DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys' Week 5 victory over the New York Giants was a much-needed one, but it came at the cost of losing their starting quarterback – and the NFL’s passing leader – for the remainder of the 2020 season.
Despite it still being early in the season, the first NFC East contest of the year felt like a must-win for the Cowboys. Dallas couldn’t afford to go 1-4 with a loss to a winless Giants team in their building and still consider themselves contenders for a playoff spot.
Losing to the Giants would have been devastating when factoring in the news that they are now without their Pro Bowl signal-caller and unquestioned leader. The Cowboys rallied and exited the game at 2-3 and now find themselves in first place of the NFC East. With all of the injuries and poor play to begin the season, topping the division serves as a nice consolation prize for the moment.
With that in mind, here are a few things that we learned about the Cowboys in their Week 5 win.
The defense has the ability to show up
The scoreboard might say that the Cowboys gave up 34 points, but the Dallas defense only gave up 24 of those. A pick-six from the offense and a special teams penalty gifted the Giants 10 points.
While it certainly wasn’t the best outcome while going up against one of the worst offenses in the league, it wasn’t a terrible effort. Considering they have been gashed week after week in the first quarter of the season, it should be considered a win for the beleaguered defense.
The Giants only had 300 yards of total offense, the lowest output the defense has allowed to date, and the Cowboys forced a turnover and picked up two sacks. Along with some solid play, there appeared to be more effort and hustle from the group, especially when it came to bringing down ball carriers.
Baby steps, as it were, but if the defense can have that type of determination more often, they’ll be an improved unit going forward.
Mike Nolan moving down to the sideline worked
For the first four games of the season, new defensive coordinator Nolan had been up in the booth calling plays. Before Week 5, he made the decision to move down to the field to communicate better with his defense.
The move seems to have helped as the ability to speak with the individual players, as well as position groupings during the game, was a benefit according to DeMarcus Lawrence.
Lawrence and linebacker Jaylon Smith, in particular, had their best games of the season against the Giants, something that could perhaps be attributed to having Nolan on the sideline to connect more with his players.
The offensive line remains a work in progress
Without their starting bookend offensive tackles, the pressure was on the Dallas offensive line to be better in all facets of the game. LT Tyron Smith and RT La’el Collins aren’t walking back through the door, so the group that played for the Cowboys in Week 5 will have to hold up for the remainder of the season.
The game against the Giants showed that the makeshift offensive line can get the job done. The Cowboys ran for 126 yards – over five yards a carry – and only gave up two sacks. New York has a decent defense which makes the performance of Dallas’ offensive line all the more encouraging. The effort gives hope that the unit can continue to get better as the season goes on.
Michael Gallup is the go-to WR
He might not be their best receiver, but Gallup is the guy they throw to in the biggest situations. If it wasn’t evident in the first four games, it was clear against the Giants.
Gallup continues to win against single coverage on the outside and when the offense wants to throw the ball down the field late in games, they dial up Gallup’s number. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, Mike McCarthy, and the Cowboys QBs trust Gallup to come down with the 50/50 balls and the third-year WR continues to come up big.
Amari Cooper is a great receiver, and rookie CeeDee Lamb might be the best WR on the team already, but Gallup is the go-to receiver in the clutch for the Cowboys. There shouldn’t be much debate about that right now.
What did you learn about the Cowboys from their Week 5 victory over New York? Share your thoughts with Ben on Twitter @BenGrimaldi.