Cowboys Win Despite Sluggish Thanksgiving Performance: Pros and Cons

Much like your favorite uncle after a nap after turkey, the Dallas Cowboys woke up after halftime.

Maybe it was the short break for a Thursday game, maybe it was the illness that was sweeping through their squad in the last few days. Perhaps the Cowboys themselves had a Thanksgiving feast before kickoff. But during a sluggish first half against the New York Giants, this hardly looked like the team that had ravaged Minnesota just four days earlier.

All’s well that ends well. With a surge of energy in the second half, the Cowboys came to life in time to edge the Giants 21-0 and a 28-20 win. It came in a game where they committed a disgusting 13 penalties and lost the turnover battle by a healthy 2-0 lead.

“We have to stop taking penalties first. We have to be more disciplined,” said Dak Prescott. “Stop hurting us on drives and self-inflicted wounds – whether it’s me flipping the ball, being too aggressive or not being on the same side as the receivers, false starts. We have to clean up all that stuff.”

We have a current example of what this can look like. The Cowboys practically ticked all the boxes in Sunday’s game against the Vikings, and the result was a 40-3 drubbing that might have been worse than the one-sided result looks.

The problem is that inconsistencies have appeared before. These kinds of mistakes have happened against players like the Giants, Lions and Bears, and the Cowboys have found ways to overcome them. When they played better teams like the Buccaneers — or even mediocre teams like the Packers — Dallas lost games. Prescott is the center of attention, both tonight and in general. The seventh-year veteran was great after the half, leading his offense to touchdowns on three straight possessions to open the half and helping the Cowboys convert 5 of 6 third downs in the second stanza. The first half was of course the opposite. With two interceptions, both from misunderstandings, he increased his pick tally to six in six starts for the season. Confident as ever, Prescott maintained that his own beliefs outweighed any outside opinions.

“I know what this team is capable of, especially with this defense we have,” he said. “So we just have to keep our heads down, take it one day at a time, one game at a time. Like I said, we control everything that is in front of us.”

To be clear, the Cowboys owe no one an apology. Thursday games have a habit of being tricky and that was the famous stretch of their schedule when they play three games in 11 days. They lost the first of those in heartbreaking fashion, so it’s nothing to worry about as they finish the stretch 2-1 and improve their tally to 8-3 overall just before they have a long weekend off . “The disappointment of not definitely winning is heartbreaking, but you know things can change pretty quickly in a week — in seven days or in 11 days,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said.

“Our defense can win a lot of games” – Dak Prescott after the Cowboys’ 28-20 win over the Giants

FOX Sports reporter Erin Andrews interviews Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott after a 28-20 win over the New York Giants in which Prescott threw for 261 yards and two touchdowns.

For Prescott, defensive dominance feels like a given at this point. The Giants are now the eighth of 11 opponents to fail to score more than 20 points against Dallas. One of their scoring drives was just one yard when a turnover on downs gave them possession at the Dallas 40. Another came in in the last minute, with the Cowboys leading 28-13 and ready to trade yards for time.

That doesn’t mean that Thursday was a perfect defensive performance. But if the Cowboys can keep their resistance to 300 yards and 20 points while sacking the quarterback three more times — and taking their NFL best to 45 — they’ll hold their own in most games they play. However, that only serves to underline the point. Details matter – if not against overwhelmed opponents, then certainly in the playoffs, as this team found out just last year. A sluggish Thanksgiving is certainly no shame, but the cowboys can’t wait until after the holidays to do so.

David Helman covers the Dallas Cowboys for FOX Sports. He previously spent nine seasons covering the Cowboys for the team’s official website. In 2018, he won a regional Emmy for his role in the production of “Dak Prescott: A Family Reunion,” about the Mississippi state quarterback’s time. Follow him on Twitter @davidhelman.

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