NFC East Reporter
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The query in Dallas the previous couple of years has at all times been this: Can Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to the Tremendous Bowl? This yr that query is likely to be irrelevant.
As a result of for one night time, not less than, it positive regarded like this Cowboys protection is nice sufficient to do it on their very own.
They made that assertion loud and clear with the most important Opening Night time shutout in franchise historical past, after they overwhelmed the New York Giants 40-0 on Sunday night time on the Meadowlands. They sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones seven occasions, picked him off twice, pressured three fumbles, held their offense to simply 171 complete yards and stored Jones operating for his life on nearly each play.
It was an onslaught. It was smothering. And for the Cowboys, it wasn’t stunning in any respect.
“We’re making a press release which I have been making an attempt to make,” stated Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons. “We’re the very best protection within the Nationwide Soccer League.”
Off that efficiency, it was onerous to argue. The Giants had no solutions for the Dallas protection, even earlier than the heavy rains actually began to fall. The Giants could not block the Cowboys’ entrance seven. And in the event that they hold taking part in like that every one season, it is onerous to consider anybody will.
The beat-down the Cowboys’ protection placed on the supposedly improved Giants was so thorough and so fast that Prescott barely performed earlier than Dallas had a 16-0 lead. They scored on a blocked discipline aim by security Juanyeh Thomas that was returned 58 yards for a landing by cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. They usually scored on a Decide-6 when cornerback Trevon Diggs put a success on Saquon Barkley that popped the ball free and into the palms of cornerback DaRon Bland, who returned it 22 yards for a landing.
That every one occurred within the first 12 ½ minutes of the sport. Prescott, by that time, had been on the sphere for under eight performs.
“That received it began and it actually by no means stopped,” stated Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “The protection was relentless all night time.”
“We simply by no means let up,” Parsons added. “Which is nice — an amazing signal — as a result of final yr we perhaps would’ve let up a bit of bit. However we simply stayed on them. We did not allow them to breathe. We smothered them.”
That they did. The Giants really ran their method to 38 yards on the primary drive main as much as the primary discipline aim, making the most of the Cowboys’ blitzes and operating proper by them with Jones and Barkley (12 carries, 51 yards). However they solely gained 133 yards the remainder of the night time — and 49 of these got here within the fourth quarter when the Cowboys already had their 40-point lead.
After that opening drive, the Giants had been fully out of sync. They labored so onerous to enhance their offense this season, buying and selling for tight finish Darren Waller, signing receiver Parris Campbell, drafting receiver Jalin Hyatt and extra. They did every part they might to encompass their newly minted $160 million quarterback with satisfactory weapons.
However weapons aren’t any good within the face of a move rush just like the Cowboys ran at all of them sport.
“I’ve talked about all of it spring to coaching camp, understanding the move rush we’re going in opposition to in observe,” stated Prescott, who was simply 13 of 24 for 143 yards on a largely stress-free night time for him. “Watching that come alive in opposition to one other crew, one other quarterback, was thrilling. It made it simpler for us on our aspect.”
That fierce, relentless move rush was led by linebacker Micah Parsons, who appeared to return at Jones (15 of 28, 104 yards, 2 interceptions) on nearly each play, from each angle. He solely had one sack, however he hit Jones twice and was in pursuit of the quarterback so usually, Jones goes to see him in his nightmares for weeks.
Parsons even pressured Jones’ second interception when he made a exceptional play to bounce off one blocker, stunt round Giants rookie middle John Michael Schmitz, after which chase Jones throughout the sphere to the sidelines. That is the place Jones, clearly listening to Parson’s footsteps, made an ill-advised throw that was picked off by Cowboys cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
And it isn’t like Parsons was a one-man wrecking crew both. He could have staked his early case for Defensive Participant of the 12 months together with his efficiency, however he had loads of assist from his associates. Diggs pressured one fumble and compelled that early interception together with his hit on Barkley. Defensive sort out Osa Odighizuwa had two sacks. So did defensive finish Dorance Armstrong. And DeMarcus Lawrence had a sack, a quarterback hit and a sort out for a loss and was his traditional headache for the Giants.
The Cowboys protection was credited with 12 quarterback hits. They’d 10 tackles for losses. They’d eight passes defensed. And it felt like that they had a complete lot extra.
It is solely Week 1 in fact, and it is doable that the Giants are simply that unhealthy. Definitely their offensive line has lengthy been a sore spot for this franchise and it seems to be an issue once more. The Cowboys, although, would relatively consider it was them. They’d , however not nice, protection final season that ranked twelfth within the NFL. They struggled stopping the run at occasions, however that they had a powerful move rush that recorded 54 sacks, which tied them for third within the NFL.
This efficiency, although, was one other stage — a stage that if they will keep it could put them on the extent Parsons needs them to be: Among the many greatest defenses of all time. This efficiency, he stated, was worthy of that lofty aim.
“I consider so,” he stated, “simply with the turnovers, the relentlessness, the hassle by all 11.”
Once more, it is early, as McCarthy and Prescott had been fast to remind everybody after the sport. However this sport nonetheless felt like an amazing omen for what’s to return. It was additionally eerily paying homage to the 1995 season opener, when the Cowboys got here to the previous Giants Stadium right here and pounded the Giants 35-0. The Giants had been coming off a 9-7 season and thought they had been constructing one thing particular, similar to they thought heading into this yr. However these Cowboys taught them a robust lesson, after which used that momentum to kick off a championship run for what stays their final Tremendous Bowl crew.
It will be some time earlier than anybody is aware of if that historical past will repeat. However this sport ought to nonetheless ship shivers down the spines of the remainder of the NFC East — and perhaps the remainder of the NFC and NFL, too. As a result of the Cowboys nonetheless have a harmful offense with an elite quarterback in Prescott, a powerful offensive line, dashing assault behind Tony Pollard and higher passing-game weapons than that they had final yr.
They simply did not want them on Opening Night time. In any respect. The offense spent a lot of the night time as in the event that they had been simply operating out the clock. Prescott did not must do something different than simply shield the soccer within the rain, as a result of the blokes on protection, as McCarthy stated, “had been in complete management of the sport.”
The Cowboys will ultimately want extra as a result of that is nonetheless a quarterback league and an period of offensive explosion. However that is an offense that averaged 27.4 factors per sport final season. They know the offense will likely be there after they want it.
They simply may not want Prescott as a lot as they thought. He may not should be the one who carries all of them season of their quest for his or her first Tremendous Bowl in 27 years. This may occasionally nonetheless be Prescott’s crew and he would possibly nonetheless be the most important star in Dallas, but when the opener was any indication, it appears clear the Dallas protection is greater than able to main the way in which.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports activities, protecting the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the earlier six years protecting the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and earlier than that, 16 years protecting the Giants and the NFL for the New York Every day Information. Observe him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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