EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys have not only put some distance between themselves and the New York Giants in the NFC East, they showed Sunday night they are going to be a contender for more than a division title.
If they play this way all season, owner Jerry Jones might have a championship contender again.
Noah Igbinoghene returned a blocked field goal 58 yards for a touchdown on the opening series, DaRon Bland scored on a pick-6 later in the first quarter and the Cowboys embarrassed the Giants again, posting a season-opening 40-0 victory Sunday night.
“It’s the first game,” Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott said. “That’s y’all’s job to write whatever statement it needs to be. For us, it’s about not getting ahead of ourselves. Continuing to stay disciplined, to show the discipline. Not only what we did through these four quarters, but taking that and making sure we use it throughout our preparation this week.”
Tony Pollard scored on two short touchdown runs and Dallas forced three turnovers and sacked Daniel Jones seven times in shutting down New York’s supposedly improved offense and beating the Giants for the fifth straight time and 12th in 13th meetings.
The Giants’ shutout loss was the largest between the teams, topping the Cowboys’ 35-0 win in 1995, also in a season-opener in the Meadowlands. It was also the Cowboys’ biggest shutout victory in any game, topping their 38-0 win over the Baltimore Colts in 1978.
“I saw this before anybody,” Cowboys edge rusher Micah Parsons said. “I said I can’t wait to get to New York. I knew it was coming. With ‘execution meets preparation,’ there is no one that can beat it. We’ve already felt this. We’ve been to war before. We knew the standard.”
This was supposed to be the game that showed whether the Giants had closed the gap on Dallas and defending NFC champion Philadelphia in the NFC East.
The Cowboys didn’t need much from Prescott and the offense. They got two field goals from new kicker Brandon Aubrey and Pollard got Dallas’ first TD on offense on a 2-yard run midway through the second quarter to push the advantage to 26-0 at halftime.
The halftime shutout margin was the fourth-most lopsided in Week 1 for a home team, topped only by the Bucs trailing the Eagles 34-0 in 1988. The others were the Steelers (down 30-0 vs. the Browns) in 1989 and the Colts (27-0 vs. the Rams) in 1954.
Pollard, the Cowboys’ lead running back after the release of Ezekiel Elliott during the offseason, had a 1-yard run in the third quarter. KaVontae Turpin added a 7-yard TD run in the fourth.
The game changed on the opening series. New York took the opening kickoff, rolled down the field and reached the Dallas 8 behind the running of Saquon Barkley and Jones. On a third-and-2, left tackle Andrew Thomas moved early and rookie center John-Michael Schmitz — a second-round pick — made a bad snap that Jones recovered back at the 27.
Graham Gano’s 45-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Juanyeh Thomas, who jumped between a crack at the end of the line and easily blocked the kick. Igbinoghene picked up the ball at the 42 and was not touched on his way to scoring.
After Aubrey kicked a 21-yard field goal, Bland scored on the ensuing series. Cornerback Trevon Diggs hit Barkley while the running back caught a swing pass, the ball popped in the air and Bland caught it and scored.
The game was never close after that, just to show how bad the Giants played, Gano missed a 36-yarder with 1:05 left in the half, leaving coach Brian Daboll shaking his head.
Daboll offered no excuses after the game and gave credit to Dallas.
“I’m focused on trying to improve, and there’s a lot to improve,” said the second-year head coach who led New York to the playoffs last season. “It’s one game. It wasn’t a good game and I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It was a bad game and it’s on me.”
Jones finished 15 of 28 for 104 yards with a quarterback rating of 32.4. Prescott was 13 of 24 for 143 in beating the Giants for the 11th straight time.
“One loss is not going to define the season for us,” said veteran wide receiver Sterling Shepard, the Giants’ longest-tenured player. “This is a fix-it quickly and we’ve got to get back to work as soon as possible.”
Cowboys: Starting LG Tyler Smith was inactive because of a hamstring injury sustained Monday. Chuma Edoga replaced him before leaving in the third quarter. T.J. Bass replaced Edoga.
Giants: CB Deonte Banks left the field late in the first half with cramps and didn’t return. … Gano was cleated on the blocked field goal attempt. He said he has kicked with worse ailments.
NOTES: U.S. Open champion Coco Gauff was on the field before the game. The 19-year-old won her first Grand Slam title Saturday, rallying to beat Aryna Sabalenka 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in the final. … It was Thomas’ first career blocked field goal in his first career game, and Igbinoghene’s first career TD in his first game with the Cowboys.
Cowboys: Return home, but can’t get away from New York teams as they’ll face Aaron Rodgers and the Jets on Sunday.
Giants: Travel to Arizona to play the Cardinals on Sunday.