Did we just witness the opening steps of the first Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl run since the 1995 season? That’s the question that comes out of the team's thoroughly dominant 40-0 beatdown of the New York Giants — a playoff team a year ago — on Sunday Night Football in Week 1.
The last time the Cowboys won the Super Bowl, they opened their season with a similarly impressive 35-0 win against the Giants.
— Eric Eager ???????? (@ericeager_) September 11, 2023
Week 1 of an NFL season throws up crazy results and strange games all the time, but the reason this one is so compelling is because there was a growing feeling all offseason that the Cowboys might be for real this time.
Frustration has been mounting over the team’s postseason failures in recent years, but part of that is because they have been so good. They didn’t just make the playoffs last season, but they comfortably won their wild-card matchup with the Buccaneers — this team retired Tom Brady — before falling in a close game to the 49ers.
Two of the biggest factors entering this season for Dallas were the veteran additions of Stephon Gilmore on defense and Brandin Cooks on offense. Both players can still provide a boost individually, but they also have a knock-on effect on other players in the same position group which will likely serve as a force multiplier for their impact.
That was the analysis for much of the offseason, and we saw evidence of that in Week 1 against New York. Gilmore allowed just three catches for 36 yards on eight targets. He made an interception on an ill-advised Daniel Jones throwaway, as well as broke up two passes. The passer rating when testing his coverage came out to just 12.5, some 20 points lower than if the quarterback were to throw the ball away on every snap instead.
It likely wasn’t a coincidence that Trevon Diggs also had an outstanding game on the other side. Diggs wasn’t tested nearly as often, and that allowed him to roam a little bit and go hunting for the football. Diggs forced two fumbles and made some big tackles in the game.
On offense, Cooks saw only four targets, but he ran the second-most routes after CeeDee Lamb and was definitely a factor for the Giants' defense — which meant attention on Lamb was limited.
Dallas Cowboys Highest-Graded Offensive Players | Week 1, 2023
|1. OG Zack Martin||91.1|
|2. WR CeeDee Lamb||75.9|
|3. QB Dak Prescott||72.8|
|4. OT Tyron Smith||69.6|
|5. TE Jake Ferguson||69.0|
Dak Prescott didn’t have the most prolific game of his NFL career (just 6.0 yards per attempt and 143 passing yards), but he also didn’t make a turnover-worthy play, having led the league in interceptions last season and seeing a spike in putting the ball in harm’s way. With the defense and special teams throttling the Giants, Prescott just needed to avoid undermining it with costly mistakes, and he did exactly that.
The defense put on full display how much destruction it can wreak on an offense once it gets going. Micah Parsons led the charge — and was virtually unblockable for long stretches of time — but several other Cowboys defenders chipped in with impressive games.
Dorance Armstrong had six pressures, including two sacks, from just 16 pass-rushing snaps. Osa Odighizuwa, Dante Fowler and Chauncey Golston each tallied four pressures, and Sam Williams notched three. Overall, the defense accounted for 39 total pressures on the Giants in addition to the plays they made in coverage.
Dallas Cowboys Highest-Graded Defensive Players | Week 1, 2023
|1. EDGE Dorance Armstrong||93.0|
|2. CB Stephon Gilmore||89.9|
|3. EDGE Micah Parsons||86.0|
|4. S Juanyeh Thomas||84.6|
|5. CB Trevon Diggs||80.7|
How much of that dominance is a result of the problems the Giants' offense still has is up for debate, but this was a championship-level performance from a defense that was already good a year ago and is now upgraded with significant reinforcements from the offseason.
Dallas has failed to perform in the playoffs for so many years now that it has become taboo to tip them for that success, but their Super Bowl odds were slashed in several places after that performance against the Giants.
We could be witnessing the first Super Bowl team from the Cowboys since the 1990s.