The NFC East title is on the line this Sunday when the Dallas Cowboys come into town to face the divisional rival Giants. It was Big Blue who got the best of the Cowboys in their first encounter this season. However, eleven straight games have been tallied in the win column for Dallas, and they will certainly like to avenge their only loss in this matchup.
To get an insider look into the Cowboys success this season and what they plan to do Sunday, The Giants Beat’s Scott Thompson spoke with Cowboys HQ’s Matt Galatzan to get his opinion on this week’s hot topics leading up to the game.
ST: To say the Cowboys have been on a roll would be an understatement. What has been their key to success over this long win streak?
MG: A lot of people would jump right out and say Dak Prescott and Zeke Elliott, and that wouldn’t necessarily be wrong, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think the chemistry of this team is extremely special, and considering the personalities involved from the top, all the way down, that’s pretty surprising. This is the most united and confident Cowboys team the NFL has seen in a long time.
ST: With the Cowboys playing on all cylinders and showing results week in and week out, what is that atmosphere like in the locker room?
MG: As I mentioned before, they are extremely confident. That’s not to say that they are overly cocky in any way, but I would love for someone to show me a team that is playing with more confidence than Dallas is right now. All the game against the Vikings did was add fuel to that fire. This team now knows that even if they play at their worst, they are still going to be very tough to beat, and when they are at their best, they don’t think anybody can stop them.
ST: Let’s take a look at that rookie duo first starting with QB Dak Prescott. He had a so-so outing against the Giants in Week 1, but has since shined. What adjustments have you seen him make since that day in September?
MG: A lot of Dak’s improvement can be accredited to his overall comfortability with the offense, as well as his growing rapport with his receivers. At the beginning of the year, he would break the huddle with two plays, if the first wasn’t going to work, he’d change to the secondary play, and that would be it. Flash forward to week 14, and he has a much greater command of the playbook, and his pre-snap reads. But another factor here, is that he’s figured out a great balance with his pass catchers. One of the things that makes the Cowboys so dangerous, is that literally every skilled position player on the field can be utilized at any time. When he faced the Giants in week 1, He would make his primary read, and if that wasn’t available immediately bail to a check down like Witten or Beasley. Now, he’s making his progressions, anticipating routes, and finding the open guy.
ST: Would you say Prescott is the new face of this Cowboys team?
MG: Yes, to a certain extent you could say that, but it would be more accurate to say that this team more like the early-mid 90’s Cowboys, in that it has multiple faces. When Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin were setting the league on fire, they were known as ‘The Triplets’, and this team has a similar feel to it, at least in my opinion. All three are extremely marketable in their own way, and each one of them has their own media appeal. If you are going to make me pick one however, Dak is the general of this team, so it would be him.
ST: The second part of that duo is RB Ezekiel Elliott who has been tearing up turf wherever he goes. He leads the league in total yards and has certainly lived up to the hype. However, many believe that any running back behind that stellar O-Line can be a breakout star. In Zeke’s case, do you beg to differ?
MG: Well there is no doubt that a great offensive line helps. If you look at Darren McFadden last season for Dallas, you can see that. On the opposite side of that spectrum, just take a look at Todd Gurley over in Los Angeles right now. His offensive line is beyond dreadful, and he’s averaging 3.2 yards-per-carry through 12 games, with just four touchdowns. At this time last year, he was averaging 4.8 YPC with six touchdowns. That being said, Zeke is on a whole different level than any other running back in the league right now. He does more than just run through big holes, he is patient, hits holes with authority, and has one of the more unique power to speed combinations we have seen in a long time. He runs over, through, and around people, and a great deal of his yards have come after the O-line is already in his rear view mirror. When he faced the Giants back in week one, he was going 1,000 miles per second, and trying to score a touchdown on every play. As he slowed things down and became more patient, he has become a much more difficult back to stop.
ST: These two rookies have looked like seasoned veterans since their loss to the Giants. Do you think they, specifically, will take this game a little more personal after their average performance?
MG: I think they are going to approach it the same way that they have approached their other 11 games. They feel like they should have won that first matchup, and if Terrance Williams gets out of bounds, maybe they do. But these guys have a good way of balancing each other out, so I don’t think they will let each other over do it. If anybody is going to take things personally for the Cowboys, I would think it would be Terrance Williams, instead of Zeke or Dak.
ST: Other than Prescott and Elliott, what else has been the key to the Cowboys success this year?
MG: The easy answer here would be the offensive line (or at least every offensive lineman not named Doug Free), but I think that the effort of this defense has been wildly under appreciated all season long. This team currently ranks fifth in scoring defense, giving up just 19 points-per-game, second in rush defense, and have yet to allow a 100-plus yard rusher this season. What’s most impressive about that, is the fact that they have almost no pass rush, and that they’ve done it with the considerable amount of losses that they have sustained on that side of that ball this season.
ST: The Cowboys have some revenge to enact at MetLife Stadium Sunday while the Giants look to beat them again to keep the NFC East title alive. So, who do you think comes out victorious in this rivalry game?
MG: It’s hard to bet against the Cowboys right now. They’ve got 11 straight wins, and are a Terrance Williams bone-headed play away from having a shot at 12-0. But I think the Giants are a very tough matchup for the Cowboys. This season, the Giants defense has been much improved, especially against the run, and I think they’ll be able contain Zeke for most of the game. I also think that Eli, despite his interception problems, will be able to throw the ball on a depleted Dallas secondary.
For me, this game is going to come down to whether or the Dallas defensive line can get pressure on Eli and force him into some bad throws. If they can do that, and Prescott and Elliott keep doing what they have been doing, the Cowboys will be hard to beat. With all that said, I think its going to come down to the final possession and the Giants are going to hit a late field goal to win, and snap the Dallas win-streak at 11 games. Final Score: 27-24