Cooper Rush rallies for third straight start as Cowboys inflict first loss on Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Replacing injured Dak Prescott and making back-to-back starts for the first time in his career, Cooper Rush led the Dallas Cowboys to a 23-16 win over the New York Giants on Monday. He was helped by a ferocious pass rush that sacked QB Daniel Jones five times and put him under pressure 24 times.

Dallas Cowboys

When the Cowboys needed Rush the most in the second half, he was at his best. After the Giants took a 13-6 third quarter lead, Rush completed 12 of his next 13 passes for 129 yards in leading consecutive touchdowns. The first practice ended with Ezekiel Elliott scoring a touchdown against New York for the fifth straight game to tie.

The second ended with Rush throwing a perfect fade to the corner of the end zone, where receiver CeeDee Lamb made a one-handed grab with 8:30 left. Earlier in practice, Rush and Lamb converted a key fourth-and-4, then connected for a 26-yarder at the Giants 1-yard line.

Rush’s final numbers weren’t stunning — 21 of 31 for 215 yards and a touchdown — but they were good enough to win. Rush is just the third Cowboys quarterback to earn his first three career starts. The two others? Jason Garrett, his former head coach, and Hall of Famer Roger Staubach. And all three wins came with game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime, making him the second quarterback to do so in the Super Bowl era (Virgil Carter).

Promising trend: The Cowboys have 13 sacks in three games, leading the NFL. They harassed Daniel Jones throughout Monday’s game. Everyone knows Micah Parsons. DeMarcus Lawrence made his presence felt against the Giants with the third three-sack game of his career before suffering a left foot injury. All 13 sacks came from six defenders. The Cowboys have a varied passing rush that can stay fresh during a game, which can drain an offensive line.

Mind-blowing next-gen stat: Lamb was smiling afterwards, but a fall in the second trimester was to kill him. If he had held Rush’s pass on a through pass, he might have scored. Instead, he became the first player to drop a wide-open target from at least 30 yards on the pitch this season. It had 6 yards of separation, making it the fourth such fall since 2020, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. But on the go-ahead in the fourth quarter, Lamb was stellar, converting a fourth pass, picking up 26 yards, then making the one-handed TD grab that fired fellow No. 88 Dez Bryant into one of the suites in the MetLife stadium. -Todd Archer

Underestimated stat you need to know: Ezekiel Elliott is the first player in Cowboys history to have a touchdown in five consecutive games against the Giants.

next game: Against the Commanders (1 p.m. ET, October 2)

New York Giants

That was the plan the Giants had used to win the previous two weeks: keep the game low-scoring, make enough offensive plays in the second half, and squeak out a win.

Only this time, Wink Martindale’s defense didn’t hold up as well. The Giants (2-1) have fallen from the undefeated ranks. Now only the division rivals Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins remain undefeated. Still, New York remains in decent shape with the Chicago Bears on deck next week at MetLife Stadium.

QB Breakdown: Jones played pretty well, although his numbers weren’t that impressive. He completed 20 of 37 passes for 196 yards without a touchdown and an interception on the final drive after wide receiver David Sills slipped.

The Giants’ best offensive option for most of the game was Jones’ legs. Jones had seven carries for first downs Monday night, the most by a quarterback this season. Under relentless pressure, he rushed nine times for 79 yards in the contest. He came into play Monday night with 16 carries for 46 yards. To put that into perspective, Jones is on pace with 142 rushing attempts this season. Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts led all quarterbacks with 139 rushing attempts last year.

Disturbing trend: The Giants haven’t scored a touchdown in the first half this season. Three games, nine points in the first half for the Giants. Coach Brian Daboll said last week that they are constantly making changes. But everything the Giants have done this week still hasn’t worked. The half-time adjustments, however, were commendable. New York scored 46 points in the second half of its three games. — Jordan Raanan

Underestimated stat you need to know: Jones was pressured on 24 dropbacks, running for his life all night. It was the most pressured in his four-year career, the most on a quarterback this season and the second in the past two seasons. Rookie right tackle Evan Neal had a tough game in pass protection. Neal was beaten by Lawrence for just three sacks and committed a key false start on the game’s final practice.

next game: vs. Bears (1 p.m. ET, Oct. 2)

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