The New York Giants traveled to Dallas for a Thanksgiving matchup with the Cowboys. For the first time this season, the Giants lost their second consecutive game as they fell to their division rival, 28-20, bringing their record to 7-4.
The Giants won the turnover battle as they registered two interceptions off Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott, including the first of second-year cornerback Rodarius Williams' career. However, Dallas outgained the Giants 430-300 and emerged with the eight-point victory.
"Every time we lose, it sucks. You get that nasty feeling in your stomach," Saquon Barkley said after the game. "That pain in your stomach. Especially when there are a lot of things you can go back and if you change it, you change the outcome of the game. You have to give hats off to them, they were the better team today. We have to take this time to get ready for Washington."
Thursday's game was the Giants' first of four consecutive matchups against NFC East opponents. They head back home to face off against the Washington Commanders and Philadelphia Eagles before hitting the road for another game against the Commanders.
After defeating the Minnesota Vikings last week, the Cowboys (8-3) will put their two-game winning streak to the test when they welcome the Indianapolis Colts to AT&T Stadium in Week 13.
Here are five things we learned in the Thanksgiving matchup.
1. Turning the tables
The Giants entered this game down numerous starters on both sides of the ball. Despite this fact, Brian Daboll's team came out strong in the first half. The defense made a fourth-down stop on Dallas' first drive, which gave the ball to the offense in great field possession. Wink Martindale's unit registered two interceptions of Dak Prescott in the first half, but the Giants managed only three total points from the turnovers. The two teams went into halftime with the Giants leading, 13-7, as Dallas had only one possession end with points.
The second half turned out to be an entirely different story. The Cowboys got the ball to start the third quarter and put together a methodical, 14-play drive, which went 75 yards and ended in a touchdown. It took 7:39 off the clock. Daboll then went for it on a fourth-and-one inside Giants territory, but Daniel Jones and Saquon Barkley failed to connect on a short pass. Dallas needed only six plays to get into the end zone again, and after a Giants drive stalled after five plays, Prescott led the Cowboys down the field for their third second half touchdown in as many drives. The 15-point deficit proved to be too much for the offense to overcome, as their first points of the second half came on a Richie James touchdown with only eight seconds left in the game.
"We were up 13-7. We said it was 0-0, we have to come out swinging. We have to respond. We didn't do that," Barkley told the media.
A big reason for the significant difference in total yards was each team's efficiency on third down. The Giants struggled to keep their drives going as they converted on only three out of 11 third down attempts. Meanwhile, the Cowboys were able to extend their drives at ease as they were successful on seven of 11 third down tries. The Giants also failed to convert on their two fourth down attempts.
"We weren't good enough on third downs," Jones said on the team's second half struggles. "Obviously, that was a huge part of it. We've got to convert more of those. I think we were 2-for-10 on the game so we've got to get better there. We've got to be able to convert third downs to sustain drives."
2. Cowboys limit Saquon
For the second consecutive week, Saquon Barkley struggled on the ground. Only four days after the Detroit Lions limited the star running back to just 22 yards on 15 carries (1.5 avg.), the Cowboys found similar success. Barkley ran the ball 11 times on Thursday but was only able to gain 39 yards (3.5 avg.) and scored the Giants' first touchdown. He added another 13 yards on four receptions.
"I have to do a better job," Barkley said. "I have to go back, watch film and see what I can do better, and I can give you a better answer. But off the first thought process, if the running game is not working, it starts with the running back. I have to get better there too."
Barkley came into this game as the league's second-leading rusher with 953 yards. His 39 yards on the ground today leave him eight yards shy of reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the third time in his five-year career.
3. Giants allow 430 yards (second-highest of season)
Prescott bounced back from the two first half turnovers and finished with a strong performance. The 29-year-old quarterback completed 70 percent of his passes (21 of 30) for 261 yards, two touchdowns and the two picks, and made a couple of beautiful passes to his pass-catchers. Prescott finished with a passer rating of 91.1.
CeeDee Lamb hauled in six passes for 106 yards and added two rush attempts for 11 yards. Michael Gallup also enjoyed a good outing as he set new season-highs with five receptions for 63 yards. Finally, tight end Dalton Schultz played a big role in the second half offensive eruption, catching both of Prescott's touchdown passes and finishing with four receptions for 31 yards.
"He's a good player obviously," Julian Love said about Lamb. "He was able to draw some pretty crucial penalties today. I still think we had a good game plan going into it. Now, it's just about executing the little details of it. It was complementary football for them. They have a good run game and a good passing game. Today, he was the main part of their passing game."
"At the end of the day, we are even-keeled," Darnay Holmes added about the defense's performance. "We have to go back to the lab, figure out the things that didn't work, and lean upon the things that do work."
The defense contained running back Tony Pollard, who has been Dallas' most explosive back in recent weeks. Pollard was held to 60 yards on 18 carries (3.3 avg.), but his fellow backfield mate made up for his struggles. Ezekiel Elliott had his best game in over a month, carrying the ball 16 times for a season-high 92 yards, good for an average of 5.8 yards per carry, and a touchdown. It was his third touchdown in the last two weeks and his fifth score in his last three games.
When talking to the media about the Cowboys' playmakers earlier in the week, Daboll included some of Dallas' defensive stars in the discussion. On Thursday, we saw why. Second-year linebacker Micah Parsons continued his stellar campaign with two sacks, marking his sixth game of the season with two sacks. His 12 sacks on the season ranks second behind New England Patriots linebacker Matt Judon.
4. Thibodeaux, Slayton step up
While Thursday's game did not go as the Giants would have hoped, the team did see several players step up in key situations, starting with outside linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux. The No. 5 overall pick looked the part against the Cowboys. While he did not pick up a sack, he did get to Prescott often throughout the game, finishing with a season-high five quarterback hits. The rookie was seemingly in Prescott's face every other play, an encouraging sign for a key player on the defense.
"I feel like as a D-Line we played pretty well today," said Thibodeaux. "We were able to get back there. But it's a team sport, so it doesn't really even matter."
Going up against his former team, inside linebacker Jaylon Smith also enjoyed a strong performance. Smith racked up 10 total tackles (seven solo), tied for the most on the team, and a tackle for loss. Right up there with Smith in the tackles department was safety Julian Love, who also registered 10 (six solo) and a tackle for loss. Love displayed great hand-eye coordinator in the second quarter as he caught a tipped pass for one of the two interceptions.
On the offensive side of the ball, Darius Slayton picked up right where he left off on Sunday. The fourth-year receiver led the team with 63 receiving yards and made the play of the game for the Giants when he caught a deep, 44-yard pass to bring the ball down to the Cowboys' one-yard line. Barkley was able to punch it into the end zone for a touchdown soon after. According to ESPN Stats & Information, it was Jones' first completion of more than 40+ air yards this season.
Slayton has now finished with 58 or more receiving yards in all but one of the last seven games. Despite having only 11 yards through the first four weeks of the season, he leads the team with 476 receiving yards this season.
5. Injury updates; Flott leaves with concussion
The Giants came into this game short-handed, especially on the offensive line. Starting right tackle Evan Neal returned to practice last week after hurting his knee in Week 7, but was ruled out on Wednesday. It was the fourth game the rookie has missed. Center Jon Feliciano (neck) and guards Shane Lemieux (toe) and Joshua Ezeudu (neck) were also ruled out Wednesday due to injuries suffered in the loss to Detroit last week.
In addition to the offensive line, the Giants were missing a few key players in the secondary. The team's top two cornerbacks, Adoree' Jackson and Fabian Moreau, were both ruled out the day before the game after suffering injuries against the Lions. Jackson hurt his knee while returning a punt before Moreau left the game with an oblique injury. Neither returned to the field last week.
Daniel Bellinger was the final inactive for the Giants in Week 12. The rookie tight end has yet to return to practice after suffering a serious eye injury back in Week 7.
While the Giants were berated with injuries in Sunday's loss to the Lions, they got out of Dallas relatively unscathed. The only in-game injury that occurred was rookie cornerback Cor'Dale Flott suffering a concussion in the third quarter.
The Giants will now have 10 days to rest up before they take the field for their Week 13 matchup against the Commanders.