There were about five and a half minutes left in the first half of Dallas’ game against the division rival New York Football Giants when some bizarre juju swung all the momentum. Fans and players watched dumbfounded as a rather chonky, panic-stricken black cat found its way onto the field and zigged and zagged around aimlessly for a simultaneously hilarious and terribly sad length of time. It was as if the specter of Halloween had lingered a bit too long in MetLife Stadium and a hex had been conjured, sent forth from dark realms to vanquish mighty Daniel “Danny Dimes” Jones (vomit) and Co. It took a few minutes for the frenzied feline to find its way into the players’ tunnel and for play to resume, but the stoppage had zapped all the energy the Giants had been building, and the game changed completely.
At the time, thanks to another infuriating spate of turnovers, including an interception on Dak Prescott’s very first pass, the Cowboys had found themselves in a 9-3 hole, with New York knocking on the door of a 16-3 lead. Thanks to the voodoo of their furry friend, Dallas managed to hold the Giants out of the end zone and force a field goal. The Cowboys would then go on to score on successive drives to go up 13-12 at the half. Though the Giants would break a few plays down the stretch, Dallas never gave back control of the game, winning by a score of 37-18.
It’s possible that when we look back on it, that strange, occultish occurrence will appear as the turning point of this season. It certainly helped the Cowboys to stave off a second embarrassing loss in the Meadowlands this year. Whether the slip of the noose is just an amusing detail in another mediocre season or a divinely intervened opportunity to help focus them as they head into the most difficult stretch of games is anyone’s guess.
Despite the final score, there was plenty to grimace at about this game. After righting the ship in stunning fashion against the Eagles at home in Week 7 and 15 days of rest courtesy of the bye week that followed, it was expected that Dallas would handle the lowly first-year quarterback-led Giants without much effort. However, once again they were plagued by costly turnovers, an offense that often looked lost, and a defense that continuously gave the Giants life by allowing long third-down conversions.
There was plenty to like about this game, too. For the first time this season, the Cowboys were actually able to overcome such adversities. Ezekiel Elliott looks as close to last season’s form (in which he won the rushing title for the second time) as he has so far this year, bursting through the gaping holes created by the Dallas offensive line for 139 yards on 23 carries, his best mark this season. Prescott and Amari Cooper continue to prove they are one of the better quarterback/wide receiver tandems in the league.
Finally — no doubt bolstered by bye week trade acquisition Michael Bennett on the defensive line — the defense made some big plays when it mattered, even forcing three turnovers of their own. Sean Lee, playing in place of injured middle linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, looked like he jumped out of a time machine from 2016, when he was an All-Pro at the position. He posted 12 combined tackles, a tackle for loss, and a pass defended. He practically held Giants star running back Saquon Barkley in check by himself.
As Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young alluded to on the broadcast, the victory against the Giants was the first time in 14 games that the Cowboys have come back from a deficit of seven points or more. This is a team with big expectations, and showing they can hang in and claw back is an ability that’s nice to have, though I’d settle for them to just stop falling behind in the first place. Continuing with such lackluster first-quarter performances will bury their Super Bowl aspirations.
The Cowboys face opponents in playoff contention in five of their final eight games. With the high-flying 49ers, Packers, and Saints having the top seeds on lock, the likelihood of a first-round bye is unrealistic. The Eagles, in turn, refuse to give up and are still present in the Cowboys’ rear-view. The ’Boys will likely need to be the best version of themselves just to win the division. Unless, of course, they managed to snag that magical black cat and bring it home with them to use going forward.