Dallas Cowboys overcome another slow start to top New York Giants on Monday Night Football

Lorenzo Reyes


Published 11: 45 PM EST Nov 4, 2019

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Dak Prescott looked on from the sidelines and shook his head.

On the Dallas Cowboys’ first play from scrimmage, he had thrown an interception and gave the New York Giants the ball on the Dallas eight-yard line. The television broadcast cameras caught him mouthing the words.

My bad.

It put the Cowboys in a familiar place, an early hole.

The Cowboys eventually fought back and secured the victory Monday night, 37-18, to improve to 5-3 and remain in first place in the NFC East. But Prescott’s first miscue was indicative of a problem that the Cowboys just can’t seem to mend: slow starts. It’s an issue that the Cowboys can seemingly overcome against weaker opponents — the Giants stumbled to 2-7 with the loss — but it presents a question as the team turns its focus toward a push to the postseason. Is it sustainable?

The Cowboys scored just three points in the first quarter and looked as if they would enter intermission in a similar spot before they scored 10 in the final 52 seconds of the half to take a one-point lead. With that, the Cowboys have now faced a deficit at any point in the second quarter in five of their eight games.

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Tied directly to the team’s slow start on Monday was third-down inefficiency.

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Dallas, which entered Monday’s game as the top-ranked team in the NFL in third-down conversion rate (51.85%), converted just four of 11 attempts (36.36%) against the Giants. Often, the Cowboys made the task more challenging than it needed to be, failing to execute on early downs and creating lengthy yardage-to-gain on third downs.

Dallas, however, did improve in that area as the game wore on. In the first half, the Cowboys moved the chains on only one of five third-down attempts. The average yards-to-gain in first half third downs was 8.8.

In the second half, Dallas converted three of seven third-down tries, and the average yards-to-gain was six.

It’s fitting that the play that sealed the game for Dallas, a 45-yard touchdown pass to receiver Amari Cooper in the middle of the fourth quarter, came on a 3rd-and-12 in which Prescott connected with his target in stride.

One final area Dallas will examine is red zone efficiency. The Cowboys entered Monday ranked eighth in the NFL, turning 64% of their trips inside the 20 into touchdowns. Against the Giants, Dallas capitalized on just one of three red zone tries.

Prescott completed 22 of 35 passes for 257 yards, three touchdowns, and the interception.

Running back Ezekiel Elliott posted his third consecutive game of 100 or more rushing yards, racking up 139 on 23 carries in a productive and efficient performance in which he showcased patience and let his blockers bore holes in New York’s defense.

The Cowboys, who just came off their bye in Week 8, enter a tough portion of their schedule. They host the Minnesota Vikings (6-3) next, but then go on the road for a two-game road trip against the Detroit Lions (3-4-1) and the New England Patriots (8-1). In the NFC East, the Eagles (5-4) are closely trailing Dallas, so slip ups along the way would prove to be quite costly.

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To avoid that, the Cowboys know what they need to do — avoid early deficits.

Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Lorenzo Reyes on Twitter @LorenzoGReyes.

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