A play after CeeDee Lamb almost powered his way to a go-ahead touchdown, the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver reeled in a scintillating one-handed grab for six.
Up until his catch-of-the-year candidate, Lamb’s night had been lamented by early drops, but his 1-yard grab changed all that and propelled the Cowboys to a 23-16 win over the New York Giants on Monday Night Football.
“CeeDee’s our No. 1 receiver, so that’ll never change,” Mike McCarthy said. “He did so many good things in the game.”
Eight catches for 87 yards and the touchdown can be categorized as the good things. Lamb’s first TD grab of the season held as the game-winner, improving the Cowboys’ record to 2-1 on the season and 2-0 with Cooper Rush starting at quarterback in relief of an injured Dak Prescott .
However, for much of the night, it was the bad things that categorized Lamb’s performance. He had a pair of drops in the first half, including one on a perfect deep ball from Rush that hit Lamb right in the hands and in stride, but fell to the ground. As social media exploded in dismay, the Dallas offense continued to plod along, filing into halftime with an uninspired 6-3 lead.
“I was willing to do anything to make up for a touchdown potentially that I left in the first quarter,” Lamb said. “It was tough. It was a tough one. But I’m happy we came out victorious.”
Lamb rebounded, but admitted it wasn’t an easy task.
“Very frustrating,” he said. “Honestly, just because I practice all week, all offseason just on focusing in on the ball, and I let that one slip away. It was tough. Partially because, like I said, all the hard work I put in just for one play away, I let it slip.”
It was a 1-yard Ezekiel Elliott touchdown run that led to a 13-13 tie ballgame in the third quarter, but it was the fourth-quarter drive concluded with Lamb’s one-handed wonderment that changed the game and perhaps offensive fortunes to come.
“Most definitely,” Lamb said when asked if the fourth-quarter scoring drive felt like a breakthrough for him. “I appreciate (offensive coordinator) Kel(len Moore) for trusting in me, all the guys believing in my ability. You know, it was a tough third quarter. I kept thinking about it. All the guys kept preaching to me, ‘Let it go. Let it go. We still got more game left.’ And fourth quarter when I kept hearing my number being called I knew it was my opportunity again, so I had to step up.”
Beginning all the way back on the Dallas 11-yard line, the Cowboys would set forth on an 11-play, 89-yard odyssey with the tandem of Rush and Lamb leading the way.
Lamb hauled in four catches for 48 yards on the march and it’s arguable which was the biggest. For the record, Lamb said it was the fourth-down conversion.
Facing fourth-and-4 on the Giants’ 41, McCarthy went for it and Rush found Lamb on the left side for a 4-yard gain to keep the chains moving. Two plays later, Rush found Lamb again and the former first-round pick turned in a 26-yard catch and run in which he bowled through a tackler and almost scored, but was ruled down on the 1-yard line. On the ensuing play, Rush floated a ball to the side of the end zone where only Lamb could find it. The wideout reached out with his left hand and perfectly cradled it while keeping his feet inbounds for six.
“Fourth down most definitely,” Lamb said on what was the biggest catch. “Because without it, I don’t get no touchdown. Conversions, we preach toughness and willingness, and I was willing to put my body out on the line. But all the other ten guys and the guys that are one the sideline, they’re believing in me. They trust my talent and so do I. Them guys have my back the whole game.”
When Amari Cooper was traded to the Cleveland Browns in the offseason, Lamb became the Cowboys’ unquestionable No. 1 receiver. The anointment came with pressure from all around, including Lamb himself. It’s a process for the 23-year-old wideout, rife with highs and lows. Lamb most certainly experienced both on Monday.
“It’s gonna have its ebbs and flows,” he said. “It’s all about being consistent. Staying positive. Everything’s not gonna go my way. And when it does, it’s gonna go big.”
Monday night’s outcome was pretty big.
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