Micah ParsonsMitchell Leff/Getty Images
Sunday night’s matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants was supposed to be one of the most exciting games of Week 1—an NFC East donnybrook between two teams that won playoff games in 2022.
That was the story we were supposed to get. But a much different tale unfolded in the rain at MetLife Stadium. Actually, there were two stories—polar opposites.
At one end of a 40-0 (no, really) thrashing, there was a Dallas Cowboys team that looked every bit as good as the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles did in Week 1—a legitimate Super Bowl contender loaded with talent that possesses maybe the best defense in the NFL.
At the other end of the spectrum was a New York Giants team that appeared overmatched from the get-go. A team with an offensive line that looked offensive and a lack of passing-game talent that essentially left its quarterback little recourse but to spend the evening running for his life.
The Cowboys looked like one of the best teams in football. The Giants looked like frauds—like a team that punched above its weight in a fluky 2022 campaign but is far too flawed to be considered a threat in the NFC East, much less the conference as a whole.
And while one game is a small sample size to make such sweeping generalizations about teams (for example, no one is counting out the Kansas City Chiefs after they lost on Thursday night), Dallas’ complete dominance of New York (again) was so glaring that it’s hard to ignore.
We’ll start with the positive side of Sunday’s stories—the Cowboys looked fantastic, especially on defense.
Cowboys star edge-rusher Micah Parsons has never lost to the Giants. But ahead of Sunday’s throttling, Parsons told reporters he wasn’t worried about the past. He was only focused on the future—and sending a message that there isn’t a better defensive front in the league.
“I really don’t focus on last year because everyone has the same opportunity as me to get better. I’m pretty sure their guys over there got better,” Parsons said. “My mindset is always that we’re the best D-line in the world. And each week, each Sunday, you’ve got a chance to go out there and perform and show why you’re the best in the world.”
It didn’t take long for Parsons to make his case against the Giants.
Micah Parsons is racking up the sacks already 🔥
It wasn’t just Parsons, either. There were five different Cowboys who sacked Daniel Jones, in part because Parsons was giving the entire Giants offensive line fits. Two players recorded multiple sacks. Even when Jones was able to avoid the sack, he was either forced to scramble for minimal yardage or take a shot—he was hit approximately all the times ever. All that pressure also led to two Jones interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Offensively, Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott was attempting to wash off the stink of a 2022 season that saw him tie for the league lead in interceptions despite playing just 12 games. Prescott didn’t play at all in the preseason, but head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters leading up to the game that he was confident Prescott was ready to go.
“Definitely ready to start the season, no doubt,” McCarthy said. “He’s definitely taken advantage of the opportunity to learn, evaluate, the implementation of the things that are new. I’m really impressed with his offseason work preparing for this opportunity. Definitely, I would say he’s ready to go.”
That confidence was well-placed.
The Dallas offense wasn’t as dominant as the defense in McCarthy’s first game as the team’s new play-caller. But it was effective. Prescott’s completion percentage of 54 percent was more a function of the weather than poor play for the 30-year-old. Both CeeDee Lamb and veteran addition Brandin Cooks had little trouble getting open against a young Giants secondary.
Dak PrescottMitchell Leff/Getty Images
On the ground, Tony Pollard’s first game as the Cowboys’ lead back was a success. Pollard’s total of 70 rushing yards isn’t a gaudy number, but he averaged five yards a carry and found the end zone twice. That the Cowboys didn’t pile up more offensive numbers was because of the rain and a blowout. Not because New York’s defense played especially well.
Of course, the Giants defense looked a heck of a lot better than the offense.
A couple weeks ago, Giants running back Saquon Barkley told Paul Schwartz of the New York Post that he expected Jones to show people something this year.
“I don’t want to speak for DJ, but he’s gonna come in every single day with the same mindset, be the leader that we need. You can see his swagger has grown a little bit more after being involved in the system, understanding the system even better.”
There was zero swagger Sunday night. Before mercifully being pulled for backup Tyrod Taylor just before the game ended, Jones completed 15 of 28 passes for 104 yards and those two picks. He was sacked seven times, averaged 3.7 yards per attempt and posted a passer rating of 32.4.
That’s not bad. Or abysmal. It’s what comes after abysmal.
Daniel JonesMitchell Leff/Getty Images
In fairness to Jones, it wasn’t all his fault. Or even mostly his fault. The Giants’ supposedly improved offensive line was completely manhandled the entire contest, with right tackle Evan Neal turning in a particularly putrid performance. New York’s new-look wide receiver room combined for five catches and 41 yards—total.
CeeDee Lamb had four catches for 77 yards by himself.
Yes, the Cowboys have one of the best defensive lines in the game and an excellent duo of cornerbacks in Trevon Diggs and Stephon Gilmore. But they aren’t solely the reason New York’s offensive line and wide receivers were atrocious Sunday night. The Giants have a very real problem. The offensive line is not good, and tight end Darren Waller is the only pass-catcher on the team capable of getting open before Jones either has to take off or is looking out his earhole lying on the ground.
This isn’t an overreaction. It’s simply seeing things for what they are. The Cowboys look like a team that is going to give the New York Jets all they can handle next week and remain in the Super Bowl hunt in the NFC all season. The Giants look like an also-ran that’s going to get boatraced again by the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3.
We came into Sunday night thinking that we were watching a matchup between two contenders.
By the time the game ended, we knew we were watching only one.