Cowboys lean on Lawrence, defense as they inch closer to playoff berth

Silver Star Nation

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) — Defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence forced a fumble and made two other big plays that led to 15 points and the NFL-East leading Dallas Cowboys inched closer to their first playoff berth since 2018 with a 21-6 win over the error-plagued New York Giants Sunday.

Dak Prescott threw a touchdown, Ezekiel Elliott scored on a 13-yard run and the defense forced four turnovers, including Trevon Diggs’ NFL-leading 10th interception. The Cowboys (10-4) won their third straight. Greg Zuerlein added three field goals.

Dallas would clinch a playoff berth later Sunday with a loss or tie by New Orleans or a loss by San Francisco.

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. Dallas has four takeaways in three straight games for the ninth time in team history, and the first since 1994. 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.

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.

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.

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