Dak Prescott enjoyed a career day thanks to three runs that registered as passes.
The Dallas Cowboys receivers each took turns at dropping passes and making their quarterback look bad in the first half, and then they also contributed the type of plays in the second half that they have not been done often enough this season.
Of course, it should be noted that playing the New York Giants these days really helps.
The Cowboys defeated the Giants 30-10 on Sunday afternoon, and as such bought themselves one more week of playoff talk. The Cowboys’ game at the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night will have weight.
That game will matter because four of Dak’s passes against the Giants went for 205 yards and three touchdowns.
Pass No. 1: After Dez Bryant suffered from an embarrassing case of the drops in the first half, he turned a short pass into a 50-yard touchdown catch to tie the game late in the second quarter.
Pass No. 2: Midway through the fourth quarter in a tie game, Dak completed a short pass to Cole Beasley, and he turned it up for a 54-yard gain. One play later, Dak found tight end Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown catch.
Pass No. 3: Preserving that seven-point lead, Dak threw a short pass to Rod Smith, and he turned it into an 81-yard touchdown “catch.”
Dak finished with a career-high 332 yards passing, and it started on a day when his receivers couldn’t catch a thing.
Please note it helps to play the New York Giants.
1. Sean Lee returned, and suddenly his defense is improved.
The linebacker missed the previous three Cowboys’ games with a hamstring injury, and the team finished 1-2 in his absence.
Against the New York Giants, Sean Lee looked like Sean Lee. The defense looked considerably better.
Also, it helps to play the New York Giants.
Lee accounted for 18 tackles, 10 solo, a tackle for a loss and a pass defended; he also picked off one of Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning’s fourth quarter passes on an deflection.
The Lee play that made the biggest difference came with 10:31 remaining in the game when he tackled Giants receiver Sterling Shepard on an end-around for a loss of 9 yards. The play set up a punt, and the drive where Beasley’s big play set up the Witten touchdown.
In all, the Cowboys defense was good against a bad Giants offense. The Giants didn’t run for more than 100 yards, and Manning was held to 5.1 yards per pass attempt.
2. The Cowboys have one more game without Ezekiel Elliott, and they should start Rod Smith in his place.
Veteran running back Alfred Morris ran 19 times for 62 yards, but Smith accounted for 160 total yards with two touchdowns. He is a better receiver than Morris, and just has younger legs.
Please note playing the New York Giants helps.
3. Make plans, the world is ending. The proof is when Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey missed two field goals. And an extra point.
That missed PAT is the first of his career.
The kicker who doesn’t miss bonked the right upright from 53 yards in the first half. With a little more than 2 minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bailey was wide right from 50 yards.
The last time, you ask, Mr. Automatic missed twice in the same game? That seismic event occurred against the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2016, a Cowboys’ win.
With cold weather and swirling winds, East Rutherford is historically a hard place to kick, so there is no reason to panic. And Bailey’s misses were his first of the season.
Or .... he’s not right. He missed five games earlier this season with a hamstring.
Please remember it also helps to play the New York Giants.
Mac Engel: @macengelprof