach the Cowboys' 29-yard line. That's where Graham Gano split the uprights from 47 yards out as the clock struck zeroes, New York heading into the break with a 13-7 advantage.
After a rather ugly first half, the Cowboys needed to come out and make a statement. They did, marching 75 yards to the end zone in 14 plays while eating up 7:39 of clock. Nine of those plays came on the ground, but it was a 15-yard pass from Prescott to the tight end Schultz in the back left corner of the end zone that brought the score.
Just as the Cowboys went for it on fourth down in their own territory in the first quarter, so too did the Giants here in the third. And the result was the same, Jones' pass attempt to Barkley on fourth-and-1 at his own 45-yard line falling incomplete.
Only Dallas turned New York's gift into a touchdown. Schultz got his second score of the day, this a 6-yarder that saw him lunge into the end zone. But the showstopper of the drive was Lamb. The star wideout made a spectacular one-handed catch on the left sideline while being interfered with that went for 21 yards to give Dallas first-and-goal.
The good times kept rolling as the Cowboys scored their third consecutive touchdown of the second half on their next possession. This time it was a 10-play, 80-yard drive that saw the rookie tight ends provide the highlights. Jake Ferguson took a short pass, turned upfield and hurdled a would-be defender for a big 30-yard gain. The touchdown then came when Peyton Hendershot went in motion before taking the handoff and running in untouched from two yards out.
All four of the team's tight ends then celebrated with Schultz, Ferguson and Sean McKeon jumping into The Salvation Army Red Kettle while Hendershot played a quick game of whack-a-mole.
With that there was really nothing left to do but count down the clock and head home to a round of Thanksgiving leftovers. Brett Mahar got a chance for a 46-yard field goal, but pushed his effort wide right. That was then followed by the Giants tacking on another touchdown to round out the scoring, but it was too little, too late.
The Cowboys will now enjoy a long weekend with second place in the division currently secure and the Philadelphia Eagles still in their sights.