Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys’ defense steps up with shutdown performance

Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) sacks New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the first half of Sunday’s game.
Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence (90) sacks New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) in the first half of Sunday’s game. AP

The last time the Dallas Cowboys had a dominant defensive performance in a season opener against the New York Giants was a 35-0 win in 1995.

They went on to win Super Bowl XXX that season.

Start booking your reservations for Minneapolis now?

Not yet, but the numbers Sunday night at AT&T Stadium in a 19-3 victory were strikingly similar to that Barry Switzer-led rout at Giants Stadium.

“It’s hard to keep a team out of the end zone and hold them to three points in this league,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “I thought time and time again we made plays in the running game, making plays in the passing game and affecting the quarterback. We did a good job tackling in the secondary.”

Dallas had three sacks, three tackles for loss and an interception in dominating the Giants in front of a crowd of 93,183.

New York had just 233 total yards (36 on the final drive) and was 4-for-12 on third down Sunday. The 1995 squad allowed 211 yards in its season opener.

“Ultimately, you’re measured by how many points you give up,” Garrett said. “We minimized the big plays and didn’t allow them to get their running game going. Those were the big factors.”

A Switzer, Cowboys rookie return man Ryan Switzer, made the box score as well.

Cue “The Twilight Zone” theme song.

Dallas showed all the signs of a championship-caliber defense, starting with the depth and contribution of the line.

The Cowboys pressured Giants quarterback Eli Manning (220 yards, one interception) all game and forced several awkward throws.

DeMarcus Lawrence had five total tackles, including three for loss and two sacks. Charles tapper recorded the other sack.

"I knew I'd be able to turn it loose again, it was just a matter of time,” Lawrence said. “I just needed to keep grinding like we did and I feel like the pass rush was there all last season, but you just got to keep working at it.

“I had two sacks, but I still feel like it was average. I missed a lot out there and I didn't capitalize on all the opportunities I had. I’ve got to go back to the film room and try to get better.”

Cornerback Anthony Brown came up with a key fourth-quarter interception that turned out to be a backbreaker for New York.

“When we get pressure, everything starts to work together. DaMarcus Lawrence was awesome, it was a great job. The pressure improves the secondary and the linebackers,” Brown said. “That was big play for us. Their trying to go down and scored and get back in the game, so that interception was huge for us. We added 3 more and that made it a 16 point game.”

It led to another Dan Bailey field goal to put the game away for Dallas.

The Cowboys dominated right from the start, forcing punts on New York’s five first-half possessions and allowing just two first downs.

The secondary stiffened on New York’s opening possession of the third quarter when Manning tried three tosses to the end zone inside the Dallas 10-yard line.

Standout receiver Brandon Marshall got none of the targets in that series, and the Giants settled for a field goal.

Marshall caught just one pass Sunday, a 10-yard reception on the game’s final drive.

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