Cowboys inch close to playoff berth as D, Lawrence dominate

Sports

Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence (90) reacts after a defensive play against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — It’s been said defenses win championships, and nobody in the NFL might be playing better D right now than the Dallas Cowboys.

DeMarcus Lawrence forced a fumble and made two other big plays that led to 15 points and the Dallas defense forced four turnovers for the third straight game Sunday. The Cowboys inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2018 with a 21-6 win over the New York Giants.

“We’re the best defense,” a blunt Trevon Diggs said after picking up his league-high 10th interception of the season, one shy of the team record set by Everson Walls in 1981.

Lawrence said the defense is the best he has played on in his eight seasons.

“It’s amazing just to be on a team with a strong defense,” he said. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”

This has been a strange season for the Cowboys (10-4), who also got a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott and a 13-yard TD run by Ezekiel Elliott in winning their third straight game, all on the road.

The offense, which also got three field goals from Greg Zuerlein, carried the team for the first six or seven games. The defense has shouldered the burden since.

Dallas would have clinched a playoff berth with a loss or tie by New Orleans at Tampa Bay in the night game, but the Saints beat the Buccaneers 9-0. The Cowboys lost a chance to clinch hours earlier when San Francisco beat Atlanta 31-13.

Graham Gano kicked field goals of 35 and 42 yards as the Giants (4-10) lost their third straight game with backup Mike Glennon starting for the injured Daniel Jones (neck).

This game was not as close as the score. The Cowboys never trailed and the Giants never looked threatening against a defense that also got interceptions from Jourdan Lewis and Malik Hooker.

Lewis’ pick came after Lawrence hit Glennon as he was throwing. It led to Elliott’s TD run on a draw. Prescott’s 1-yard TD pass to Dalton Schultz capped a short third-quarter drive that started after Lawrence and Neville Gallimore stuffed Glennon on a fourth-and-1 sneak from the New York 29.

Prescott finished 28 of 37 for 217 yards. Schultz caught all eight of his targets for 67 yards.

“It’s definitely frustrating, as I said, the defense is doing a great job giving us the ball, giving us the ball in plus territory, and we’ve got to find a way to to get it in the end zone,” Prescott said. “ Simple as that, and I’m sure we’ll do that.”

Sidelined by a broken foot most of the season, Lawrence set up 10 of the 15 first-half points. His hit on Saquon Barkley forced a fumble that Carlos Watkins recovered at the Giants 46 with :41 left in the half. Zuerlein, who missed the extra point after the Elliott touchdown, hit a 27-yard field goal, his third of the half. He also converted from 26 and 42 yards, but missed two extra points kicking into a crosswind.

“Amazing. I expect DeMarcus to do that every game,” Diggs said. “You know, he’s still very much the leader of the defense. He’s a veteran. He is still our guy. So I expect that from him all the time. He’s a great player.”

The three interceptions gave Dallas a league-high 23 picks.

The Giants’ major accomplishment was ending rookie Micah Parsons’ run of making a full sack in six straight games. New York also did not get blown out this time; it dropped a 44-20 decision in Dallas on Oct. 10.

“Self-inflicted wounds,” said Glennon, who finished 13 of 24 for 99 yards and three interceptions before being relieved by Jake Fromm. “There were a couple of times we did move the ball well and then just ended up with field goals, and then a couple of kind of dumb decisions on my end forcing the ball that were not good decisions.”

BETS The Cowboys’offense and defense have a bet going that was negotiated by Lawrence and Prescott on Saturday.

“I’ll let everyone know the defense is kicking our (butt),” Prescott said. ”But it’s the turnovers versus touchdowns and they obviously won this one. But we’ll make sure that they carry on carries over.”

When asked what the payoff is, Prescott said they’ll figure it out later.

INJURIES

Cowboys: Dallas did not announce any injuries. OT Tyron Smith missed the game with an ankle injury.

Giants: WR Sterling Shepard tore his Achilles tendon late in the game. Backup RB Gary Brightwell left early with a neck injury. Cornerbacks Adoree Jackson (quad) and Aaron Robinson, wide receivers John Ross and Kadarius Toney and linebackers Cam Brown and Oshane Ximines were put on the reserve-COVID-19 list this past week and did not play.

UP NEXT:

Cowboys: return home to play Washington next Sunday for the second time in three games.

Giants: travel down the New Jersey Turnpike to play the Eagles on Sunday.

___

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