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What we learned from Cowboys' win over Giants

*Outplayed by a cat in the first half, the Dallas Cowboys (5-3) overcame early miscues to defeat the division-rival New York Giants (2-7), 37-18, on "Monday Night Football." Here's what we learned from the final game of Week 9: *

  1. For much of Monday evening's slog in the swamp, the only thing that was working in Kellen Moore's offense was Ezekiel Elliott. The Cowboys back outplayed his Big Ten counterpart, Saquon Barkley, for most of the night, tallying 132 yards on 22 carries and picking up many of Dallas' first downs. However, the Cowboys put the game in the hands of Dak Prescott (257 yards, 3 TDs, INT), more so than its highly paid back, and the QB struggled to string together big completions. Unable to hit deep shots to Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, Prescott relied on a short passing game to MNF alumnus Jason Witten and Randall Cobb, with 20 of the quarterback's 22 completions traveling less than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Moore's attack that inspired many in the season's first month to consider the first-year OC a wunderkind had lost all creativity. All that is to say the lasting image of Monday's win, other than a black cat sprinting across the off-grey MetLife Stadium turf, was Cooper doing so after Prescott hit the receiver on a crosser on a fourth-quarter third-and-12 from New York's 45 and he took off for the end zone to extend Dallas' late lead. Against a bumbling Big Blue side, the Cowboys offense didn't put forth its best effort, but it was enough for a prime-time win and to stay atop the NFC East.
  1. New York was too conservative on Monday night for a team with just two wins under its belt and little to no shot of making the postseason. The Giants settled for field goals on four drives inside Dallas's 11-yard-line, one in each quarter of the loss. New York opted to kick field goals on fourth downs with 3, 5, 5 and 10 yards to go. Though the distances away from a first down or score increased every time Giants coach Pat Shurmur waved the white flag, so did New York's desperation as Dallas clawed back in the game and then pulled away. The Giants turned the Cowboys' two first-half turnovers into just six points, only to give up two scoring drives (and the lead) in the half's final three minutes. In the last two frames, Big Blue lacked the urgency that a team looking to reclaim the lead and its season should have. Safe and sorry, the Giants deserve their end. (And lest you take away from Monday's game that kicker Aldrick Rosas was the hero for making four field goals, it was his missed extra point on Big Blue's only TD that kept New York at an uncomfortable deficit for most of Monday evening.)
  1. Daniel Jones is a turnover machine. The second coming to Eli Manning has absorbed some of the signal-caller's most unforgivable traits, mainly giving the ball away with abandon. With one interception and two fumbles lost against Dallas, Jones (210 yards, TD, INT) has risen to the top of the turnover charts with 16 on the season in just seven starts. His only competition in the category is Jameis Winston. The rookie is still developing his pocket awareness to that befitting of an NFL starter, but Jones' recklessness with the ball and with his body should be concerning to interested parties. That was the rub on the first-year signal-caller in the preseason, and he has not improved in that department.
  1. And now for this week's edition of Old Faces in New Places. Leonard Williams' first start on the blue side of MetLife was uneventful. The defensive lineman, most recently of the Jets, played 41 of a possible 65 defensive snaps for Big Blue, recording three tackles and a QB hit but failing to make a sizable impact against Elliott and Dallas' all-world offensive line. Though Williams was arguably the Giants' top pass rusher on the night, his barren stat line will look familiar to Jets supporters.

On the other sideline, Michael Bennett, acquired via trade with New England, made his first appearance as a Cowboy and contributed right away. Bennett played 39 of a possible 68 snaps, producing a sack and a game-high four QB hits as an integral part of a constant rotation along Dallas' stacked defensive line. On Monday night, no Cowboys defensive lineman played more than 71 percent of snaps and still Dallas logged five sacks and 11 QB hits of Jones. That type of flexibility along the line will allow for fresh legs and frightened opposing quarterbacks later in the season.

  1. "The game has been suspended. Cat on the field," it will read in the game book for centuries to come. The moment when the earth stood still and fixed its vision to East Rutherford to stand in awe of a frolicking feline dancing in the night. Time stopped with just under six minutes remaining in the second quarter with the Giants driving up 9-3, seemingly with no explanation. Soon it was understood why: A black cat had wandered onto the field. For what felt like two minutes, the cursed beast ran around security detail, avoiding capture and capturing the attention of a divided nation. Eventually, the cat, which according to a Giants team reporter is one of many strays living inside the stadium, disappeared under a seating section, perhaps never to be seen again. After the break, or post-cat, New York was outscored 34-9, inspiring some in the Dallas locker room to take ownership of the cat. The belated Halloween celebration was the most thrilling moment of Monday's affair and one football purists and Purina procurists won't soon forget.
  1. Dallas' victory keeps the 'Boys a half-game ahead of Philadelphia (5-4) in the NFC East. With one leg up in a two-man race, the Cowboys will be watching the scoreboard for the remainder of the season, hoping their rival Eagles stumbles. Neither did in Week 9. Next up for both sides: Dallas hosts the 6-3 Vikings on Sunday night, while the Eagles enjoy a bye before welcoming the fully rested and vengeful Patriots to town in Week 11. In other news, the Giants are currently sixth in the 2020 draft order.
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