Machota: ‘We’re starting to get rolling’ - 5 biggest takeaways from Cowboys’ sixth consecutive win over Giants

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Machota: ‘We’re starting to get rolling’ - 5 biggest takeaways from Cowboys’ sixth consecutive win over Giants

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By Jon Machota Nov 5, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For more than a quarter and a half Monday night, the Cowboys looked like they were setting themselves up for another disaster. They were down 9-3 with less than six minutes remaining in the first half, and the two-win New York Giants were driving.

Could the NFC East-leading Cowboys really lay another egg at MetLife Stadium, where they handed the New York Jets their only win of the season just three weeks ago ?

But then a black cat appeared, causing play to be suspended until stadium employs were able to remove the animal from the field. Dallas outscored New York 34-9 the rest of the way.

“First thing to cross my mind, no joke, was like, ‘Fuck, they got bad luck now. It just turned on them,’ defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. “If a damn black cat runs on a football field on Monday Night Football, you might as well call it quits. I hate cats, too, so it was like fuck, fuck, fuck.”

Several players mentioned it was the first time they’ve been part of a game that was halted because an animal was on the field.

“I was just wondering who was going to catch the thing,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “I wasn’t getting close to it.”

Running back Ezekiel Elliott added: “I wouldn’t say I’m superstitious, but I wasn’t going anywhere near it. I’m allergic to cats.”

Jerry Jones joked that the cat was looking directly at him in the visiting owner’s box.

“I haven’t seen one glare at me that far away before,” Jones said with a smile. “But things did kind of change when that black cat came. What was amazing to me was how few people wanted to go grab him.”

Here are the five biggest takeaways from Dallas’ sixth consecutive win over the division rival Giants, 37-18, Monday night.

1.) Amari Cooper brings incredible value even when he’s not 100 percent. Dallas’ star receiver has been banged up all season. The bye week came at the perfect time, allowing him to rest his injured ankle and quad.

But Cooper suffered another setback during practice last Wednesday when he tweaked his left knee. To make matters worse, he injured the knee again early in Monday night’s game after making a reception. After medical staff examined him for several minutes, Cooper was able to loosen it up on the sidelines and return.

He then provided what was essentially the knockout blow midway through the final quarter. After the Giants had cut the Cowboys lead to 23-18, Prescott targeted Cooper on third-and-12 from New York’s 45-yard line. And like Cooper has done so many times since Dallas traded for him during last season’s bye week, he appeared to effortlessly find space running left to right on a dig route across the field for his seventh touchdown of the season.

Does it feel as easy as it looks?

“Sometimes,” Cooper said. “That one was pretty easy. I ain’t going to complain about the easy ones because this game is a hard game. There are pro players out there trying to prevent me from catching a ball and scoring a touchdown.”

Even to the novice fan, it’s obvious that things changed dramatically the day Cooper was added to the Cowboys’ offense. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of his rare ability is that he can strike at any time. And because he doesn’t complain about not getting targets, sometimes he can almost be forgotten.

“It just makes the defense different when Amari Cooper is on the field,” Jerry Jones said. “They just have to honor him. And when they don’t, he’ll make that significant play.”

Cooper suffered a quad injury early in the Jets game at MetLife Stadium. The offense never got going without him. Coming to the game, he said he had thoughts of this being a “redemption game” after what happened against the Jets.

“But when I got hurt,” he said, “I was like, ‘Oh, man, not again. I can’t believe this is happening again.’ I was going to try to play through it as much as I can because I couldn’t see myself not being out there with the guys.”

After the game, Cooper said he felt pretty good, rating himself an eight of 10.

“We got another week before our next game,” he said, “so I think I can get to a 10.”

2.) This team typically goes as it starts, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. When they don’t score early or when turn the ball over on their opening possession — like they did Monday night — bad things tend to happen. Fortunately for the Cowboys, they were playing a subpar opponent on Monday. But if they start that way in upcoming weeks against Minnesota, Detroit and New England, they’ll probably lose those games.

“We just have to get it cleaned up,” tight end Jason Witten said. “It’s hard to win in this league. The margin is tight. Then you put yourself behind like that. It’s not as easy to overcome. In a lot of ways, it shows the ability to handle adversity as a group, but at the same time, you don’t have to start like that. You certainly have to get that cleaned up. There’s still a lot of good things. But we can’t do that as we move forward.”

3.) A good defensive line showed it can be much better with the addition of Michael Bennett. Jerry Jones said before the game that he expected Bennett to get significant playing time in his Cowboys debut, and he did.

Bennett lined up at several different positions on the interior as well as at left defensive end. He recorded a sack, three tackles, two tackles for loss and a team-high four QB hits.

“I thought he was outstanding,” Jones said. “I thought he was really impactful in there. I thought the team, in general, was feeding off what he was bringing. He really is a great addition for us.”

They’ll obviously face much better offensive lines and quarterbacks going forward, but for a system that depends on its front four to generate the majority of its pressure, Dallas was impressive. The Cowboys sacked rookie quarterback Daniel Jones five times and recorded 12 QB hits.

Lawrence, Robert Quinn and Maliek Collins each had one sack Monday night. Those three combined with Bennett give the Cowboys one of the league’s top pass-rushing 4-3 lines — even if Bennett jumps offsides a couple times.

“I played with Michael at the Pro Bowl, so I understand his personality and what he likes to do,” Lawrence said. “He clearly likes to be offside (laughing). But just to be around him, just to have another speed guy lining up alongside me and Robert is great.”

What is probably going through an opposing quarterback’s mind when facing those four pass rushers?

“Get the ball out of your hand fast,” Lawrence said. “That’s basically what (Daniel Jones) was trying to do all night. He got some good opportunities, and we still got back there.”

Quinn had the best line of the night while talking about the monetary value of their pass rush.

“Sacks equal stacks,” he said with a smile.

4.) It appears that the Cowboys have officially found their run game. Ezekiel Elliott had two 100-yard rushing games during the first five weeks of the season. He now has gone over 100 yards in each of Dallas’ last three games. Monday night’s season-high 139 yards on 23 carries looked like the offensive line’s most impressive showing of the year.

It was the easiest (139) yards I’ve ever gained,” Elliott said. “I don’t even know If I broke a tackle, I just ran inside the scheme. Those guys just mauled them up front. Thanks to them for making it easy on me today. Got to love the big fellas.”

This team was built around a big offensive line and an elite running back. Many would like to see more variety in the offense, but this is who they are, especially on the road. The Cowboys’ success this season depends greatly on Elliott continuing to run like he has and the line to block like it did Monday night.

“I feel really good,” Elliott said. “I feel like things are really clicking, and I’m really excited to see where this run game goes. I think it can only get better and better. I’m just glad that we’re finally putting it all together and playing really well.

“We’re starting to get rolling.”

5.) Turnovers. For the second consecutive game, Dallas’ defense found ways to take the ball away. Xavier Woods had an interception and forced a fumble that was recovered by Darian Thompson. Later, Jourdan Lewis put the icing on the cake by returning a fumble 63 yards for a touchdown in the final minute. Lewis’ playing time increased while Anthony Brown was out with a hamstring injury the last couple of weeks. But even with Brown back on Monday, Lewis was still given significant snaps.

“He’s always making plays on the ball,” Jason Garrett said of Lewis. “I thought our defense did a good job finishing the game. You want to finish on a high note, even though they’re in that situation where they’re a couple scores down, they’re going to move it. But we want to finish the right way. Jourdan made a big-time play at the end of the ball game. He’s around the ball a lot, and he makes a lot of plays.”

The Cowboys now have seven takeaways over the last two games, leading to blowout wins over division rivals. Dallas totaled only two takeaways in their previous three games — losses to the Saints, Packers and Jets.

“What I like about the team is we’re all hungry,” Jaylon Smith said. “No one’s satisfied with what they’ve accomplished. People have gotten contracts, including myself. We’re playing with Hall of Famers, playing with Pro Bowlers, All-Pro, playing with guys that come from nothing — practice squad — the camaraderie is the same. Everybody is being treated equal, and for us, it’s about that accountability and keeping that chemistry together, so that’s what I love about our team.”
 
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