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Spagnola: What a way to begin 4-game mission


ARLINGTON, Texas – Well, oh well, first step on my four-game mission, and darn well better be their four-game mission, too.


Cowboys 49, Giants 17.

And not trying to be funny, nor not my nature to ever rub anything in, but for the now 6-3 Cowboys, this was like taking candy from a baby. For real. That lopsided.

In fact, this is as lopsided as any single-season two-game NFC East sweep since the NFL merger in 1970 for the Cowboys. Think about it, the Cowboys paired the 40-0 season opening victory over the Giants now with this Week 10, 49-17, pummeling. That's 89-17, a combined 72-point margin of victory in one year. The previous largest margin of a two-game sweep I could find against the Giants was several in the 50s range. But that's it.

And never found any single-season two-game sweep like this against either the Eagles or now the Commanders.

That dominant.

So in domineering fashion, the Cowboys began this quest to win four consecutive games, three of the four being played right here at AT&T Stadium, in order to reach the 9-3 mark by the time the second meeting with the NFL-leading 8-1 Eagles rolls around. That will be played right here on Dec. 10 where the Cowboys just won their 12th straight and now sixth straight against the Giants and 13 of the last 14.

And the rest of the NFL better pay attention to what's going on here, the Cowboys winning three of their past four games: 20-17 on the road against the Chargers, 43-20 over the Rams and now 49-17 over the Giants. That's a combined 112 to 54, only interrupted by the narrow 28-23 loss to the Eagles the previous Sunday on the road.

"I still can't believe these margins," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, not even trying to contain his smile. "They are surreal."

But you know what? This is exactly what the Cowboys should have done to a Giants team now 2-8, having to start a slew of backups, including a rookie quarterback making his first NFL start. Tommy DeVito, Jersey's own, although certainly not as famous as another Jersey-bred Tommy DeVito, singer-song writer who put together the Four Seasons (look it up) and sent Frankie Valli on the path to fame worthy of a movie and play. You know, \_Jersey Boys\_.

The domination was epic. Let's start here: The Cowboys were up 28-0 at halftime, and they came within like a half-yard on the first drive of the game of making that 35-0. The Cowboys had outgained the Giants 368 yards to 27, and for those who were not watching this hide-tanning, along with the 93,338 here on this fine fall Sunday at AT&T Stadium, kid you not.

Yep, by halftime, you know that running game we've been bemoaning eight games into the season, averaging just 3.9 yards a carry? It had already rolled up 129 yards to the Giants' 11. That's right, 11.

The Giants were dead set on running the ball with Saquan Barkley in order to protect Tommy Boy. And Barkley had already gained more than 100 yards in seven of the previous nine games.

Unfathomable, DeVito was the Giants leading rusher at halftime with seven yards, six more than Barkley. And for those who might be mathematically challenged, with Matt Breida rushing once for three yards, that means Barkley, the NFL's 12th leading rusher with 502 yards, had just 1 yard in 30 minutes. One now.

Why, on this Military Appreciation Sunday, the Cowboys honored five more Medal of Honor winners at halftime (16) than the Giants had rushing yards.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn decided, oh no, these Giants are not going to run Barkley down our throats. At times, Quinn was playing a five-man defensive front with Micah Parsons at linebacker, daring the Giants to counter by putting the ball in the hands of the undrafted DeVito. The Giants didn't want to do that, DeVito completing just four of nine passes for 24 yards in the first two quarters. But when you are only gaining 11 yards on 11 carries and trailing 28-0, what to do, what to do. They have not invented a third way to matriculate down the field.

"This is a hard league," Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said. "You get in situations, whether it's health and whatever else is going on. That's why I talk about it all the time. When you don't have all your players nobody cares. I've been on both sides of that. I think you've got to keep your eye on the target."

The Cowboys hit the bull's-eye Sunday, keeping in mind what quarterback Dak Prescott has been saying ever since the trumping of the Rams two weeks ago, and after that narrow loss to the Eagles continued preaching it this past week and repeated it again after this game about the four-game mission that began with the Cowboys 2.5 games behind the Eagles and now having arrowed the margin to just two with Philadelphia idle.

"This is about us running our own race," Dak said. "No matter what the score is, the other opponent, what they're going through, what's tough for them, a young quarterback, whatever. We're trying to build. We're trying to build a better team to our best performance and best versions of ourselves each week.

Maybe the Cowboys should hand out T-shirts this week stating as much:

"This is about us."

And the us'uns were so much better than them others. And think about it, by the end of the third quarter the Cowboys led 42-7 before McCarthy called off the dogs, pulling the majority of his starters on offense and defense for the entirety of the fourth quarter with the exception of the now, and we can say the budding, incomparable CeeDee Lamb.

Left the guy who had authored three consecutive career highs in receiving yards the previous three weeks in long enough for backup quarterback Cooper Rush to complete two straight passes to Lamb for five and four yards, allowing him to achieve what had not been achieved in the history of the NFL. And let's let this sink in.

Did so by catching 11 passes for 151 yards, the former first-round draft choice who just unexpectedly fell in their NFL Draft laps in 2020 has now produced three consecutive games with at least 10 catches for at least 150 yards. CeeDee. The only one. Not Jerry Rice. Not Michael Irvin. Not Larry Fitzgerald. Not Calvin Johnson. Not Tyreek Hill. Not Terrell Owens. None of them.

"I'm one of one," said CeeDee when asked what sort of statement he's making about the type of receiver he is, probably not even realizing he just became the first receiver in franchise history to have four single-season games with10-plus receptions and 100-plus receiving yards, and think about it, the Cowboys have three receivers in the Pro football Hall of Fame. "I'm the top receiver in this game and there's no question about it. Competitors, see y'all again next week."

And while McCarthy might not be negotiating a long-term deal for the Cowboys' undisputed No. 1 receiver, CeeDee just might want to hire the head coach as his agent, Mike saying after the game, "What's great about CeeDee is he's going to be a Dallas Cowboy for a long time."

No doubt about it.

But that is only the lead to what took place offensively in dismantling the Giants.

Take the offense in total. Why, 640 total yards, the second most the Cowboys have ever totaled to only the 652 against Philly in 1966. Can you give me a wow here for the 468-yard difference, the largest in the past 44 NFL years?

Let's continue. So many have been asking, where's this Brandin Cooks guy?

Well, here he is, leading the Cowboys with 173 yards on just nine catches, not only including a 10-yard touchdown pass from Dak, but also catches of 37, 34, 32 and 25 yards, helping the Cowboys to produce nine pass plays between 25 and 41 yards.

So many have been asking if Michael Gallup has become a bust after signing that big contract, then tearing his ACL the end of the 2021 season. Well, hello ya'll, Michael with two catches for 70 yards, a beauty of a 41-yarder for a touchdown as well as one of his patented high-point, over-the-shoulder grabs with a defender hanging all over him.

Also, welcome to the Cowboys Jalen Brooks, the rookie receiver who had played in only two previous games and 20 total offensive snaps, showing why the Cowboys drafted the seventh-round pick out of South Carolina. He snags his first four NFL receptions for 39 yards.

Want another? Many of us have been calling for more Rico Dowdle. Well, here came Rico, just 12 carries for a team-high 79 yards rushing for a guy across the board establishing career highs in each of those categories, along with a career-high 21-yard run.

Want another? Deuce Vaughn caught his first NFL pass and broke a tackle for 11 yards, and with KaVontae Turpin out with a sore shoulder (been told he likely returns next week), returns three punts, one for a career-high 11 yards.

And that offensive line that struggled against the Eagles, especially Terence Steele, didn't allow one sack in this game, bulldozed away for those 168 rushing yards (5.1 a carry), and as Dak praised, was the impetus for him completing 26 of 35 attempts for 404 yards and four touchdowns over three quarters. In doing so, he became the first Cowboys quarterback to throw for more than 300 yards and at least three touchdowns in three consecutive games.

"Everything is just coming together," Dak said of these offensive explosions. "That's my point about this, is about us hitting our peak at the right time and just trying to grow. We're going to do that and make sure that it doesn't stop. We're not satisfied with this, I can promise you that."

The guy has been red hot.

Oh, and the defense, holding the Giants to those 172 yards, 90 of those in the fourth quarter against the JV. Also recording five sacks, seven tackles for loss and seven quarterback hits, along with shutting down the Giants on third down, that oh-for-12.

But this is exactly what the Cowboys should have done against a downtrodden Giants team if they are to accomplish this four-game mission. One down, three to go.

"I can't wait to see it again next week, the following week and the week after," CeeDee claimed, unbeknownst covering the next three steps on this self-proclaimed mission.

Now on to 1-8 Carolina.

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