Spagnola: Just Rushing Along Their Merry Way


After the game, on the TV, part of one of many postgame shows available to watch, they caught Michael Irvin Tweeting out this video, shouting out at the top of his prodigious lungs:

"This is the new slogan: As a backup, In Rush We Trust," repeating this refrain like three times, followed by the Cowboys Hall of Fame wide receiver's patented laugh that goes something like hah, hah, hah, haaah.

Come on, ain't that right, Mike? We haven't seen this from a Cowboys quarterback previously but only twice in the franchise's now 63rd season. Once nearly 30 years ago from another backup, Jason Garrett, and then the other like 50 years ago from future Hall of Famer Roger Staubach.

All winning their first three NFL starts, Cooper Rush etching his name in the Dallas Cowboys annals in more than just one way.

Yep, "Coop" did it again, Cowboys 23, Giants 16, before a raucous crowd of 79,455 folks off Broadway at MetLife Stadium and a national TV audience likely stunned.

Could almost hear Rush belting out … OK, knowing him, maybe just above a hum, "Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends."

Friends? Why he had a few, once again, putting the 'Boys in the bus and driving them to a 2-1 record with back-to-back wins in his first back-to-back starts since college at Central Michigan. And as importantly to the Cowboys, their seventh consecutive NFC East win, a 1-0 record in the division, tying Philadelphia in that category and staying on the 3-0 Eagles tail, just one game back, the two teams meeting up on a Sunday night in three weeks.

Might be a lesson out there to all those, like, rushing to hasty judgments over this team after that season-opening loss to Tampa Bay. Fighting tooth and nail, they are hanging in there against long odds, winning two games they've been favored to lose by many, just not in their eyes.

Maybe let's just hand off this night's narrative to Ezekiel Elliott, who ticked off one key after another after another for this win, knowing his team won without the services of Dak Prescott, Tyron Smith, Michael Gallup, Dalton Schultz, Jayron Kearse, James Washington, Tarell Basham and Connor McGovern, seven starters and a rotational defensive end.

OK, "Zeke," have at it. Your game analysis.

"Cooper was poised as usual," he said of Rush logging his fourth touchdown pass in just three starts, tied for second most with Craig Morton and just two behind leader Tony Romo in that category.

Check. Coop completed 21 of 31 passes for 215 yards, one touchdown, taking nary a sack and compiling a 98.2 QB rating. Just for the record, that's three starts completing 64 of 102 passes, 775 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 95.9 QB rating.

Oh, and as for that poise, Coop has now led the Cowboys to three victories in the fourth quarter: A winning touchdown drive while trailing the Vikings, 16-13; to the winning, walk-off field goal tied with Cincinnati last week at 17; and to Monday night's game-clinching touchdown tied with the Giants (2-1), then a field goal for good measure, all coming after he had tied the game at 13, which must also be some sort of first for sure.

My gosh, Cooper led the Cowboys to three consecutive second half scoring drives with the Giants leading 13-6 from 5:31 of the third to 5:58 of the fourth, worth 17 straight points by completing 12 of 13 passes for 129 yards, bagging a whole lot more "trust."

OK, Zeke let's continue.

"CeeDee has that 88 on for a reason," he said.

Check. Darn right he does, and maybe just shushing those dissing his No. 1 receiver status, CeeDee Lamb dishing out eight catches for 87 yards and taking over the game during that fourth quarter touchdown drive, catching four passes for 48 yards – 17 for a first down, 26 for a first down and then one for a one-handed, left-handed, toe tapping, leaning way over touchdown sure to make everyone and those other 88s forget that potential touchdown pass that somehow clanged off his chest running wide open on a deep second quarter throw.

Next, Zeke.

"The O-Line did their thing," he maintained.

Right on. Kept Coop mostly clean in the pocket. No sacks. Only two QB hits. Giants only one TFL. And get this, the Cowboys ran 30 times for 176 yards, Tony Pollard speeding along for 105 yards and Zeke powering away for another 73 and a touchdown

"We ran the ball really well," Zeke said, combining those two performances into one huge, checked box, allowing the Cowboys to control the football for 32 minutes, 42 seconds.

And alas, but not even the least comes now.

"And the D just balled out," Zeke surmised.

Check, check. Boy, did them guys ever. Once again, gave up just 16 points, so that's all three games holding opponents in the teens, 19, 17 and now 16, a total of 52 points and just three touchdowns, one in each game.

How'd them D-Guys do it? Well, poor Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is going to be one sore puppy this morning. He was sacked five times. Hit another 12 times. And depending on who was keeping score, pressured him like 24 more times, slashing 20-for-37, 199, 0, 1 with a QB rating of 57.9. The Cowboys defense has held opposing quarterbacks to now 212 yards passing, 199 and 196, with just two touchdown passes.

The Giants must have thought the Cowboys were a one-man wrecking crew, "lionbacker" Micah Parsons coming into the game leading the NFL with four sacks in the first two games. So, they doubled him. They chipped him. At times, the poor guy who battled a debilitating cold all week long, managing only one limited practice, was tripled. OK, they limited him to one assisted tackle, and two QB hits. He still had to have at least a half-dozen pressures, sending Jones running for his health and probably creasing a smile on the face of Giants Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor watching from above as he powered through though maybe 80 percent at most.

Hey, did you Giants forget about DeMarcus Lawrence? The veteran and healthy defensive end still plays for the Cowboys. He tattooed Jones three times, had six tackles, three tackles for losses and three more QB hits. That Cowboys front was coming from every which way with Dorance Armstrong bagging his third sack of the season to go along with two QB hits

And Donovan Wilson is turning into this defense's bestie. After a team-high eight tackles last week, "Dono" piled up 11 against the Giants, a sack, a tackle for a loss, two QB hits and a pass defensed. And when he thought Giants wide receiver Chris Myarick was punking him after a 6-yard catch by tossing the ball his direction, he batted that away, too, not knowing the official was standing behind him, the dude anally throwing his flag for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty he should be fined for unnecessary over-officiating, getting his panties in a wad with the game tied at 13 going into the fourth quarter.

And the secondary was smothering, the Giants catching just one pass for at least 20 yards, and Trevon Diggs sealing the game with a diving interception on the Giants' final possession and three passes broken up.

And at least Zeke left this one for me. Telling you, this Turpin kid, it's only a matter of time. This guy is going to take one of these punts to the house, KaVontae Turpin coming within a lunging punter clipping his feet from going 63 yards for a touchdown in this one. As it was, 28 yards to the Giants 35, setting up Brett Maher's third field goal from 44 yards out to give the Cowboys a 10-point cushion with 5:58 left to play.

That means special teams once again, finishing with the 28-yard punt return, Maher three of four field goals (26 yards, 28 and 44), the miss coming on a half-ending 59-yarder barely fading wide left the final few yards, and an Armstrong blocked field goal, setting up the Cowboys in business for their first field-goal drive.

This TEAM keeps battling away. And maybe there really is something to the second-floor collage in the hallway at The Star, facing the players as they walk from the locker room to the Training Table for meals. Superimposed over the various pics on the façade is this singular word in big block capital letters, maybe explaining why this team has won these past two games without its starting quarterback, No. 2 and 3 receivers, top tight end on Monday, last year's leading tackler and their perennial All-Pro left tackle.


"It tells you the kind of team you have," head coach Mike McCarthy said after this hard-fought victory. "These guys have been leaning on one another. This is an outstanding locker room. The accountability is very high. The resilience is there, you can see it every step of the way.

"It's just like anything, sometimes you have to go through some hard times to get to where you want to go and hopefully we've built a good foundation to get to where we want to go."

While knowing they must trudge along at least another week for sure, maybe two, with Dak still needing to get his right hand straight now that the stitches have been removed, while in the meantime sort of, uh, Rushing along their way.

Ain't that right, Mike?

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