Defense, special teams lead Dallas to 40-0 blowout over Giants

The first Sunday of the NFL season concluded at MetLife Stadium and it was a home opener that the New York Giants would soon hope to forget. The Dallas Cowboys came into East Rutherford and dominated out of the gate en route to a 40-0 win. It was the Giants' worst shutout loss at home in franchise history and the Cowboys' largest shutout win in their franchise history.

This game was over with pretty early on. The Giants put together a solid opening drive that saw the ball travel down to the Dallas 8-yard line but were unable to punch it in for a touchdown. To make matters worse, the field goal attempt was blocked by the Cowboys, and Noah Igbinoghene scooped up the loose ball and went 58 yards to the house. That lit the wick for Dallas as it went on a 26-0 run to leave New York in the dust by halftime. 

This win now gives Dak Prescott 11 straight victories against the Giants, which ties Roger Staubach for the most consecutive wins against the franchise in its history. The Cowboys QB was 13 for 24 passing for 143 yards. Tony Pollard led Dallas with 70 yards rushing and CeeDee Lamb caught all four of his targets for 77 yards. Meanwhile, Daniel Jones completed 15 of his 28 passes for 104 yards and two interceptions. Saquon Barkley rushed 12 times for 51 yards and caught three of his four targets for 12 yards.

Dallas can thank its special teams and defense for jumping out to the early lead. Safety Juanyeh Thomas was able to get a hand on Graham Gano's 45-year-old field goal attempt on the opening drive of the game and Noah Igbinoghene picked it up and returned it 58 yards for the first touchdown of the game. After forcing New York into a three-and-out on their ensuing drive, Dan Quinn's defense followed suit with a pick-six by corner Daron Bland. Daniel Jones had a simple dump-off to running back Saquon Barkley, who was hit hard by Trevon Diggs and popped the ball free for Bland to snag in the air. Those two scores helped give the Cowboys a 16-0 lead by the end of the first quarter, which seemed like an insurmountable hole for New York even in the moment. 

Mike McCarthy's club also was able to apply a great amount of pressure on Daniel Jones and constantly flushed him out of the pocket. In the first half alone, they were able to bring him down for four sacks. Part of that was stellar play from the pass rushers, but it also can be credited to Dallas' defensive backs, who were able to lock up Giants receivers and force Jones to double-clutch a number of potential throws, allowing the rushers to get home. 

Jones' second interception of the night that was hauled in by Stephon Gilmore is a good example of the Cowboys applying pressure, forcing Jones to go on the run and then forcing him into a bad decision. 

Stephon Gilmore picks off Jones! Another INT for the Dallas D

Micah Parsons was particularly effective in this win, especially as they built up the early lead in the first half. Through the first two quarters, Parsons recorded four pressures and a sack on 18 pass rushes while being double-teamed on half of those rushes, per Next Gen Stats. Parsons finished with three tackles, a sack and two quarterback hits. As a team, the Cowboys tallied seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits on the night. 

This was the largest shutout win in Cowboys franchise history, besting their 38-0 wins in 1982 (vs. Tampa Bay) and 1978 (vs. Baltimore). They are also the first team since the 2004 Chiefs to win a game by 40 plus points without a passing touchdown. 

Everything that could go wrong did for the New York Giants on Sunday night. Even after an encouraging opening drive, they started to collapse in on themselves. Before the blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown, they had the ball inside the 10-yard line, but a false start penalty and then an aborted snap on back-to-back plays pushed them back to the 27-yard line. Following the scoop-and-score on the blocked field goal, the Giants really couldn't get into any sort of rhythm offensively, especially in the passing game. In the first half, New York had the blocked field goal, two three-and-outs, a pick-six, and a missed field goal attempt. While all that was going on, the Cowboys managed to build up a 26-0 lead going into the break. 

Because of Dallas getting home and sacking Jones early and often, New York was forced into numerous third-and-long situations, which doesn't play into their strengths as an offensive unit. Couple being placed in that poor situation with zero help from wide receivers, and it's not surprising to see the Giants registered -19 net passing yards in the first quarter (the fewest by the franchise since 1996). No wide receiver recorded a catch in the first half with Jones' five completions going to Darren Waller (three) and Saquon Barkley (two). 

Even when a wide receiver started to flash, it ended in disaster. Wideout Isaiah Hodgins caught a 24-yard pass from Jones at the start of the fourth quarter, which was the biggest play of the night for the offense to that point. As Hodgins ran upfield, Trevon Diggs was able to rip the ball free and force a fumble that Dallas recovered. 

Part of the reason why the Giants were successful and able to reach the playoffs last season was due to their ability to protect the football. After recording the second-fewest turnovers as a team a season ago, Jones had two interceptions on the night and both resulted in ensuing touchdowns to further put them being the eight ball. 

The pick-six in the closing minutes of the first quarter when it really started to feel like this game was going to get out of hand. Before that, the Giants had dug themselves into a 9-0 hole, but that's a realistic deficit to claw back from. When Jones dropped back on a third-and-19 and hit Barkley on a short throw and had the ball pop free and directly into the arms of Bland, who took it to the house, that 16-0 lead felt like a margin that was insurmountable for the Giants. 

The blocked field goal is what set the tone for Dallas on Sunday night. New York enjoyed a promising opening drive of the game and had their way with against the Cowboys on the ground, but then started to collapse as we highlighted above. Thomas was then able to leap over the line largely untouched and was able to swat the ball down out of the air for Noah Igbinoghene to pick up and dash 58 yards to the end zone for the game's first score. 

From here, the Cowboys will head back to AT&T Stadium for their home opener against Aaron Rodgers and the New York Jets on Sunday. As for the Giants, they'll look to pick up the pieces in Arizona when they face the Cardinals in Week 2. 

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