NFC East Reporter
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — The query in Dallas the previous couple of years has all the time been this: Can Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to the Super Bowl? This 12 months that query could be irrelevant.
Because for one evening, no less than, it positive regarded like this Cowboys protection is sweet sufficient to do it on their very own.
They made that assertion loud and clear with the most important Opening Night shutout in franchise historical past, once they overwhelmed the New York Giants 40-0 on Sunday evening on the Meadowlands. They sacked Giants quarterback Daniel Jones seven instances, picked him off twice, pressured three fumbles, held their offense to only 171 complete yards and saved Jones working 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’ve been making an attempt to make,” stated Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons. “We’re the very best protection within the National Football 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 preserve enjoying 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 area objective by security Juanyeh Thomas that was returned 58 yards for a landing by cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. And they scored on a Pick-6 when cornerback Trevon Diggs put a success on Saquon Barkley that popped the ball free and into the fingers of cornerback DaRon Bland, who returned it 22 yards for a landing.
That all occurred within the first 12 ½ minutes of the sport. Prescott, by that time, had been on the sphere for less than eight performs.
“That bought it began and it actually by no means stopped,” stated Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy. “The protection was relentless all evening.”
“We simply by no means let up,” Parsons added. “Which is sweet — an amazing signal — as a result of final 12 months we possibly would’ve let up a little bit bit. But we simply stayed on them. We did not allow them to breathe. We smothered them.”
That they did. The Giants really ran their strategy to 38 yards on the primary drive main as much as the primary area objective, profiting from the Cowboys’ blitzes and working proper by them with Jones and Barkley (12 carries, 51 yards). But they solely gained 133 yards the remainder of the evening — 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 utterly 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.
But weapons aren’t any good within the face of a go rush just like the Cowboys ran at all of them sport.
“I’ve talked about all of it spring to coaching camp, understanding the go rush we’re going towards in observe,” stated Prescott, who was simply 13 of 24 for 143 yards on a principally stress-free evening for him. “Watching that come alive towards one other staff, one other quarterback, was thrilling. It made it simpler for us on our facet.”
That fierce, relentless go 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 outstanding play to bounce off one blocker, stunt round Giants rookie heart John Michael Schmitz, after which chase Jones throughout the sphere to the sidelines. That’s 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 Player of the Year 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 ordinary headache for the Giants.
The Cowboys protection was credited with 12 quarterback hits. They had 10 tackles for losses. They had eight passes defensed. And it felt like they’d an entire lot extra.
It’s solely Week 1 in fact, and it is attainable that the Giants are simply that dangerous. Certainly 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 fairly consider it was them. They had a great, however not nice, protection final season that ranked twelfth within the NFL. They struggled stopping the run at instances, however they’d a robust go 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 preserve it will put them on the extent Parsons desires them to be: Among the very best defenses of all time. This efficiency, he stated, was worthy of that lofty objective.
“I consider so,” he stated, “simply with the turnovers, the relentlessness, the trouble by all 11.”
Again, it is early, as McCarthy and Prescott had been fast to remind everybody after the sport. But 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, identical to they thought heading into this 12 months. But these Cowboys taught them a robust lesson, after which used that momentum to kick off a championship run for what stays their final Super Bowl staff.
It’ll be some time earlier than anybody is aware of if that historical past will repeat. But this sport ought to nonetheless ship shivers down the spines of the remainder of the NFC East — and possibly the remainder of the NFC and NFL, too. Because the Cowboys nonetheless have a harmful offense with an elite quarterback in Prescott, a robust offensive line, a great dashing assault behind Tony Pollard and higher passing-game weapons than they’d final 12 months.
They simply did not want them on Opening Night. At all. The offense spent many of the evening as in the event that they had been simply working out the clock. Prescott did not must do something different than simply defend 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 finally want extra as a result of that is nonetheless a quarterback league and an period of offensive explosion. But that is an offense that averaged 27.4 factors per sport final season. They know the offense will probably be there once they want it.
They simply may not want Prescott as a lot as they thought. He may not need to be the one who carries all of them season of their quest for his or her first Super Bowl in 27 years. This should still be Prescott’s staff and he may 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 best way.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, masking the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the earlier six years masking the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and earlier than that, 16 years masking the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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