1.No Dak, no problem. Cooper Rush started his second game of 2022 and once again got the job done, completing 21 of 31 passes for 215 yards and a crucial touchdown pass to CeeDee Lamb to push the Cowboys ahead of the Giants midway through the final quarter. Through two games, Rush has handled the monumental responsibilities of a Cowboys starting quarterback with grace, showing he’s capable of handling the reins while Dak Prescott recovers. His performance helped the Cowboys out gain the Giants by more than a yard per play, and his series of completions on the aforementioned touchdown drive — including a bullet to Lamb to convert a fourth-and-4 — powered the Cowboys to a big win early in the season. We’ll leave the illogical quarterback controversy discussion for Twitter users to kill time in the days ahead, and in its place we can acknowledge Rush has certainly helped himself a whole lot with his play in the last two games. Dallas is 2-1 because of it.
2. The Giants’ line still has problems. The statistics don’t show it, but Daniel Jones played quite well (save for his final attempt, which ended in the hands of Trevon Diggs). Jones looked like the quarterback Giants fans have been praying he’d become for the last few years. He was poised, and even if some of his attempts came a tick too slow, he still let it rip throughout the night. Unfortunately, his receivers often didn’t do him any favors on the other end of his passes, nor did those tasked with protecting him. This loss is not on Jones, but the offensive line, which surrendered QB pressures on an astounding 40.5% of his dropbacks Monday night. Jones was quite literally under duress for much of the game, was sacked five times, and still found a way to keep the Giants afloat. He just never had enough time to get settled, which points more toward New York’s current state up front. Rookie tackle Evan Neal — the chosen target of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn — won’t want to watch this tape, but it will be a valuable teaching tool for the first-round pick.
3. Saquon is…back? Saquon Barkley leads all running backs in rush yards over expected through three weeks (+112) and trails only Lamar Jackson among all positions. Barkley gained 27 of that RYOE total on Monday night, with +31 coming on his 36-yard touchdown run. That play was a longtime coming for Giants fans, who have been forced to wait years for Barkley to return to the form that saw him selected second overall in 2018. Barkley finally appears healthy and capable of making a weekly difference for this Giants offense, displaying the burst, agility, change of direction and top speed that once endeared him to the entire NFL. The timing is great, of course, coming in a contract year. If he can stay healthy all season, the Giants will undoubtedly be in a better position in each game because of his contributions.
4. Dallas’ rushing attack: Also back. A tip of the 10-gallon hat is due to both Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliott, who combined to rush for 178 yards and one touchdown on 28 carries. Their efforts perfectly insulated Rush, establishing a ground attack that controlled the game and helped Dallas’ offense move the ball consistently throughout the night. Penalties undercut their offensive ambitions, but Elliott stepped up in a couple of key short-yardage moments on a drive that ended with a game-tying, 1-yard Elliott score. The threat of the run also helped keep New York’s defense honest, affording Rush the opportunities to push the ball down the field. It was especially valuable on the drive that produced the decisive touchdown, and much of the credit is due to the insertion of Jason Peters at left guard. The perfect example came on third-and-12 in the first half, when Dallas called a toss left and easily picked up the first down on a 27-yard Elliott run. This is what made the Cowboys an elite team early in Elliott’s career, and while he’s not the same home run hitter of years past, the one-two punch of Elliott and Pollard can be a real weapon for Dallas if it keeps blocking this well up front — regardless of who is playing quarterback.
5. Dallas’ defense is more than just Micah Parsons. The second-year linebacker is an absolute game-wrecker, but Monday night truly belonged to Demarcus Lawrence. Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn played around with Lawrence’s alignment for much of the night, causing issues for New York’s maligned offensive line, and Lawrence capitalized to the tune of three sacks and four pressures. Parsons chipped in four more pressures, with the two teaming up with Dorance Armstrong (four pressures, one sack) to harass Jones all night. Dallas finally took advantage of the success up front when Diggs made a diving interception to seal the win, capping a night that should make Quinn proud of his unit’s consistent ability to make a difference. It’s going to matter much more in the weeks ahead.