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Dallas Cowboys Checklist

The Cowboys Didn’t Need Their Best on Thanksgiving

Sometimes, talent trumps all.
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Micah Parsons was one of several Cowboys who dominated on Thursday. Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Cowboys won their first Thanksgiving game since 2018 with a 28-20 triumph over the New York Giants. Here’s what got accomplished:

Out-talented the opposition  ✔

Four days removed from playing near-flawless football in Minnesota, the Cowboys did Cowboys things on Thanksgiving. They racked up penalties—13 in total, which sabotaged more than one drive. Dak Prescott, as is his wont since returning from thumb surgery, threw one ballsy pass too many en route to a pair of interceptions and a minus-2 turnover margin (which, as friend of the program Bob Sturm points out, is a recipe for defeat roughly 90 percent of the time). A divisive fourth-down call? A Brett Maher miss that hearkened back to the days prior to his emergence as a cyborg designed to drill every manner of field goal? Giving up explosive pass plays downfield? Check, check, and check.

Yet none of that mattered because the Cowboys are pretty damn talented, and, despite an identical record going in, these injury-hampered Giants are not. Many of the best players on Dallas’ roster doubled as the best ones in this game, from Prescott completing 75 percent of his passes that weren’t those interceptions to Micah Parsons putting up another pair of sacks to CeeDee Lamb surpassing 100 receiving yards for the second time in three games to Michael Gallup performing like a facsimile of his best self for the first time since returning from his ACL tear in early October:

Sometimes, that’s all it takes. The Cowboys were sloppy in all the ways that can get them beat by a more buttoned-up, playoff-caliber opponent, but these Giants are not that. Better still, Dallas won’t face a team in spitting distance of that until its Christmas Eve rematch with the Eagles.

The last 26 years stand as proof of concept that a great roster alone can’t break this Super Bowl drought. But generations of football tell us that it usually does the job against mediocre to bad opposition. Now that the offense is quietly playing like one of the NFL’s best since Prescott’s return, expect smooth sailing in the win column for a few weeks, even if a game or two gets rockier than it should.

Cost people money … again  ✔

The Cowboys arrived as 10-point favorites, and this being America’s Team, it stands to reason that a healthy number of people across these fair shores took the action.

Are you one of them? If so, do me a solid while I have you here and answer one teensy little question for me: why? Why would you do this to yourself when betting on the Cowboys to cover on Thanksgiving is tantamount to lighting money on fire?

I get it. You were excited. No work, lots of pie, etc. What’s the harm in putting a little coin down on your favorite football team?

Turns out Richie James’ garbage-time touchdown was the harm. File this away for next year, and stay away. Or, failing that, at least take the road team.

Dressed to the nines  ✔

A StrongSide holiday uniform verdict: this is, and always has been, the Cowboys’ best look.

Made post-holiday plans  ✔

Dallas’ public thirst for Odell Beckham Jr. continued this week, with Jerry Jones making his latest wave of pitches during his weekly radio appearance on 103.3 The Fan. Good news: the flattery and desperation appear to be getting somewhere. Per FOX’s Jay Glazer, the primary conduit of Beckham information over the last month-plus, the 30-year-old will meet with Dallas on December 5. A visit to the Giants is also on tap.

The obvious takeaway is that Beckham’s interest is real and that the Cowboys remain the team with the most obvious public interest plus a chance of making serious playoff noise. The less obvious—and more significant—one is even if Beckham does choose Dallas, the current timeline suggests it will be a bit before he can make an impact. Beckham would have to make a decision, report to Dallas, practice with the team, learn the playbook, and, most important, scrub off the rust after having torn his ACL just nine months ago. There’s reason to hope Beckham can be difference maker if and when the Cowboys make the postseason. Not so much in a divisional dogfight or a tough battle for playoff seeding along the way.

Prepare for a Gallup-esque ramp-up. And if you’re comfortable with that, cross your fingers and toes that Jerry puts his very best loafer forward.

Forced us to reckon with our own mortality by way of a pop trio from New Jersey  ✔

Noted Giants fans the Jonas Brothers returned to do the halftime show after a 14-year hiatus, and if you’re wondering whether I’m going to show you a split screen conveying how long ago 2008 was, the answer is “obviously.” Let’s mourn the cruel passage of time together!

We are now four presidential terms removed from that first appearance. The eldest Jonas Brother is in his mid-30s. The economy has collapsed and revived itself, collapsed and revived itself, and now probably is gonna collapse again. We’ve reckoned with wars and global warming and cryptocurrency and a pandemic. And all the Cowboys have to show for it are three measly playoff wins.

Here’s hoping there’s some new hardware in the trophy case by the time the JoBros return as 50-somethings. And that the next 14 years are a tad less calamitous than the previous ones.

Showcased their tight end conundrum  ✔

There was good news and better news for Dallas at a position that will inspire plenty of debate this offseason.  

The good news concerns Dalton Schultz, who scored his second and third touchdowns of the year just two weeks removed from scoring his first. He is rounding into form after spending the first chunk of the season either anonymous or absent due to injury, and what he lacks in burst, he continues to make up for by being Prescott’s foremost security blanket:

The better news, however, is that the other two tight ends continue to produce. On Dallas’ final touchdown drive of the day, Jake Ferguson did this …

… and Peyton Hendershot capped off the drive with an end-around touchdown, followed by the best touchdown celebration of the season:

The endgame, somehow, showcased Schultz’s value while also reminding everyone that the offense moved just fine with two rookies—one fourth-round, the other undrafted—carrying the load. The passing game will stay deadly if the Cowboys ultimately bring Schultz back in 2023. But don’t expect a huge drop-off if—and at this juncture, I’d bet when—Dallas decides to turn the position over to Ferguson and Hendershot at a discount.

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Mike Piellucci

Mike Piellucci

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Mike Piellucci is D Magazine's sports editor. He is a former staffer at The Athletic and VICE, and his freelance…

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