Good, Bad, Ugly: Cowboys WRs come alive in win, penalty problems continue

Things got off to a shaky start for the Cowboys in Week 10, but the offense quickly found their footing and turned in a monster day, rolling up 640 yards of offense and scoring seven touchdowns on 12 drives in their 49-17 thrashing of the rival Giants.

Much of the coming days will be spent dissecting all the ways in which Dallas dominated, from Dak Prescott’s surgical precision to CeeDee Lamb’s record-setting haul to the defense preventing Big Blue from converting a single third down.

Of course, not everything went perfectly, and the Cowboys coaches will have things to harp on over the next week of practice as the team prepares to face another struggling opponent in Carolina. (Get ready to hear a lot about cleaning up stupid penalties.)

Here’s just some of the good, as well as the bad and the ugly from Sunday’s- ahem- giant victory.

An offer for Cowboys fans

For the best local Austin news, sports, entertainment and culture coverage, subscribe to the Austin American-Statesman.

Good: Cowboys' air attack spreads it around

After relying on CeeDee Lamb to carry the team’s pass-catching duties- to the tune of 40% of the team’s receiving yards Weeks 1 through 9- the Cowboys were intent on sharing the love on Sunday.  Between Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush, their 33 completions were distributed to seven different targets, with several supporting cast members finally stepping into the spotlight after a quiet first half of the season.

Brandin Cooks enjoyed his long-awaited breakout, catching nine of 10 balls for 173 yards, his best single-game performance since 2016. Rookie Jalen Brooks hauled in all four passes thrown his way, his first receptions as a pro. Even the much-maligned Michael Gallup made a cameo appearance; after being conspicuously absent early, the veteran ended the afternoon with two clutch, contested deep-ball catches for 70 yards and a score.

And of course, Lamb continued his record-setting tear, logging 11 receptions for 151 yards. He’s now the first player in NFL history to record three consecutive 10-catch, 150-yard outings.

Being able to spread it around let Prescott rack up 404 yards and a 138.3 passer rating in just three quarters of play; both numbers put the 49-17 win within his personal all-time top ten.

Bad: Red-zone offense on first drive

Dallas may have ended up steamrolling the Giants, but it took them a few minutes to find the keys. After taking the opening possession 70 yards in six plays, Prescott & Co. set up shop with a fresh set of downs at the Giants’ 4 before yet another red-zone stall.

Tony Pollard got it down to the 2 on the first-down play, but that’s as far as the Cowboys got. The fourth-down call was particularly maddening, as Mike McCarthy tried to use Pollard as a battering ram on an ill-fated run up the middle. New York took over on downs, and Cowboys fans everywhere threw up their hands in collective here-we-go-again disgust.

The Cowboys offense obviously found their groove, and the ground game eventually got going, although Rico Dowdle proved to be more effective than Pollard. One has to believe he or Hunter Luepke likely would have been a better option on fourth-and-goal and saved the team a few nervous moments early.

Ugly: INT monster bites Prescott again

Prescott has spent months proclaiming that the bad decision-making and interception issues that plagued him last season were decidedly in the rearview mirror. But for a brief moment while Sunday’s outcome was still very much in question, the problem proved to be closer than it might have previously appeared.

On a third-down play from the Cowboys’ own 25, Prescott tried to force a ball to his safety blanket, tight end Jake Ferguson. The problem is that Ferguson was double-covered by safety Dane Belton and cornerback Cor’Dale Flott. Flott broke on the ball and snatched it, eventually giving the Giants offense possession at the Dallas 12.

Thankfully, the Cowboys defense kept Tommy DeVito and the Giants out of the end zone, but the momentary lapse in judgment served as a reminder that Prescott’s ghosts of interceptions past are always going to be lurking in the shadows, just waiting to make their return. And against a better team, they’ll be deadly.

Good: Cowboys D makes early stops

The Cowboys defense had allowed opponents to score points on their opening drive in every game since Week 3, a string of six straight contests. They were determined to break that streak on Sunday. After the Cowboys turned the ball over on downs at the Giants 2 to start Week 10, Dan Quinn’s unit refused to let New York get out of the shadow of their own end zone. The Giants gained just four yards on their first three plays and punted the ball right back to Dallas, keeping the offense’s red-zone stall from being too costly.

Then to start the second quarter, the Cowboys defense returned the favor, making a goal-line stand of their own after Prescott’s interception. Facing 4th-and-2 from the Cowboys 4, even a short pickup would have given New York a new set of downs with which to tie the score at 7. But when defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins swallowed up Saquon Barkley on a fourth-down plunge for no gain, it prompted Prescott and the Cowboys offense to start a 96-yard touchdown march that started the Dallas onslaught.

Giants players were visibly frustrated after the fourth-down flop, with things getting heated between Barkley and head coach Brian Daboll on the sideline. Even DeVito’s dad was stunned up in his seat, being caught on-camera asking, “That’s your fourth-down play call?” in disbelief. It may have been an iffy choice, but by that point, the Dallas D smelled blood in the water and looked primed to stop just about anything the Giants dialed up.

Bad: Jourdan Lewis penalties extend Giants scoring drive

AP Photo/Ashley Landis
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

Lewis didn’t make much of an impact in Sunday’s win, showing up on the stat sheet as being involved in just a pair of tackles on the day. But he left the wrong kind of impression on a Giants third-quarter drive, with referee Brad Rogers calling his name twice within three plays to extend what became a New York touchdown drive that spoiled the defense’s shutout bid.

The veteran cornerback got cooked by receiver Isaiah Hodgins for a 27-yard gain and also got nabbed for illegal contact. That penalty was fortunately negated by Hodgins also committing offensive pass interference, wiping out what would have been the Giants’ longest play from scrimmage on the day.

But two snaps later, Lewis was flagged again, this time for holding on a 19-yard scramble by DeVito. That infraction tacked on another five yards and put DeVito that much closer to the end zone, which he eventually found on a 10-yard scoring pass to put New York on the scoreboard.

Only one of Lewis’s penalties actually counted, and it didn’t make a material difference in the final. But he’s quickly gaining a reputation as the defensive player that most Cowboys fans are ready to move on from, and this mistake-filled drive didn’t help.

Ugly: Neville Gallimore's ejection

Things got chippy at the end of the game, with frustrations boiling over and ending the night a few minutes early for Gallimore. After falling into the back of DeVito’s legs on a third-down play with under a minute to play, Giants guard Justin Pugh took offense and gave Gallimore a shove while he was still on the turf.

Gallimore retaliated by kicking Pugh in the groin, a move that cost the Cowboys 15 yards and earned Gallimore a disqualification. (It will also result in a hefty fine from the league.)

It was a bad look for Gallimore, whose team was already up by 39 points. The extra penalty yardage helped DeVito and the Giants put up another touchdown to make the final a little less of an embarrassment, but it was Gallimore losing his cool that was embarrassing to watch.

Story originally appeared on Cowboys Wire