Monday Morning Quarterback: Cowboys Have Perfect Opener

NFL teams rarely have a season-opening game go as perfectly for them as the Cowboys did last night.

A 15-yard personal foul on a late hit let the Giants move steadily downfield. After a bad snap stalled the drive, the Cowboys special teams stepped up.

Juanyeh Thomas blocked Graham Gano’s 46-yard field goal attempt and Noah Igbinoghene returned the block 58 yards for a 6-0 lead.

The Dallas defense, which had seven sacks, added seven more points on a DaRon Bland 22-yard interception of a deflected Daniel Jones pass.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 10: DaRon Bland #26 of the Dallas Cowboys returns an interception for a touchdown during the first quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 10, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Giants would miss another field goal attempt and the Cowboys never looked back.

Dallas’ defense was the key. In addition to the seven sacks, the Cowboys had two interceptions and one fumble recovery.

Aside from an 18-yard run after the game was no longer in doubt, Dallas kept Saquon Barkley in check. The Giants running back had just 51 yards on 12 carries.

Jones was held to just 104 yards passing and 43 yards rushing – most of his yards came on the first drive on scrambles out of the pocket.

Cowboys’ Offense Plays Well

The Cowboys offense did the best thing they could. They stayed out of the defenses way.

Dallas generated 265 total yards on offense. More importantly, they didn’t turn the ball over.

Pollard did cough the ball up once at the end of a screen pass, but center Tyler Biadasz collected the ball to preserve possession for Dallas.

Dak Prescott was just 13-for-24 for 143 yards. While he didn’t throw a touchdown pass, he also didn’t throw an interception.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 10: Dak Prescott #4 of the Dallas Cowboys throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on September 10, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

A few of his passes were off target, nit surprising given the rainy conditions. He did have a few passes that should have been caught.

Tight ends Jake Ferguson and Peyton Hendershot dropped catchable balls, including one that cost Prescott a touchdown.

But overall, it was a solid game for Prescott. Pollard had 70 yards on 14 carries and two touchdowns.

Before the season started Mike McCarthy said he wanted to run the ball more. Owing to the big early lead, Dallas ran the ball 30 times against 25 passes.

Some SMALL Issues

Mazi Smith started at defensive tackle and the Giants running game marched downfield on the opening drive. Smith was pulled and Osa Odighizuwa and Johnathan Hankins plugged up the leaky line.

It was not the best start for the Cowboys first round pick. Aside from that, the defense got an A+ grade last night along with the special teams.

But Hankins and Odighizuwa (two sacks) can get it done while Smith improves. Dorance Armstong also added two sacks.

DeMarcus Lawrence and Chauncey Golston also collected a sack each.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY – SEPTEMBER 10: Chauncey Golston #99 of the Dallas Cowboys sacks Daniel Jones #8 of the New York Giants forcing a fumble during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium on September 10, 2023 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

Stephon Gilmore‘s Cowboys’ debut was marked by an interception, scooped off an inch off the turf.

Israel Mukuamu recovered an Isaiah Hodgins fumble late in the game.

Brandon Aubrey gave Cowboys’ fans the vapors by pushing his first point after attempt wide left.

He chased the ghosts of Brett Maher away by hitting his next four and both of his field goal attempts. The wet weather didn’t help, but Aubrey did not look confident on his kicks.

Speaking of shaky kickers…

Maher’s Return

Former Cowboys kicker Brett Maher is now with a new team, the Los Angeles Rams. Maher went 3-for-3 in point after attempts and 3-for-5 in field goals on Sunday.

Both of his misses in the Rams’30-13 win over Seattle were over 50 yards. It was a nice rebound following Maher’s disastrous final two games in Dallas.

It doesn’t mean the Cowboys should have kept Maher for this year. There was no way they could trust him and he needed a fresh start somewhere else.

Moore Runs The Ball?

One of the biggest criticism’s regarding Kellen Moore – the Cowboys’ former offensive coordinator – was his tendency to abandon the run.

In his first game as play caller for the Chargers, Moore appeared to remember he had running backs for the entire game.

The Chargers ran the ball 40 times opposed to throwing just 33 passes. When Los Angeles needed a drive in their final possession Moore had no answers.

It will be interesting to see if Moore reverts back to form or if he has learned something from his time in Dallas.