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Giants Defense Feeds on Dallas’ Offense, Complete Season Sweep of Cowboys

New York Giants' Leon Hall (25) runs back an interception as Dallas Cowboys' Dez Bryant (88) chases him during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

New York Giants’ Leon Hall (25) runs back an interception as Dallas Cowboys’ Dez Bryant (88) chases him during the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 

The New York Giants wanted to make sure that the Dallas Cowboys would not celebrate a division title on their home turf. The Giants’ defense made sure of that, being a huge factor in the 10-7 victory against the Cowboys on Sunday night.

The Cowboys took an early 7-0 lead after a 31 yard pass to from Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to receiver Terrence Williams, after blown coverage on Williams from the Giant secondary. At the look of this touchdown, Giants fans thought it was going to be one of those games where they would play the role of victim against the Cowboys juggernaut offense that they have proved to be during their 11 game winning streak.

That feeling did not last long, however, as the Giants seized on an opportunity. Prescott would attempt a third down pass to receiver Dez Bryant, who would slip after cutting into a slant route, leaving Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins standing alone, waiting for the ball, and coming up with the interception.

There was not much to write about regarding the Giants offense during the first half, as Giants QB Eli Manning fumbled the ball twice. Once on a muffed pass, where the ball slipped out of Manning’s hands, and another on a sack by Cowboys defensive end Benson Mayowa, all in part to bad blocking by Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. Other than those two instances, it seemed as though there was no chemistry between anyone on the offense. One that stuck out in particular was Manning would throw a deep pass to receiver Odell Beckham Jr in what appeared to be a walk-in touchdown, but Beckham would drop the ball, figuratively and literally.

After a missed 55 yard field goal attempt off the crossbar by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, the Giants would enter the second half down 7-0. It took the Giants less than five minutes to finally get on the board, with a successful 39 yard field goal attempt by Robbie Gould.

On Dallas’ next drive, Prescott would attempt a deep pass to Bryant, who seemed to have lost sight on the ball. Jenkins would cut off Bryant’s route, leaving cornerback Leon Hall alone to wait for the pass, who would intercept it and take it 29 yards up the field to the Giants’ own 39 yard line.

The Giants’ offense would finally awaken, as Manning would complete a short slant pass up the middle for Beckham, who would utilize his speed to leave the Cowboys defense in his dust, taking it 61 yards for the touchdown. The Giants now had a 10-7 lead with 2:06 left in the third quarter.

This was the turning point of the game, as the high powered Cowboys offense would essentially be shut down for the remainder of the game at the hands of the Giants’ defense. Despite Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 107 yards on 24 carries, the Giants’ defense did not let his play shake them.

With less than three minutes left in the game, Prescott would attempt to bring the Cowboys back into the game, in hopes to clinch the NFC East Division Title. Prescott would complete a pass to Bryant for the first down (his first catch of the game), however, Jenkins would smack the ball out of Bryant’s hands, forcing the fumble and allowing safety Landon Collins to recover the ball.

After a three and out by the Giants, the Cowboys were given another shot of either tying the game, or taking the victory. Prescott would throw three incomplete passes, thanks in part to the Giants defense smacking the ball away from receivers. On fourth and ten, Prescott would attempt a 17 yard pass to Bryant, who at first looked to have come up with the catch and first down. However, after replay, Bryant was shown to have not caught the ball, thanks to excellent coverage by Janoris Jenkins. This would seal the victory for the Giants, which would end the Cowboys’ 11 game winning streak, and complete the season sweep of Dallas.

“It was a tough, hard-nosed win in December in the elements,” said Giants Head Coach Ben McAdoo. “Can’t say enough about the defense and the effort they played with.”

With the Giants’ offense being essentially non-existent throughout the majority of the game, the defense stepped up and played on a whole other level. With Jason Pierre-Paul out for the rest of the regular season, a lot of questions were raised throughout the week, concerning whether the defense would be able to hold up without him. On Sunday night, the defense showed that they could indeed play without key player on the defensive line and stop the best offense in football. They had an answer for rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, who was sacked three times and threw two interceptions.

“I’ve been saying it…We can be as special as we want to be,” said Jenkins. “We just have to buy in and continue to buy in.”

“Like it’s always been said back in the day, defenses win championships, offenses win games, and that’s what we did,” said Collins. “They put the points up on the board, we had to hold it all the way to the end.”

“We gave them some different looks,” said Giants linebacker Jonathan Casillas. “We had some different personnel out there, throwing some different stuff at them…We didn’t just let them sit there and figure out what we were in and pick us apart.”

One standout player on the defensive side of the ball was cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Jenkins had a total of two tackles, one interception, and one forced fumble. If you look past the stat sheet and look at Jenkins’ coverage of Dez Bryant the entire game, Jenkins basically erased Bryant for the entirety of the game. Jenkins made the crucial forced fumble on Bryant with a little over two minutes remaining in the game. Not only that, but Jenkins prevented a potential first down catch by Bryant with less than a minute left in the game. With play and skill like Jenkins, you can expect a confident answer out of him.

“That’s why they call me jackrabbit,” said Jenkins.

With the absence of Jason Pierre-Paul, all eyes were on his replacement, rookie Romeo Okwara. Okwara knew he had big shoes to fill on the left side of the defensive line, and he did not disappoint. Okwara had eight total tackles in the game (five assists) and one sack on Prescott. All doubts about the rookie were erased and the defense is still rolling.

“You can’t really replace JPP’s caliber,” said Okwara. “…so I just went out and did my job.”

“[Okwara] was obviously inspired,” said McAdoo. “He played with a high motor and it was encouraging to see.”

“He played a monster game,” said Giants linebacker Devon Kennard. “I’m proud of him and the way he stepped up. I knew he’s capable, he’s done good things all season. Now he played a bigger role and made a huge impact.”

The Giants’ offense was, in all honesty, ugly. The offense could not get anything going throughout the first half. Multiple three and outs, an interception by Manning (and almost interceptions on bad passes), the implosion of the offensive line (by Ereck Flowers in particular). However, the Giants are living up to the reputation of not having to do much with the ball offensively. They have all of the faith in the world in the defense, but would like to finally have the offense live up to the potential. The Giants know that they have to put as much points on the board as possible, because they have a championship caliber defense that can hold onto the lead.

“I told myself, ‘You need to wake up…you’re on auto pilot,’” said Beckham. “It was time to wake up, and sure enough we came to life.”

“Obviously, you want your offense to click on all cylinders,” said Giants receiver Victor Cruz. “But we got to take how it comes, take it how we get it, and go from there.”

“We know we still have a long journey ahead,” said Manning. “We’re still fighting for a playoff spot We have some tough games ahead.”

The Giants will look to build on their momentum next Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium, as they face the NFC North division leading Detroit Lions (9-4).

 

Team Stats

Total Plays: 64

Total Yards: 260

Penalties: 7-50 yards

Turnovers: 3

First Downs: 12

Player Stats

Eli Manning: 17/28, 193 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, 78.4 QBR.

Rashad Jennings: 15 Carries, 45 Yards.

Paul Perkins: 15 Carries, 45 Yards.

Odell Beckham Jr.: 4 Receptions, 94 Yards, 1 TD.

Sterling Shepard: 3 Receptions, 39 Yards.

Landon Collins: 6 Total Tackles, 2 Assists.

Janoris Jenkins: 2 Total Tackles, 1 INT, 1 Forced Fumble.

Leon Hall: 3 Total Tackles, 1 INT.

Romeo Okwara: 8 Total Tackles, 2 Assists, 1 Sack.

Devon Kennard: 6 Total Tackles, 2 Assists, 1 Sack, 1 Forced Fumble.

Keenan Robinson: 6 Total Tackles, 3 Assists.

Jonathan Casillas: 5 Total Tackles, 1 Assist, 1 Sack.

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: 5 Total Tackles, 2 Assists.

Olivier Vernon: 5 Total Tackles, 1 Assist.

Damon Harrison: 4 Total Tackles, 2 Assists.

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